Translating the North: A dictionary for Southern Cambridge students

Just a northern girl trying to be understood from the Humber Bridge to the Bridge of the Sighs

Now, we’ve all heard of the North/South divide but who knew there was a language barrier? Don’t get me wrong, I knew us Northerners pronounced things differently and have phrases that Southerners wouldn’t be caught dead saying. But it wasn’t until I came to Cambridge that I realised some people had never even heard of some words I use. Even though I am an over-packer, I never thought to pack a translator. So, in order to support all of the uni friendships daring to tackle the North/South divide, I have created my own little dictionary to help you translate your northern friend. (Pre-warning: I do apologise if some of these haven’t even spread beyond Yorkshire, we seem to take it to the next level).

Plus, it’s not just Cambridge that has pretty buildings, we have ministers too. And we have the Yorkshire Dales AND the Lake District. So, who’s really winning here?

York Minister (Image credits: Pierre Andrews/Flickr via the Creative Commons License)

1. Ey up!

Hello/how are you?

Ey up! I haven’t seen you in ages. 

2. Mafting

Really hot.

I need to sit in the shade, I’m mafting.

3. Nithered

Really cold.

You need to put a coat on or you’ll be nithered.

4. Croggy

Riding on the back of a bike or on the handlebars while someone else pedals.

Can you give me a croggy to Sidge?

5. Bairn

A child.

I’ve known him since I was a bairn. 

6. Sarnie


Do you want a bacon sarnie? 

7. Breadcake

Now this one is controversial and I know it’s not northern-wide, but where I’m from it’s called a breadcake. You may know it as a bap, bread roll, cob…

I need to get some breadcakes from Mainsbury’s.  

This is what I call a bread cake (Image credits: Rich Legg/Getty Images via the Creative Commons License)

8. Cockle over

To twist/roll your ankle.

I cockled over when I was running through Parker’s Piece.

9. Snicket

A passageway between walls/buildings.

I’m just going to nip through the snicket.

If someone says ‘snicket’, I think of this exact street in my village. (Image credits are my dad because I made him go take this picture for me).

10. Twagging

To skip school when you have no excuse not to be there.

Sam was caught twagging by his mum.

11. Chow

To argue.

Stop chowing at each other, you’re giving me a headache.

12. To not touch something with a barge pole

To not go near something/to avoid something at all costs.

That looks so dodgy, I wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole.

13. Chuffed

Very pleased.

I’m well chuffed that we beat O*ford. 

14. To have a mare

To have a nightmare (theoretically)/for something to go wrong.

I’m having a mare today. I slept through my alarm and I’ve lost my CamCard.

15. I am so hungry I could eat a scabby donkey

To be very hungry.

Side note: it’s rare you get to hear this gem of a phrase but I find it so funny I couldn’t not include it.

16. Bobby-dazzler

Anything outstanding/showy/attractive.

He looked like a right bobby-dazzler in his May Ball suit.

So southerners, now that you can speak like one of the locals, you can visit the north without fear. It may be a little colder but at least we have proper cuppas, a pint won’t bankrupt you and if you dare venture to Hull…you can be blessed with the delicacy of chip spice. 

It’s so good I bring my own pot to uni (Image credits: Lucy Barber).

Feature image credit: David Barber

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