East Midlands Dialect of English

I just heard the parents of Madeline McCann, a little girl who tragically vanished, apparently while her parents were vacationing in Portugal, a couple of years ago, on Oprah . It looks to be an abduction by a child molester or a sexual psychopath of some sort. This case is weird as Hell, and I remember at the beginning they were suspecting the parents.
Madeline and apparently her parents both come from around the city of Leicester in Leicestershire, in East Midlands, in the center of England. I always thought that the North English accents like Geordie and Scouse in Liverpool were the only ones that were hard to hear.
But I had the damndest time making sense out of that hardcore East Midlands dialect! If they were right in the room with me, maybe I could make sense of it, but on TV, it was hard as Hell. I was definitely getting less than 90% of it. As far as I can tell, it’s a damned foreign language. And it’s right smack in the middle of England. What the heck?
Man, that’s one hardcore English accent.
A great site is the BBC’s Sounds Familiar, with selections of hardcore dialects from all over the UK. The site has a poor layout and it’s hard to find the dialect samples, but if you click around a bit, they should show up.
Even in England, many of the dialect samples had poor intelligibility to my ear. What’s interesting is that I lived in a tourist town for many years and we always had English tourists coming through from all parts of England, and I never had a hard time hearing any of them. Is it that the folks speaking the real hardcore dialects are poor, older or working class and do not have the means to take trans-Atlantic trips?
You want to know why I watch Oprah? It’s about the only show I watch on US TV. Oprah is the essence of modern-day America, right? Of course it is.
Update: A commenter says that neither parent has a Leicestershire accent. The father has a Scottish English accent and the mother has a bit of a Scouse accent. That makes sense then. I can understand most British accents, but Scouse, Scottish English and Geordie just kill me. And forget Scots. That’s a foreign language.

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18 thoughts on “East Midlands Dialect of English”

  1. WOW that was interesting. some of the dialects just did not sound like english at all. one of my favorite shows to watch is the mighty boosh, and once in a while i have to rewind and try to figure out a word or two, but for the most part i understand and laugh my ass off, cuz i have always loved british humor. if some of these dialects were used, i would not know what the hell they were saying.

  2. The worst dialects of all are in Scotland or in far north England up by Scotland. Scots, Scottish English, Cumbrian, Geordie, Northumbrian. Even Scouse (Liverpool) is really terrible. Hardcore Liverpool you really can’t even understand it at all. I heard of an American guy who lived there for five years and he still could not understand it, especially the women.

  3. Actually, the McCanns have a pretty slight Leicester accent, it gets MUCH harder to understand (even for me…I’m a Leicesterian myself). The McCanns are pretty well off – both are doctors, many people (myself included) have quite thick Leicester accents and can very much afford to make a trip across the Atlantic, however all we get on landing is people telling us “you don’t have an English accent” and asking why we would rather have a nice bottle of Tesco Value voddy rather than a cup of tea…or worst of all asking “do you know the Queen?” Well, we like Vodka because living in this hell hole country full of drugs, guns, corrupt politicians, high unemployment (1.2 million and counting, in a country of only 30 million of working age), rising and ever worsening violent crime rates (by a long shot the highest in Europe CPC) we need something to take our minds off our hideous reality. And no, I DO NOT know the Queen and nor would I ever wish to.
    Sorry for that rant, needed to get it off my chest. Now, before I go; can anyone translate this classic Leicester saying: “sh’ain’t gorra coat so I guz an gizzer-iz’un?”

    1. Thx James. I found them very hard to understand. Intelligibility may have been around 85% or so, but that’s not really enough for pleasant listening! I was stunned that two doctors would have such a thick accent. Plus I had never really heard of this dialect. I always thought the tough dialects were in the northeast (Geordie) and west (Scouse). I shudder to think of them having only a mild dialect and wonder what the hardcore speech must sound like.

      1. I used to live in Loughborough, moving there at the age of six, I remember disticnctly telling myself NOT to pick up the accent! The east midlands for “Isn’t it cold?” is “Int it code!”, “I have nothing” is “Ah got note”, “Give me” is “Giz”, “Gosh” is “Ooooh-yer (followed by “bastard” or “date” or “bugger”), there are many other idiosyncranicities (sp?) I would rather forget. I put accents down to the lack of travel / traffic from other areas in a given region.

