Monday, 30 March 2015

To Turn a Phrase

Regular readers know I like words, and whilst I don't use them very well, the phrases we use on a day to day basis fascinate me. In the car the other day my partner and I were discussing using 'Shank's Pony' which in my parlance is walking. But what an odd phrase, nonetheless, research show this to be a Scottish original phrase relating to a certain Shank's Nag, in other words, a useless animal so much so - you would have to walk. Who or what Shanks was, the reading doesn't reveal, but its a lovely phrase. 

Another favourite of my partner is 'Casey's Court' - meaning a sense of chaos or disorganisation. Although I am struggling to find a definitive answer to this one - it does appear to be a relatively recent phrase perhaps named after an old UK music hall 'crazy' act, created by a William Murray which involved lots of children. 

'Bob's your uncle' is another common one I use, but this one sadly is less clear still. It is said however that a famous politician Arthur Balfour got a job, not on merit but because the boss was his uncle (Lord Salisbury aka Robert Cecil). So there you have it - Bob's your uncle.

Although I am an East Yorkshire lad, I've always been in and around Hull both for leisure and mostly work. My father's family come from there so there is a bit of an affinity I guess. The language and the way it's used is a bit lazy and uncomfortable listening sometimes.  There are however some local phrases which I've discussed before ('snicket' - back tenfoot, etc) but here's another one for you: if you feel warm, here you might say you were "maftin'." Now I'm not sure whether or not that's spelt correctly. It appears in the slang dictionaries but as yet, it appears not to be included in mainstream dictionaries. 

One of Hull's many old town narrow cobbled streets or 'staithes' leading mainly to the river Hull

A phrase used for many years, particularly on the coast is when someone is described as a 'comfort'. I had no idea what that meant until a colleague once told me that it describes a visitor to the place - "I've come for t'day," (spoken with a thick Yorkshire accent)!

I love the word 'nunty.' Its something dull, unfashionable, out of date.  If something is sticky or tacky or even muddy, it's described here as 'clarty.' This time the dictionary tells us that the good old Scottish and us northerners use it as meaning dirty or filthy.

The final one for now I use is 'nithered' and that aptly describes a symptom caused, for example by the current weather - feeling very cold! The Collins English Dictionary is yet to field that one!

Enjoy the week, stay warm. Easter is coming!

Chat soon



  1. It’s fascinating learning where some of these phrases come from. I hope that we don’t all end up using American terms instead, but, listening to my own children, that seems to be the way that we are heading.

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