East Midlands English

East Midlands English
Modern boundaries of the English East Midlands.

East Midlands English is a dialect traditionally spoken in those parts of English Midlands lying East of Watling Street (the A5 London - Shrewsbury Road). Today this area is represented by the counties of the East Midlands of England, (Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Rutland and Northamptonshire, see below).



The Five Boroughs of the East Midlands distinct from the Kingdom of Mercia in the early 10th century[1]

Like that of Yorkshire, the East Midlands dialect owes much of its grammar and vocabulary to Nordic influences, the region having been incorporated in the Norse controlled Danelaw in the late 9th century. At this time, the county towns of the East Midlands counties became viking fortified city states, known as the Five Boroughs of the Danelaw. For example, the East Midlands word scraight ('to cry') is thought to be derived from the Norse, skrike in modern Scandinavian, also meaning to cry.[2]

East Midlands dialects in literature

The romantic English novelist, and East Midlander, D. H. Lawrence who was from the Nottinghamshire town of Eastwood wrote in the dialect of the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Coalfield in several dialect poems as well as in his more famous works such as Lady Chatterley's Lover and Sons and Lovers.[3]

Though spoken less commonly today, the dialect of the East Midlands has been investigated in texts such as the Ey Up Mi Duck[4] series of books (and an LP) by Richard Scollins and John Titford. These books were originally intended as a study of Derbyshire Dialect, particularly the distinctive speech of Ilkeston and the Erewash valley, but later editions acknowledge similarities in vocabulary and grammar which unite the East Midlands dialects and broadened their appeal to the region as a whole.

"Ey Up" (often spelt ayup / eyup) is a greeting thought to be of Old Norse origin (se upp) used widely throughout the North Midlands and South Yorkshire, and "Mi Duck" is thought to be derived from a respectful Anglo Saxon form of address, "Duka" (Literally "Duke"), and is unrelated to waterfowl.[5] Non-natives of the East Midlands are often surprised to hear men greet each other as 'Mi Duck.'[2]

Dialect words

In recent years, humorous texts such as Nottingham, As it is Spoke[6] have combined phonetically spelt standard English words together in order to deliberately confuse non-natives to the region. For example:

Aya gorra weeya?
is the wife with you? (lit. "Have you got her with you?)
It's black uvver ahh Bill's mother's
it looks like rain. (lit. "It's black over Bill's Mother's." q.v.) -- a common, if somewhat old fashioned, Midlands expression implying impending bad weather.)
Thiz summat up wee im
I think he may be ill. (lit. "There's something up with him.")
Yo norrayin no tuffees!
You aren't having any tuffees (sweets)!

However, there are many words in use in the traditional East Midlands Dialect which do not appear in standard English. The short list below is by no means exhaustive. More comprehensive glossaries exist within texts such as Ey Up Mi Duck by Richard Scollins and John Titford.

defunct coal-mining definition for an "easy" job such as sleeping whilst watching a conveyor belt
to cry/weep uncontrollably (i.e. "Stop your blubbing.")
In many dialects, this has the sense of ‘looking well’ often referring to a healthy plumpness.[7] In Leicester and Nottingham, a transferred sense of overweight is derived from this sense.
(There is a yet older sense now only commonly used in Scots, Northern & some Midland dialects meaning 'beautiful' generally rather than of individuals having a pleasing embonpoint specifically.)[8]
throw (Chuck us 'ball, (South-East Derbyshire)).
The word has the Standard English literal sense of to gently toss a light object and the Standard English extended sense of to easily or contemptuously throwing a heavy object. The OED does not record a distinct regional use but does say that workmen use in their trades to mean throw generally. [9]
trousers (usually pronounced claarts)
an (illegal) crossbar ride, "two-up" on the crossbar of a man's bicycle
a bread roll (bap),(as verb:) to throw
duck's necks
bottle of lemonade
stuck, caught (oh's gorrer finger fast)
to cover with (usually a thick substance)
grumpy, sulky (i.e. "She's a mardy one!")
to make a pot of tea (i.e. "I'll go mash the tea.")
a weak person, or one who feels the cold
ice cream (common in Leicestershire)
to beat, often used interchangeably with larrup
falling liquid as rain or urine (i.e. "It's piddling down with rain" or "A dog's just piddled on the wall")
The OED records this as a Standard English colloquialism rather than a regionalism.[10]
to pick at a scab, spot or a skin irritation (i.e. "Stop piggling that scab!")
to pour out uncontrollably[11]
a plaster cast
to cry/crying[3]
covered/infested, (DH Lawrence used the word 'Snied' in a description of an infestation of mice in Sons and Lovers.),[12]
iced lolly
sweets, confectionery
fool (used across the east & west midlands)
a useless person.

The greeting 'Now Then' (as 'Nah theen') is still in use in Lincolnshire, used where other people might say "Hello".

People from Leicester are known in the popular holiday resort Skegness as "Chisits", due to their pronunciation of "how much is it" when asking the price of goods in shops.[13]

It is also very common to hear people from Nottingham replacing the word "of" with "on". "There were two on em'" (There were two of them). "Get hold on em'" (Get hold of them).


Those who speak traditional regional dialects are not trying unsuccessfully to speak Standard English. East Midlands English follows a series of distinct grammatical rules. Some examples follow below.