    2. kev coalville (co vill) she hasn’t got a coat so i have given her his one slight variation Moira (mi ra) south Derbyshire sha anna gorra jacket so an gizza izan

    3. That seems to have started in Ali G era of the 90’s. In England in the Thatcher Era there was a small problem with drugs in places like Brixton and you had your odd “Firms” but street anarchy and crack cocaine sales were uncommon outside London, Liverpool.
      Sometime after Major or during Blair things changed.

  4. Hi, sorry for the VERY delayed reply, just completely forgot about this and stumbled upon it again – recognising my own post was a little surreal!
    The accent in Leicester and Nottingham (and to a lesser extend Derby) is a combination of Yorkshire – essentially Norse; all words pronounced more literally eg. “bath” is pronounced with a hard “a” sound, as opposed to the southern “ah” sound, but some words such as “down” are pronounced as the southern “daan” – similar to cockneys, I presume because a massive amount of evacuees (around 250,000) from the east end of London (incidently where I now live) were put in Leicester as it isn’t an area in which weapons were made and as such was barely bombed.
    That’s pronunciation more or less covered, in a basic sense at least – now onto the rest!
    In England you can travel two miles (literally two miles) down the road and people speak completely differently. There are lots of reasons for this, but I guess on a countrywide scale it is because the country has for thousands of years been divided along strict legal (and with Scotland physical) borders. On a more local scale, in Coalville in Leicestershire, for example, the dialect was caused by mass migration from Yorkshire into the area in order to man the coal mines – the accent in Coalville, despite being only a few miles from Rothley (where the mccanns live) is unbelievable, even though the mines there closed a long time ago.
    Where I grew up in the Beaumont Leys area of Leicester our accents are influenced more powerfully by the traditional Leicesterian dialect as the area was built to house some of the population of the inner city Victorian slums, mainly around the notorious Wharf Street area and as it was usually within these areas that the accent was born (ie. Merseyside in Liverpool, Whitechapel in London and so on) the traditional Leicester accent has been retained most powerfully here, although it has been influenced by immigration over time.
    The example I used before “sh’ain’t gorra coat so I guz an gizzer-iz’un?” makes perfect sense to me, were I to hear it on the street I would have no problem in translating it! The literal translation into RP would be “she has no coat, so I went to the location of his, took it and gave it to her”.
    Geordie and Scouse are most famously difficult to understand because of their absurdity, the sound of them is funny and memorable, the accents of the midlands are quite dark, brooding dialects: every word pronounced is pronounced with as hard a sound as possible, for example “how much is it?” would be pronounced “ha muhchizzit?” which takes a relatively innocent question (unless referring to the kinder egg i tried to buy earlier until i was told it was 66p) and turns it quite aggressive. I guess this aggression is reflected in the people themselves – given that Leicester and Nottingham are the assault, rape, murder and robbery capitals of Europe between them and that the three main cities are nicknamed “LeadStar”, “Driveby” and “Shottingham” in the press!
    Anyway, any Leccy (Local shorthand for Leicester, Lesta is used also) related phrases you’re having trouble with don’t hesitate to get in touch.

  5. just had a listen to kate and gerry. pretty sure they ain’t leicestershire accents. gerry’s is scottish, and kate is a mild scouse, from what i can tell.

  6. well im from co’vill or coalville as it is more proper known. Im proud of me co’vill accent cos its orrigins are our herritage and tell us weer we com from. Here’s a strange un,in co’vill if you wor asked if u wanna oakey what d’ya think they’d mean? answer do you want an ice cream? can anyone tell us weer the orrigin o’ this comes from? Other words that the oder generation use is waunt instead of wasn’t eg. he waunt there when i went by. also it eent code like it wor yesterday. which means it isn’t cold like it were yesterday. some words we do share with other areas my ex is from liverpool and they say its nesh meaning cold or code like we do again this must point to our herritage when we had loads of migrating workers or wokas coming into our area.

  7. muppets, gerry is Scottish, and Rob.Lindsey is from Ilkeston close to me in the (East Midlands) … Lindsey has publicly changed his accent to make himself more important, now he has the cash. Everyone knows you never naturally lose your roots.

