Geordie is both a regional nickname for a person from the larger Tyneside region of North East England and the name of the Northern English dialect spoken by its inhabitants. The term is associated with Tyneside, south Northumberland and northern parts of County Durham. Geordie has been used and still is used by people to refer to anyone from North East England.
In many respects, Geordie speech represents a direct continuation and development of the language spoken by the Anglo-Saxon settlers of this region - initially mercenaries employed by the ancient Brythons to fight the Pictish invaders after the end of Roman rule in Britannia in the 5th century. The Angles, Saxons and Jutes who arrived became - in the course of time - ascendant politically and culturally over the native British through subsequent migration from tribal homelands along the North Sea coast of the German Bight. The Anglo-Saxon kingdoms that emerged during the Dark Ages spoke largely mutually intelligible varieties of what is now called Old English, each varying somewhat in phonology, morphology, syntax and lexicon. This linguistic conservatism can be seen today to the extent that poems by the Anglo-Saxon scholar the Venerable Bede translate more successfully into Geordie than into present-day Standard English. Thus in Northern England and the Scottish borders area, then dominated by the kingdom of Northumbria, there developed a distinct "Northumbrian" Old English dialect. Later Irish migrants (who, while relatively few in number, influenced Geordie phonology from the early 19th century onwards) and Scottish admixture influenced the dialect. In more recent years (20th century to present), the North East area has received migrants from the rest of the world as well.
The word "Geordie" can refer to a supporter of Newcastle United, despite many Geordies supporting other local teams. The Toon Army, is the name of the most devoted Newcastle United F.C. fans, attending every home match, as well at travelling supporters following the club during away matches. The Geordie Schooner glassware was traditionally used to serve Newcastle Brown Ale, and more generally as a serving glass for bottled beer. A similar schooner style glass is often used to serve beer in the United States but this often extends to draft, unlike in the UK where draft beers and lagers tend to be served in a pint or half pint glass.
The attitudes towards the Geordie dialect and the self-identification as a Geordie are primarily associated with those of a working-class background. A 2008 newspaper survey found the Geordie accent the "most attractive in England".
When referring to the people, as opposed to the dialect, dictionary definitions of a Geordie typically refer to "a native or inhabitant of Newcastle upon Tyne, England, or its environs", an area that encompasses Blyth, Ashington, North Tyneside, Newcastle, South Tyneside and Gateshead. This area has a combined population of around 2,597,000, based on 2011 Census data.
The term itself, according to Brockett, originated from all the North East coal mines. The catchment area for the term "Geordie" can include Northumberland and County Durham or be confined to an area as small as the city of Newcastle upon Tyne and the metropolitan boroughs of Tyneside.
Just as a Cockney is often colloquially defined as someone "born within the sound of the Bow bells", the term Geordie is sometimes defined as "within spitting distance of the Tyne" and thus the area more associated with the Geordie accent could be thought of as the watershed and bioregion of the River Tyne, and Geordies as its inhabitants. Geordie is referred to as Tyneside English in academic journals.
A number of rival theories explain how the term came about, though all accept that it derives from a familiar diminutive form of the name George, "a very common name among the pitmen" (coal miners) in North East England; indeed, it was once the most popular name for eldest sons in the region.
One explanation is that it was established during the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715. The Jacobites declared that the natives of Newcastle were staunch supporters of the Hanoverian kings, in particular of George I during the 1715 rebellion. This contrasted with rural Northumberland, which largely supported the Jacobite cause. If true, the term may have derived from the popular anti-Hanoverian song "Cam Ye O'er Frae France?", which calls the first Hanoverian king "Geordie Whelps", a play on "George the Guelph".
Another explanation for the name is that local miners in the northeast of England used Geordie safety lamps, designed by George Stephenson, known locally as "Geordie the engine-wright", in 1815 rather than the competing Davy lamps, designed by Humphry Davy, used in other mining communities. Using the chronological order of two John Trotter Brockett books, Geordie was given to North East pitmen; later he acknowledges that the pitmen also christened their Stephenson lamp Geordie.
