Geordie is a continuation and development of the language spoken by Anglo-Saxon settlers, initially employed by the ancient Brythons to fight the Pictish invaders after the end of Roman rule in Britain in the 5th century. The Angles, Saxons and Jutes who arrived became ascendant politically and culturally over the native British through subsequent migration from tribal homelands along the North Sea coast of mainland Europe. The Anglo-Saxon kingdoms that emerged in 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 means that poems by the Anglo-Saxon scholar the Venerable Bede translate more successfully into Geordie than into Standard English.
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 700,000, 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. Scott Dobson, the author of the book Larn Yersel Geordie, once stated that his grandmother, who was brought up in Byker, thought the miners were the true Geordies. There is a theory the name comes from the Northumberland and Durham coal mines. Poems and songs written in this area in 1876 (according to the OED), speak of the "Geordie."
A number of rival theories explain how the term "Geordie" 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 account traces the name to the times of the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715. The Jacobites declared that the natives of Newcastle were staunch supporters of the Hanoverian kings, whose first representative George I reigned (1714-1727) at the time of the 1715 rebellion. Newcastle contrasted with rural Northumberland, which largely supported the Jacobite cause. In this case, the term "Geordie" 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 states 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 about the same time by Humphry Davy and 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 as his fourth definition of "Geordie": A man from Tyneside; a miner; a north-country collier 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 dated to 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.
(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!")
John Camden Hotten 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 251 years as a term related to Northumberland and County Durham.
The name Bad-weather Geordy 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
Travel writer Scott Dobson used the term "Geordieland" in a 1973 guidebook to refer collectively to Northumberland and Durham.
/ɪŋ/ appearing in an unstressed final syllable of a word (such as in reading) is pronounced as [ən] (thus, reading is [ˈɹiːdən]).
Geordie is characterised by a unique type of glottal stops. /p, t, k/ can all be glottalised in Geordie, both at the end of a syllable and sometimes before a weak vowel.
T-glottalisation, in which /t/ is realised by [ʔ] before a syllabic nasal (e.g., button as [ˈbʊʔn̩]), in absolute final position (get as [ɡɛʔ]), and whenever the /t/ is intervocalic so long as the latter vowel is not stressed (pity as [ˈpɪʔi]).
Glottaling in Geordie is often perceived as a full glottal stop [ʔ] but it is in fact more often realised as 'pre-glottalisation', which is 'an occlusion at the appropriate place of articulation and 'glottalisation', usually manifested as a short period of laryngealised voice before and/or after and often also during the stop gap'. This type of glottal is unique to Tyneside English.
Other voicelessstops, /p, k/, are glottally reinforced in medial position, and preaspirated in final position.
The dialect is non-rhotic, like most British dialects, most commonly as an alveolar approximant [ɹ], although a labiodental realisation [ʋ] is also growing for younger females (this is also possible by older males, albeit rarer). Traditionally, intrusive R was not present, instead glottalising between boundaries, however is present in newer varieties.
Yod-coalescence in both stressed and unstressed syllables (so that dew becomes [dʒɵʊ]).
/l/ is traditionally clear in all contexts, meaning the velarised allophone is absent. However, modern accents may periodically use [ɫ] in syllable final positions, sometimes it may even be vocalised (as in bottle[ˈbɒʔʊ]).
Vowel length is phonemic for many speakers of Geordie and there is often no other phonetic difference between /ɛ/ and /ɛː/ on one hand and /ɒ/ and /ɒː/ on the other. If traditional dialect forms are considered, /a/ also has a phonemic long counterpart (/aː/), but they contrast only before voiceless consonants. There are minimal pairs such as tack/tak/ vs. talk/taːk/ (normal Geordie pronunciation: /tɔːk/). If they are disregarded, this [aː] is best regarded as a phonetic realisation of /ɔː/ in certain words (roughly, those spelt with a). It occurs only in broad Geordie. Another [aː] appears as an allophone of /a/ before final voiced consonants in words such as lad[laːd].