  8. There’s a definate crusade within the BBC to eliminate the East Midlands dialect. Just listen to Radio Nottingham or East Midlands Today.You never hear the East Midlands pronounciation of words such as Castle, Bath, Chance, Afternoon, Grass, Basket with the southern “r” being put into these words by seemingly all East Midlands presenters. Note in Nottingham we have a Castle,not a Carsul. Ilkeston has a main street called Bath Street not Barth Street or at least it has done for the past 300 years). We have Basket ball teams in the East Midlands and don’t play Barsgetball, we also play football on grass not grarse. We have presenters who pronounce their names like Geoff Maskell with an a, but then throughout news bulletins rename our towns such as Castle Donnington to Carsul Donnington and Ilkeston’s Bath Street to Barth Street.
    We do use phrases like mesen (myself),yourn (yours), ayup and my ode (Ilkeston) when in our own company, and we don’t expect this to be used in the media, but I for one get annoyed at the us as licence payers having to put up with constant southern pronounciations. Apparently the BBC think there is something wrong with how we pronounce our words properly i.e.as they are spelt – it’s funny how the rules of using the southern “r” change when convenient – a donkey is an Ass not an Arse – so who’s the Ass….

    1. So right! The East Midlands pronunciation is more logical than anything else in English. As to the words and phrases like “mysen” “I says” etc it’s all because you grow up listening to people speaking like that. There’s nothing wrong with it whatsoever even though it might not be taken from the grammar books. BBC has found new trends in the language but really it’s just old habbits. 99% of people do know how to speak or write in a formal situation just as well as the Southern lot. Makes me laugh how words like “funny” pronunced with the Southern “ah” could be seen as rude round Notts 😀

  9. Colly brawn I know what brawn is but colly? Is this a dialect word? My mother was born in Hinckley and had a brother who died in 1901 from food-poisoning. Her words to me: he died through the colly brawn. I can’t vouch for the spelling.

    1. I’d guess colly as stomach or tummy. I’m from Shepshed and tummy ache or upsets would be called colly wobbles. Seems odd but there you go!

  10. Robert, Gerry McCann is from Scotland and Kate, his wife, is from Liverpool! His Scottish accent is quite pronounced, although her Scouse is comparatively soft. I am guessing she is from a middle-class area or the suburbs of Liverpool, as Scouse is generally quite raspy and harsh.
    Native Leicester and East Midlands accents are, in fact, quite easy to get. In other parts of the country, people tend not to know where I am from, as the accent is not particularly distinguishable or well-known, unlike Geordie, Scottish, and Tyke (Yorkshire), for instance.
    Modern Received Pronunciation was originally based on the East Midlands dialect.

  11. Haha! Just gone through the BBC thing as I find this quite fascinating. I’d studied English as a second language for 10 years before I moved to Nottingham and I was SHOCKED. The English here hasn’t got much to do with the grammar or pronunciation I’d been taught but it stays in your head and before you know it you talk the way you’re talked to. What made me laugh is how BBC explains the trends in grammar, e.g. how people say “I says” or “we goes” etc. for whatever important reason… The truth to me is they’ve just got used to speaking like that. As well as a vast majority of people round Nottingham has got used to saying “them” instead of “those” or pronuncing “u” as “uh” not “ah” (bUS, bUcket, cUp) or saying “you was” instead of “you were”. Also the reason why people use the present perfect instead of past simple (“he’s gone” instead of “he went” etc.) is because they EITHER couldn’t be asked to think of grammar at the moment of speaking OR do not exactly care how these two tenses should be used… OR a bit of both. The thing is when we speak fast, just being our normal selves we don’t really overthink it and if you do, as I’ve learnt, you come across as a “mardy cow” 😀 These forms might be new to the language but they’re still WRONG. It just means people speak more in a way they want to and think more of the message itself than of the posh correctness.
    It used to confuse and annoy me as an ESL speaker because I was expecting the English to follow the books… Which is quite silly, as an average Joe makes quite a lot of grammatical mistakes simply because he CAN and doesn’t have to worry about it. It’s alright, let’s leave it as it is and not try to find scientific terms for it. It’s all about what you’re used to.
    Having spent quite some time in Notts I know it’s all a habbit, simply because I’m quite a lot more likely to say “We was at the bUs stop and it was chucking it down so I says to him let’s wait for the bUS inside one of them shops there.” than to say it as it “should be” although grammar used to be the one way I could show my teachers up. For the one last time it’s ALL down to what you’re used to. As long as you don’t write formal letters the way you speak to your friends it’s perfectly ok.

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