Linguist Katie Wales also dates the term earlier than does the current Oxford English Dictionary; she observes that Geordy (or Geordie) was a common name given to coal mine pitmen in ballads and songs of the region, noting that such usage turns up as early as 1793. It occurs in the titles of two songs by songwriter Joe Wilson (1841-1875): "Geordy, Haud the Bairn" and "Keep your Feet Still, Geordie". Citing such examples as the song "Geordy Black", written by Rowland Harrison of Gateshead, she contends that, as a consequence of popular culture, the miner and the keelman had become icons of the region in the 19th century, and "Geordie" was a label that "affectionately and proudly reflected this," replacing the earlier ballad emblem, the figure of Bob Crankie.
In the English Dialect Dictionary of 1900, Joseph Wright gave the definition A man from Tyneside; a miner; a north-country vessel, quoting two sources from Northumberland, one from East Durham and one from Australia. The source from Durham stated, "In South Tyneside even, this name was applied to the Lower Tyneside men."
Newcastle publisher Frank Graham's Geordie Dictionary states:
The origin of the word Geordie has been a matter of much discussion and controversy. All the explanations are fanciful and not a single piece of genuine evidence has ever been produced.
In Graham's many years of research, the earliest record he found of the term's use was in 1823 by local comedian Billy Purvis. Purvis had set up a booth at the Newcastle Races on the Town Moor. In an angry tirade against a rival showman, who had hired a young pitman called Tom Johnson to dress as a clown, Billy cried out to the clown:
Ah man, wee but a feul wad hae sold off his furnitor and left his wife. Noo, yor a fair doon reet feul, not an artificial feul like Billy Purvis! Thous a real Geordie! gan man an hide thysel! gan an' get thy picks agyen. Thou may de for the city, but never for the west end o' wor toon.[quote without source]
(Rough translation: "Oh man, who but a fool would have sold off his furniture and left his wife? Now, you're a fair downright fool, not an artificial fool like Billy Purvis! You're a real Geordie! Go on, man, and hide yourself! Go on and get your picks [axes] again. You may do for the city, but never for the west end of our town!")
Graham is backed up historically by John Camden Hotten, who wrote in 1869: "Geordie, general term in Northumberland and Durham for a pitman, or coal-miner. Origin not known; the term has been in use more than a century." Using Hotten as a chronological reference, Geordie has been documented for at least 249 years as a term related to Northumberland and County Durham.
Bad-weather Geordy was a name applied to cockle sellers:
As the season at which cockles are in greatest demand is generally the most stormy in the year - September to March - the sailors' wives at the seaport towns of Northumberland and Durham consider the cry of the cockle man as the harbinger of bad weather, and the sailor, when he hears the cry of 'cockles alive,' in a dark wintry night, concludes that a storm is at hand, and breathes a prayer, backwards, for the soul of Bad-Weather-Geordy.-- S. Oliver, Rambles in Northumberland, 1835
The phonemic notation used in this article is based on the set of symbols used by Watt & Allen (2003). Other scholars may use different transcriptions.
Geordie consonants generally follow those of Received Pronunciation. The dialect is non-rhotic, like most Anglo-English dialects. This means speakers do not pronounce /r/ unless it is followed by a vowel sound in that same phrase or prosodic unit. The rhotic sound (/r/) in Geordie is pronounced as [?]. Some phonological characteristics of consonants specific to Geordie are listed as follows:
The Geordie dialect shares similarities with other Northern English dialects, as well as with the Scots language.
In her column for the South Shields Gazette, Dorothy Samuelson-Sandvid attests many samples of Geordie language usage, such as the nouns bairn ("child") and clarts ("mud"); the adjectives canny ("pleasant") and clag ("sticky"); and the imperative verb phrase howay ("hurry up!"; "come on!")
Howay is broadly comparable to the invocation "Come on!" or the French "Allez-y!" ("Go on!"). Examples of common use include Howay man!, meaning "come on" or "hurry up", Howay the lads! as a term of encouragement for a sports team for example (the players' tunnel at St James' Park has this phrase just above the entrance to the pitch), or Ho'way!? (with stress on the second syllable) expressing incredulity or disbelief. The literal opposite of this phrase is haddaway ("go away"); although not as common as howay, it is perhaps most commonly used in the phrase "Haddaway an' shite" (Tom Hadaway, Figure 5.2 Haddaway an' shite; 'Cursing like sleet blackening the buds, raging at the monk of Jarrow scribbling his morality and judgement into a book.').
