12 phrases you might hear after moving to your new home in the North East

The North East is instantly recognised by its unique accents and dialects. We use some of the oldest and most interesting terms and phrases unheard anywhere else - but when you use or hear them day in and day out, it’s so easy to forget exactly this. 


Are you planning on moving to a new home in the North East? Becoming familiar with a few examples of North Eastern vernacular could be a good idea, if not just so you can understand how you might be greeted!


We’ve listed a few of the most common you’re likely to hear below, but even if you’ve been born and bred here, read on - some of the origins of the phrases are fascinating. 


1. ‘Ha’way’


This is commonly heard in Sunderland, Durham and surrounding areas. It essentially means ‘let’s go’ or ‘hurry up’. You may also be familiar with the Mackem - the nickname for those from Sunderland - football chant ‘ha’way the lads’. 


The etymology of ‘ha’way’ dates back to the early 19th century when shipbuilding was prevalent in Sunderland. Originally meaning ‘have way!’, this term still has a similar meaning to when it first originated. 


2. ‘Why aye’


Heard mostly in Newcastle, this is best described as an emphasised ‘yes!’, however, it can also be used as a greeting. 


3. ‘Ey up!’


Originated in Yorkshire, this phrase has spread into some surrounding areas such as Darlington, in the North East, meaning you’re very likely to hear it if you’re moving to our new homes in Middleton St George. It is widely used as an informal greeting, generally meaning ‘hello’ or ‘how are you?’.


This is interchangeable with other Yorkshire phrases, including ‘now then’ and ‘how do?’, but these two are much less commonly heard in the North East. 


4. ‘I’m absolutely clamming.’


Used when feeling extremely hungry or thirsty, this Geordie phrase has reached much of the North East and even slightly further afield. 


Replacing phrases such as ‘I’m absolutely starving’, the North East version is slightly stranger and the origins of this expression aren’t fully understood yet. 


5. ‘How’s the bairn?’


‘Bairn’ is derived from the Old English word ‘bearn’, meaning descendant. This term is now used in the North East and parts of Scotland when referring to a child and is most commonly spoken in Newcastle and Sunderland. 


6. ‘Lads and lasses’


Some of the most widely recognised nicknames for ‘boys’ and ‘girls’, these terms are of North Germanic origin but are widely used in the North East today, mostly in informal situations. 


7. ‘That was a canny day out’ 


This Northern adjective, meaning ‘nice’, was first recorded in 1592 in a Scottish letter. It has prevailed through nearly five centuries and is used today, especially in the North East and Scotland. 


8. ‘Your shoes are up the eyes!’


This slightly unusual metaphor is used to emphasise that you have a large amount to deal with. In this instance, it means messy, dirty - covered ‘up to the eyes’ in mud. 


It could also be used in the sense that you may be ‘up the eyes in work’, suggesting that you have a lot to complete and are extremely busy. 


Now used in most of the nation, you may already be familiar with this expression, but it’s definitely one you’ll hear regularly throughout the North East. 


9. ‘The football was class!’ 


‘Class’ in this situation is an informal adjective, meaning ‘great’. 


This word is slightly more enthusiastic than ‘good’ or ‘nice’, so works as a relaxed substitute for positive adjectives like ‘fantastic’ or ‘brilliant’. 


10. ‘What’s the craic?’


A general question to ask ‘what’s up?’ or ‘what’s going on?’, this phrase is widely heard throughout the North. 


The word ‘craic’ is derived from Middle English ‘crak’, which means enjoyable conversation. The word also has many ties to the Irish and Scottish language. 


A book published in 1825 about the speech of Northern England includes the term and defines it as ‘chat, conversation, news’. ‘Craic’ has been recorded in Scotland as early as the 16th century, and it means exactly the same today as it did nearly three centuries ago. 


11. ‘As sick as a parrot’


Similes are heard regularly in regional dialect and one of the most popular North Eastern similes is ‘as sick as a parrot’. Implying that someone is fed up, unwell or bored, one of the earliest examples of this simile being used is from a London newspaper titled ‘The Observer’ in 1973.


A football story was being covered and the statement “Poor Revie, he looks as sick as a parrot” was shouted from a Sunderland fan in the stalls, referring to a Leeds player, as Sunderland unexpectedly beat the favourite team. 


12. ‘Over the moon!’


Lastly, this metaphor suggests that someone is extremely pleased or happy, usually with a favourable outcome or result.


First observed in 1718, this metaphor is famously known for being adopted into nursery rhymes and used as an expression throughout the UK.


Although now it may seem slightly outdated, ‘over the moon’ is still regularly used in the North East when conveying feelings of pride or excitement.


We love the North East and everything about it - including all the wonderful quirks of our phrases. Whether you’re currently saying ‘ha way’ regularly or you’re moving to one of our new homes in the North East for the first time, we’re sure understanding a little more about some of our common phrases will make you fall in love with the region even more. 

Thursday 11th March 2021

Alyssa Peterson

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