Phonetic quality and phonemic incidence
/iː, uː/ are typically somewhat closer than in other varieties; /uː/ is also less prone to fronting than in other varieties of BrE and its quality is rather close to the cardinal [u]. However, younger women tend to use a central [ʉː] instead.
/iː, uː/ are monophthongs [iː, uː ~ ʉː] only in morphologically closed syllables. In morphologically open syllables, they are realised as closing diphthongs [ei, ɵʊ]. This creates minimal pairs such as freeze[fɹiːz] vs. frees[fɹeiz] and bruise[bɹuːz ~ bɹʉːz] (hereafter transcribed with ⟨uː⟩ for the sake of simplicity) vs. brews[bɹɵʊz].
The HAPPY vowel is tense [i] and is best analysed as belonging to the /iː/ phoneme.
As other Northern English varieties, Geordie lacks the FOOT-STRUT split, so that words like cut, up and luck have the same /ʊ/ phoneme as put, sugar and butcher. The typical phonetic realisation is unrounded [ɤ], but it may be hypercorrected to [ə] among middle-class (especially female) speakers.
The long close-mid vowels /eː, oː/ may be realised as monophthongs [eː, oː] or as opening diphthongs [ɪə, ʊə]. Alternatively, /eː/ can be a closing diphthong [eɪ] and /oː/ can be centralised to [ɵː]. The opening diphthongs are recessive, as younger speakers reject them in favour of the monophthongal [eː, oː ~ ɵː].
Other, now archaic, realisations of /oː/ include [aː] in snow[snaː] and [aʊ] in soldiers[ˈsaʊldʒɐz].
Geordie does not always adhere to the same distributional patters of vowels found in Received Pronunciation or even the neighbouring accents. Examples of that include the words no and stone, which may be pronounced [niː] and [stɪən], so with vowels that are best analysed as belonging to the /iː/ and /iə/ phonemes.
Many female speakers merge /oː/ with /ɔː/, but the exact phonetic quality of the merged vowel is uncertain.
/øː/ may be phonetically [øː] or a higher, unrounded vowel [ɪː]. An RP-like vowel [ɜ̝ː] is also possible.
In broad Geordie, /øː/ merges with /ɔː/ to [ɔː] under the influence of a uvular [ʁ] that once followed it (when Geordie was still a rhotic dialect). The fact that the original /ɔː/ vowel is never hypercorrected to [øː] or [ɜ̝ː] suggests that either this merger was never categorical, or that speakers are unusually successful in sorting those vowels out again.
The schwa /ə/ is often rather open ([ɐ]). It also tends to be longer in duration than the preceding stressed vowel, even if that vowel is phonologically long. Therefore, words such as water and meter are pronounced [ˈwɔd̰ɐː] and [ˈmid̰ɐː]. This feature is shared with the very conservative (Upper Crust) variety of Received Pronunciation.
Words such as voices and ended have /ə/ in the second syllable (so /ˈvɔɪsəz, ˈɛndəd/), rather than the /ɪ/ of RP. That does not mean that Geordie has undergone the weak vowel merger because /ɪ/ can still be found in some unstressed syllables in place of the more usual /ə/. An example of that is the second syllable of seven/ˈsɛvɪn/, but it can also be pronounced with a simple schwa /ə/ instead. Certain weak forms also have /ɪ/ instead of /ə/; these include at/ɪt/, of/ɪv/, as/ɪz/, can/kɪn/ and us/ɪz/.
As in other Northern English dialects, the BATH vowel is short /a/ in Geordie. There are very few exceptions to this rule; for instance, master, plaster and sometimes also disaster are pronounced with /ɒː/.
Some speakers unround /ɒː/ to [ɑː]. Regardless of the rounding, the difference in backness between /ɒː/ and /a/ is very pronounced, a feature which Geordie shares with RP and some northern and midland cities such as Stoke-on-Trent and Derby, but not with the accents of the middle north.