Another word, divvie or divvy ("idiot"), seems to come from the Co-op dividend, or from the two Davy lamps (the more explosive Scotch Davy used in 1850, commission disapproved of its use in 1886 (inventor not known, nicknamed Scotch Davy probably given by miners after the Davy lamp was made perhaps by north east miners who used the Stephenson Lamp), and the later better designed Davy designed by Humphry Davy also called the Divvy.) As in a north east miner saying 'Marra, ye keep way from me if ye usin a divvy.' It seems the word divvie then translated to daft lad/lass. Perhaps coming from the fact one would be seen as foolish going down a mine with a Scotch Divvy when there are safer lamps available, like the Geordie, or the Davy.
The Geordie word netty, meaning a toilet and place of need and necessity for relief or bathroom, has an uncertain origin, though some have theorised that it may come from slang used by Roman soldiers on Hadrian's Wall, which may have later become gabinetti in the Romanic Italian language (such as in the Westoe Netty, the subject of a famous painting from Bob Olley). However, gabbinetto is the Modern Italian diminutive of gabbia, which actually derives from the Latin cavea ("hollow", "cavity", "enclosure"), the root of the loanwords that became the Modern English cave,cage, and gaol. Thus, another explanation would be that it comes from a Modern Romanic Italian form of the word gabinetti, though only a relatively small number of Italians have migrated to the North of England, mostly during the 19th century.
Some etymologists connect the word netty to the Modern English word needy. John Trotter Brockett, writing in 1829 in his A glossary of north country words..., claims that the etymon of netty (and its related form neddy) is the Modern English needy and need.
Bill Griffiths, in A Dictionary of North East Dialect, points to the earlier form, the Old English níd; he writes: "MS locates a possible early ex. "Robert Hovyngham sall make... at the other end of his house a knyttyng" York 1419, in which case the root could be OE níd 'necessary'". Another related word, nessy is thought (by Griffiths) to derive from the Modern English "necessary".
The Geordie dialect has featured prominently in the British media, as television presenters such as Ant & Dec (who first found fame in the Newcastle-set children's drama Byker Grove) are now happy to use their natural accents on air.
Brendan Foster and Sid Waddell have both worked as television sports commentators. Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, a former member of Girls Aloud and judge on The X Factor, has a Geordie accent, she says that she's "proud to be Geordie!" as does Joe McElderry the winner of the sixth series of The X Factor. In May 2011, while named Cheryl Cole, she was let go from the American version of The X Factor because its "producers feared the American audience would not understand her Geordie accent." During May 2011, taping of Britain's Got Talent, Declan Donnelly (of Ant & Dec) made an apparent attempt to stand up for Cole by asking co-producer and judge Simon Cowell on the show, "Can you understand my accent?".
The musicians Brian Johnson and Sting are Geordies (though Sting has lost much of his Geordie accent and speaks in a standard English accent). The song "Why Aye Man" is also a popular Geordie song by Geordie Mark Knopfler.
The dialect was also popularized by the comic magazine Viz, where the dialect is often conveyed phonetically by unusual spellings within the comic strips. Viz magazine was founded on Tyneside by two locals, Chris Donald and his brother Simon. The Steve Coogan-helmed BBC comedy I'm Alan Partridge featured a Geordie named Michael (Simon Greenall) as the primary supporting character and de facto best friend of the eponymous hero, despite Partridge's referring to Michael at one point as 'just the Work Geordie' and having great difficulty understanding what he says. The movie Goal!, which stars Kuno Becker and Alessandro Nivola (and also sees a cameo of Brian Johnson) prominently exposes the Newcastle football club, as well as exposing the Geordies and their dialect.
Mike Neville presenter of the BBC local news programme Look North, in the 1960s and 1970s, not only incorporated Geordie into the show, albeit usually in comedy pieces pointing up the gulf between ordinary Geordies and officials speaking Standard English, but were responsible for a series of recordings, beginning with Larn Yersel' Geordie which attempted, not always seriously, to bring the Geordie dialect to the rest of England.
