Friday, 16 October 2009

Geordies, Mackems, Smoggies & Cockneys

Listening to the radio on the way home I heard a presenter refer to his guest as a 'Geordie.' This tells me that the person concerned comes from the North East area of England around Tyneside, specifically Newcastle. But I asked myself what it meant and I had no idea, so, I looked it up. It either derives from the most common name at the time in that area, George or from miners who used lamps designed by George Stephenson. Geordie is first recorded in 1793. Disappointing really - not very exciting.

Those around the North East however wouldn't thank you for calling them a Geordie if they came from Sunderland, close by to Newcastle; you would rightly call them a 'Mackem.' This time, the shipyard workers are supposed to have said about their trade, 'we mak 'em and tak 'em ,' (make them and take them) - make the ships and take them to their neighbours, the Geordies to fit them out.

Even more curious is that other close neighbours from Middlesbrough would rather be called a 'Smoggie.' Although there seems no logical explanation for this name although I suspect it's from the heavy industry that used to be in that area - causing a 'smog,' even more interesting is the fact that if you come from Hartlepool again close by in the North East, you would probably be called a 'Monkey Hanger.'

According to Wikipedia, a French ship was shipwrecked off the coast of Hartlepool during the Napoleonic wars and the only survivor was a monkey dressed in a uniform. It was questioned on the beach and naturally enough it didn't answer their questions. As the local inhabitants were not at all cultured and had no idea what a Frenchman looked like, they decided to hang the creature as a spy. However, if someone says they are from Hartlepool, beware, a minority think the term Monkey Hanger is offensive so be prepared to duck!

My mother is a Cockney, someone from London who was born within the sound of Bow Bells (formerly Mary-le-Bow church, destroyed in the great fire of London in 1666). The term goes back to the fourteenth century and was, at the start, a derogatory phrase derived from a cocks egg (highly improbable as you know) and referred to male prostitutes or an effeminate town dweller. Another explanation was the name of a a spoilt child who you would 'cocker.'

Although I've covered Cockney rhyming slang (language used in a deliberate attempt to confuse non-locals to London) before, here are a few example I recall from my childhood listening to my grandfather:

'Up the apples and pears' - stairs;
'Tea leaf' - thief;
'Plates of meat' - feet;
'China plate' - mate ("me old China");
'Would you Adam and Eve it' - would you believe it;
'Trouble and Strife' - wife.

There is double rhyming slang, so a two word phrase like 'China Plate,' is simply said as 'China,' meaning mate.

'Ruby' is from 'Ruby Murray' meaning curry;
'Barney' is from 'Barney Rubble' meaning trouble;
'Boracic (pronounced Borassic)' is from 'Boracic Flint' - skint.

Anyway, the Duchess of Fife is calling me because her Skin and Blister has turned up, the Khyber Pass, so I'd best get the Jam Jar out, step on the Water Bottle and go and get a Ruby if I can find some Bees and Honey after the Billy Lids have been in me wallet.

Have a great weekend.

Chat soon


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