The second elements of /iə, uə/ are commonly as open as the typical Geordie realisation of /ə/ ([ɐ]).
The first element of /æʊ/ varies between [æ], [ä] and [ɛ]. Traditionally, this vowel was a monophthong [uː] (with town being pronounced close to RP toon) and this pronunciation can still be heard, as can a narrower diphthong [əu] (with town being pronounced close to RP tone).
/aɪ/ is phonetically [äɪ], but the Scottish vowel length rule applied by some speakers of Geordie creates an additional allophone [ɛɪ] that has a shorter, higher and more front onset than the main allophone [äɪ]. [ɛɪ] is used in words such as knife[nɛɪf], whereas [äɪ] is used in e.g. knives[näɪvz]. For simplicity, both of them are written with ⟨aɪ⟩ in this article.
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.
Bill Griffiths, in A Dictionary of North East Dialect, points to the earlier form, the Old Englishníd; 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".
A poem called "Yam" narrated by author Douglas Kew, demonstrates the usage of a number of Geordie words.
^ abBrockett, John Trotter (1846). A Glossary of North Country Words (revised ed.). p. 187. 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.
Smiles, Samuel (1862). "chapter 8". The lives of the engineers. III.
^ abSmiles, Samuel (1859). The Life of George Stephenson, Railway Engineer. Ticknor and Fields. p. 120. 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.
^Docherty & Foulkes (2005). Hardcastle & Mackenzie Beck (ed.). Glottal variants of (t) in the Tyneside variety of English: an acoustic profiling study. A Figure of Speech – a Festschrift for John Laver. London: Lawrence Erlbaum. pp. 173–199.
^Colls, Robert; Lancaster, Bill; Bryne, David; Carr, Barry; Hadaway, Tom; Knox, Elaine; Plater, Alan; Taylor, Harvey; Williamson; Younger, Paul (2005). Geordies. Northumbria University Press. p. 90. ISBN978-1-904794-12-7. Hadaway an' shite; 'Cursing like sleet blackening the buds, raging at the monk of Jarrow scribbling his morality and judgement into a book.'
^IMS: Customer Satisfaction: BIP2005 (Integrated Management Systems). BSI Standards. 2003. p. 10. ISBN978-0-580-41426-8. 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 ...
^Henderson, Clarks. "NEIMME: Lamps – No. 14. SCOTCH DAVY LAMP". Archived from the original on 20 November 2008. Retrieved 2 December 2007. 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.
^ abcGraham, Frank (November 1986). The Geordie Netty: A Short History and Guide. Butler Publishing; New Ed edition. ISBN978-0-946928-08-8.
^ abcdGriffiths, Bill (1 December 2005). A Dictionary of North East Dialect. Northumbria University Press. p. 122. ISBN978-1-904794-16-5. 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
^ abcTrotter Brockett, John (1829). A glossary of north country words, in use. From an original manuscript, with additions. Oxford University. p. 214. 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.
^ ab"Netty". although some theories suggest it is an abbreviation of Italian gabbinetti, meaning 'toilet'
^ abcWainwright, Martin (4 April 2007). "Urinal finds museum home". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 8 October 2007. the urinals have linguistic distinction: the Geordie word "netty" for lavatory derives from Roman slang on Hadrian's Wall which became "gabinetto" in Italian
^Saunders, Rod. "Italian Migration to Nineteenth Century Britain: Why and Where, Why?". anglo-italianfhs.org.uk. Retrieved 3 September 2008. 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.
Beal, Joan (2004), "English dialects in the North of England: phonology", in Schneider, Edgar W.; Burridge, Kate; Kortmann, Bernd; Mesthrie, Rajend; Upton, Clive (eds.), A handbook of varieties of English, 1: Phonology, Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 113–133, ISBN3-11-017532-0