In the lyrics of the song "Sailing to Philadelphia" by Mark Knopfler, Jeremiah Dixon, surveyor of the Mason-Dixon line, describes himself as a "Geordie boy". Knopfler also includes a "Geordie" reference in the song "5:15 am", from the album Shangri-La: "the bandit man / came up the great north road / up to geordieland / to mine the motherlode." In an earlier live album and video, Alchemy: Dire Straits Live, the band are seen in a pub - on the wall hangs a scoreboard for darts featuring "Geordies" vs. "All Others."
The Jocks and the Geordies was a Dandy comic strip running from 1975 to the early 1990s. Dorfy, real name Dorothy Samuelson-Sandvid, was a noted Geordie dialect writer who once wrote for the South Shields Gazette.
Auf Wiedersehen, Pet was a popular fictional British comedy-drama series about three Geordies (Dennis, Oz and Neville) leaving England to go and find work in Germany during the heights of unemployment in Thatcher's Britain. Finding work on a building site in Düsseldorf, they lived there on-site in a basic wooden hut (not dissimilar from ones seen in a WWII-era POW camp) as part of a group of seven British migrant construction workers: the other four were Wayne from London, Bomber from somewhere in the West Country, Barry from the West Midlands, and Moxey from Liverpool. The three Geordie characters were supposed to be from Birtley Co. Durham (Dennis, played by Tim Healy), Gateshead (Oz, played by Jimmy Nail), and North Shields (Neville, played by Kevin Whately) and all three actors who played them were Geordies themselves.
In 1974, Alan Price's "Jarrow Song" reached number one in the old RNI International Service, and number 4 in the UK charts, which brought to the attention once again of the Jarrow Crusade. The character Detective Inspector Robert "Robbie" Lewis (formerly Detective Sergeant) in the long-running ITV series Inspector Morse is a self-described Geordie - although not a "professional" one. His speech variety serves as a foil to Morse's pedantry and RP. Comedian Sarah Millican is also a Geordie. The Hairy Bikers are a pair of television chefs, consisting of Geordie Simon King and Lancastrian Dave Myers. The duo's lifestyle TV show The Hairy Bikers' Cookbook is a mixture of cookery and travelogue.
The character "Geordie Georgie", as portrayed by Catherine Tate in her eponymous TV show, is a Geordie, complete with a thick affected accent, and is portrayed regularly taking part in (mostly ridiculously ambitious) sponsored events for a North East-based charity - the charity in question usually has a website with an outrageous domain name, for instance, the site for the charity she supports for battered husbands is "www.chinnedbythemissus.co.uk". The sketches usually conclude with her remonstrating her co-worker Martin, sometimes by violent means, for his apparent non-support of her charitable crusades.
The MTV programme Geordie Shore, a spin-off of Jersey Shore, is set in Newcastle and features several Geordie speaking cast members. The Richard Adams novel The Plague Dogs features a fox who speaks "Northumbrian" Geordie, with a pronunciation guide and glossary. Scott Dobson provided assistance on the dialect. Actor Robson Green is a Geordie. Standup comic Ross Noble, a Newcastle native, has been known to make jokes about being Geordie. Capitalising on pride in speaking Geordie, a number of objects are sold that highlight Geordie speech and culture, such as a "Borth Sortificat for a genuine Geordie", coffee mugs, etc.
Charlie Hunnam, who hails from Newcastle, refers to the swagger he walks with in Pacific Rim as a "Geordie walk". Episode 8.13 "And Justice for All" of the ABC program Castle included a blue collar character who was a native Geordie speaker and student of English as a second language; this was somewhat humorous since, technically, speakers of this dialect already speak English.
In the BBC Radio drama series The Archers, the character Ruth Archer hails from Prudhoe, Northumberland and speaks with a Geordie accent, in contrast to the various Midland and other more southerly accents on the show, which is set in a fictional county in the English Midlands. The actress portraying her, Felicity Finch was raised in Egglescliffe, a town in the southern part of County Durham.
Bede's Latin poems seem to translate more successfully into Geordie than into modern day English!