Formal address

Up until the mid 20th century it was not uncommon to hear the use of informal forms of address, Thee and Thou, as compared to the more formal Yo or You. Use of the informal form of address is now uncommon in modern speech.

Personal pronouns

Personal pronouns differ from standard English as follows:


Example "It eent theirn; it's ourn!" (It isn't theirs; it's ours!)

Reflexive pronouns

Reflexive pronouns are characterised by the replacement of Self with 'Sen' (From Middle English seluen)

Y'usen - Yourself, Mesen - Myself, Thisens - Themselves/Yourselves, Ussens - Ourselves

Example "We sh'll ay to do it ussens." (We shall have to do it ourselves)

Dialect variations within the political region

Although Northamptonshire is located in the East Midlands, and has historically harboured a dialect comparable to other forms of East Midlands English,[11] particularly among the older generation, the linguistic distinctiveness of Northamptonshire has significantly eroded. There are influences from the western parts of East Anglia, the West Midlands, and the South as well as the 'Watford Gap Isogloss', the demarcation line between southern and northern English accents. Contrary to popular belief, the Watford in question is Watford village and not the town of Watford which borders the north of London.

The Danelaw split the present county into a Viking north and a Saxon south. This is quite plainly heard, with people in the south speaking more like people from Oxfordshire or Cambridgeshire and people in the north sounding more like people from Leicestershire.[citation needed]

Also of note is the anomalous dialect of Corbyite spoken around Corby in the north of Northamptonshire, which reflects the migration of large numbers of Scottish and Irish steelworkers to the town during the 20th Century. The dialect is often compared to Glaswegian.[citation needed]

The dialect of Coalville in Leicestershire is said to resemble that of Derbyshire because many of the Coalville miners came from there, and the dialect of Glossop in North West Derbyshire has similarities with Northern English due to its close geographical position to Greater Manchester.[citation needed]

Lincolnshire is, in a sense, separated from the remainder of the East Midlands. East of the Lincolnshire Wolds, in the southern part of the county, the Lincolnshire dialect is closely linked to The Fens and East Anglia, and, in the northern areas of the county, the local speech has characteristics in common with the speech of the East Riding of Yorkshire. This is largely due to the fact that the majority of the land area of Lincolnshire was surrounded by sea, the Humber Estuary, marshland, and the wolds; these geographical circumstances permitted little linguistic interference from the East Midlands dialects until the nineteenth century when canal and rail routes penetrated the eastern heartland of the county.

There are also variations in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. Though all native speakers sound similar, there are noticeable differences between the accents of residents of, for example, Nottingham and Derby, or Mansfield and the Erewash Valley.[citation needed]

Counties in which East Midlands English is Spoken


  • Evans, Arthur Benoni (1881) Leicestershire words, phrases and sayings; ed. by Sebastian Evans. London: Trübner for the English Dialect Society
  • Wright, Joseph (ed.) (1898-1905) The English Dialect Dictionary. 6 vols. Oxford University Press (appendices include dialect words grouped by region)
  • Skeat, W. W. (ed.) (1874) Derbyshire lead-mining terms, by T. Houghton; 1681 ... Derbyshire mining terms, by J. Mawe; 1802 [with other texts]. London: N. Trübner for the English Dialect Society
  • Mander, James (1824) The Derbyshire miners' glossary. Bakewell : Printed at the Minerva Press, for the author by G. Nall (High Peak and Wirksworth districts)
  • Pegge, Samuel (1896) Two collections of Derbicisms; ed. by W. W. Skeat & T. Hallam. London: for the English Dialect Society by H. Frowde, Oxford University Press

External links

Links to East Midlands dialect in literature


  1. ^ Falkus & Gillingham and Hill
  2. ^ a b "BBC Inside Out - Dialect". Bbc.co.uk. 2005-01-17. http://www.bbc.co.uk/insideout/eastmidlands/series7/dialect_voices.shtml. Retrieved 2011-07-24. 
  3. ^ a b John Pavel (2008-04-23). "Dialect poems by D.H. Lawrence". http://dspace.dial.pipex.com/town/parade/abj76/PG/pieces/lawrence/colliers_wife.shtml. Retrieved 2011-07-24. 
  4. ^ Murphy, Arin. "Ey Up Mi Duck!". Amazon.co.uk. http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1853066583. Retrieved 2011-07-24. 
  5. ^ "History of the Potteries dialect". BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/stoke/voices2005/features/steve_birks.shtml. Retrieved 2011-07-24. 
  6. ^ "books". Theoldmeadows.co.uk. http://www.theoldmeadows.co.uk/books.htm. Retrieved 2011-07-24. 
  7. ^ Oxford English Dictionary 2nd ed. (1989) Bonny, adj., 2. b.
  8. ^ Oxford English Dictionary 2nd ed. (1989) Bonny, adj., 1.
  9. ^ OED 2nd ed. (1989) chuck v.2 2.
  10. ^ Oxford English Dict. 2nd Ed. (1989) piddle, v.; 2.
  11. ^ a b "Local Dialect Words and Usage". Sulgrave.org. http://www.sulgrave.org/Chronicles/Local%20Dialect%20Words%20and%20Usage.html. Retrieved 2011-07-24. 
  12. ^ a b [1][dead link]
  13. ^ Leicester Mercury, 16 July 2004

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