Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Learning the Lingo

"There's no better cure for a hangover than a breakfast bin lid."  When I first heard this I thought it was some strange northern custom involving the use of old tin bin lids to cook a proper fryup following a night on the tiles.  Not as far fetched as you may think, where I grew up there was a pub called "The Bradford Arms" which was always known locally as "The Old Frying Pan" owing to the fact that the factory workers often popped their shovels in the fire and used them to cook their lunch.  The name stuck so well that when the old pub had to be demolished the new pub built to replace it was called "The Frying Pan", and I'm guessing most of it's regulars have no idea why.

Anyway, back to 'breakfast bin lids', which, as it turns out,  are actually enormous "barms" (we'll come to those later) filled with every fried breakfast product imaginable.  Whenever I've read stories about people starting new lives abroad I've admired their bravery for facing the challenge of a new life and a new language; by only moving to Cumbria I thought we'd avoided those sorts of problems, but apparently not.

The first time I went into a bakery and asked for a brown roll the lady behind the counter looked at me and said "barm"? Having thought my request was fairly straightforward I wasn't expecting to be questioned about it so hadn't really listened to her reply and assumed she was suggesting that either a) I was barmy or b) I needed embalming.  Realising that b) was somewhat unlikely and that a) wasn't that wide of the mark I  stood there looking open mouthed and confused.  "A barm" she repeated.  Still nothing.  "A barm, do you want a barm?" she tried for the third time, on this occasion helpfully brandishing a brown roll.  The penny finally dropped.  "Yes" I beamed "I would like a brown barm" as I stood there grinning, oddly proud that I'd learned my first new words in this strange alien tongue.

The whole world of bread rolls is a linguistic nightmare.  Wikipedia, that bastian of all that is accurate, lists 24 different words for "bread roll" (including 'barm' and 'bin lid') and was most helpful when I came across "muffins", "breadcakes" and "oven bottom rolls" at different points on my travels around the region.  I accept the fact that the dialect in the North West differs from that in the South East, but I've been rather thrown by the fact that it differs from town to town.  Just as I'd got the hang of 'barms' I went to Bolton and got hit by a 'flour cake' - figuratively speaking.
See - even he's struggling with it.

And it doesn't stop with bread products.  Within seconds of arriving anywhere you'll be offered a "brew" which is generally used to refer to a cup of tea but could, in fact, relate to any hot beverage.  An American friend couldn't quite get to grips with that and was convinced it had something to do with the Pendle Witches.  Maybe it did, and perhaps the witches were harshley treated, though one can't help thinking that had they had the same legal team as Amanda Knox they might have been saved from the noose.

So where does that leave me?  Well I've found myself a Cumbrian Dictionary and will busy myself learning the finer points of pronunciation in order to better blend in to my surroundings.  I've so far got to grips with conjugating the verb "to deek" which means to take a look (I deek, you deek, he deeks, she deeks); "fettle" which is used to describe how you're feeling as in "not in grand fettle" meaning "not feeling too well" and "stotting" which translates as "falling so hard it bounces back" and is often used to describe the rain as in "It's stotting down (again)".* (Please see the entry titled "Some Precipitation" for more information pertaining to the local weather.)

Anyway, right now I'm gasping for a "brew" and I need to get my "barms" filled for tomorrow as I'm out of "ackers" and can't afford to go to M&S for "me bait".  So I shall bid you goodnight and remind you that if you're feeling a little "gattered" this evening then the thing you'll be needing in the morning is a breakfast bin lid.

(With thanks to for the translations.)

No comments:

Post a Comment