GEORDIE, George-a very common name among the pitmen. "How! Geordie man! how is't"
Plus Geordieland means Northumberland and Durham
Geordie, general term in Northumberland and Durham for a pitman, or coal-miner. Origin not known; the term has been in use more than a century
GEORDIE, George - a very common name among the pitmen. 'How! Geordie man! How is't' The Pitmen have given the name of Geordie to Mr George Stephenson's lamp in contra-distinction of the Davy, or Sir Humphry Davy's Lamp.
As to the value of the invention of the safety lamp, there could be no doubt; and the colliery owners of Durham and Northumberland, to testify their sense of its importance, determined to present a testimonial to its inventor.
Aa wuz a bairn.
Wor Geordie taalk is hyemly taalk; an wawds like 'clag' and 'clarts'
Is canny, friendly, hyemly wawds that waarms aall Geordie hearts.
wawds y've nigh forgot - ""Howay!"" ""Gan on!""
Hadaway an' shite; 'Cursing like sleet blackening the buds, raging at the monk of Jarrow scribbling his morality and judgement into a book.'
An early example, which may be remembered by older readers was the Co-op dividend or 'divvie'. On paying their bill, shoppers would quote a number recorded ...
CONSTRUCTION. Gauzes. Cylindrical, 2 ins diameter. 41/2" high with conical top, a double gauze 1 ins. in depth at the peak. 24 mesh iron. Light. Candle.
Netty outside toilet, Ex.JG Annfield Plain 1930s. "nessy or netty" Newbiggin-in-Teesdale C20/mid; "outside netties" Dobson Tyne 1972; 'lavatory' Graham Geordie 1979. EDD distribution to 1900: N'd. NE 2001: in circulation. ?C18 nessy from necessary; ? Ital. cabinette; Raine MS locates a possible early ex. "Robert Hovyngham sall make... at the other end of hys house knyttyng" York 1419, in which case root could be OE nid 'necessity'. Plus "to go to the Necessary" (public toilet) Errington p.67 Newcastle re 1800s: "lav" Northumbrian III C20/2 re Crawcrook; "oot back" G'head 2001 Q; "larty - toilet, a children's word, the school larties'" MM S.Shields C20/2 lavatory
NEDDY, NETTY, a certain place that will not bear a written explanation; but which is depleted to the very life in a tail-piece in the first edition of Bewick's Land Birds, p. 285. In the second edition a bar is placed against the offending part of this broad display of native humour. Etymon needy, a place of need or necessity.
although some theories suggest it is an abbreviation of Italian gabbinetti, meaning 'toilet'
the urinals have linguistic distinction: the Geordie word "netty" for lavatory derives from Roman slang on Hadrian's Wall which became "gabinetto" in Italian
They were never in great numbers in the northern cities. For example, the Italian Consul General in Liverpool, in 1891, is quoted as saying that the majority of the 80-100 Italians in the city were organ grinders and street sellers of ice-cream and plaster statues. And that the 500-600 Italians in Manchester included mostly Terrazzo specialists, plasterers and modellers working on the prestigious, new town hall. While in Sheffield 100-150 Italians made cutlery.
Aa gan alang the streets...
It larnt us alreet...
when y' cannit produce a ticket?
the whole o' me childhud
Aa cud dee aall these things.
Y' divvent see onny salt so...
that on Frida's..
Wheor d' the' gan t'?
Thor's music in the hyemly soond o' 'howk,' or 'haadaway.'
an' w' had nivvor hord o'...
o' ivry parent wuz t' own...
one 'musical' bairn that wuz sent t' larn music.
NEEBODY seems t' reelise that a hooswife aalwiz...
that had been shifted oot..
y' warn't reet.
come roond an'...
a bucket o' smaall coal t'...
o' watt sh'...
Cud Aa wesh?
w' got worsel's interested...
y' kin set doon as...
I Am Jeremiah Dixon; I Am A Geordie Boy
14-06, "Jarrow Song", Alan Price
'just no relation to what you get late on a Geordie night out,' recalls Si.
Geordie Georgie drums up support for all the little folk in the North East who suffer from sex addiction.