Evolving English in the North East

The Evolving English exhibition has now finished.

We invited the people of Newcastle to go on record and be part of history in a project, in partnership with the British Library, which celebrates the North East’s language and dialect. The region’s favourite Geordie words and phrases were recorded at City Library in a special booth which took a sample of the region’s diverse accents.

These words and accents will be collected by the British Library to become part of a living time capsule which will be studied by future generations.

Listen to the Geordie accent of ‘the Byker Lion’ Mark James here.

Favourite words were also collected from around the region via email, telephone and in libraries and a selection of those collected form the ‘word cloud’ below which is a visual representation of the words and their popularity. The bigger a word in the cloud, the more times is was suggested as a popular word.

The top 10 Geordie words as nominated by people from across the region were:

1    Gannin        (Going)
2    Canny         (Well, fine, very)
3    Clarts          (Mud)
4    Hinny         (Honey, sweetheart, friend)
5    Divvent     (Do not)
6    Clarty         (Muddy)
7    Hoy             (Throw)
8    Nettie         (Toilet)
9    Doon           (Down)
10  Lass            (Woman, girl, wife)

Poetry inspired by Evolving English

The City Library poetry group collaborated to produce the poem below which they performed in front of an audience at our Pies, Peas and Poetry event.


City of dog
But cool for cats, of every stripe
Not just black and white

A new dawn after a night
That lasted 1,000 years
Reform on a grand scale
Initiating beginnings

King George’s men
Stopped the Scots in their tracks
Which gave us our name
And much canny crack.

Earl Gray stands sentinel
Over this vibrant bustling city, viewing new and old
The emerging cosmopolitanism
Enriching the city’s flesh and stone

Sunday is market day, on the quayside
Many a bargain found, people up a height
Kids are clammin’, the crowds pushing an shoving
Howay man gan canny, I canna get oot!

Tyne, Millennium and Swing
Take your pick which one
You decide to hop across
To the unknown land beyond

The fog on the Tyne
Dissipates to reveal a rippling reflected icon
Housing our soul and sound

Fun, frolics and fear
As the fair rolls into town
Bursts of light, palpable sounds
Strange and captivating aromas assault the senses

Favourites and friends gather
Engaging in the frivolous yearly event
The biggest in Europe
As Newcastle Moor is illuminated
The famous hoppings

Divn’t look doon ya snoot
Come have a day oot
Wor culture thrives
Still alive after 5

There’s so much more
Than what you’ve seen
In everything we’ve been
And everything we are

The following poem was sent in to the Evening Chronicle by E. Corkhill after she attended our event with ‘the Byker Lion’ and author Mark James.

‘The Byker Lion’

The wonderful library in Newcastle upon Tyne,
Hosted a promotional event.
Visitors were able to spend,
Some positive time,
listening to a talented author.
He introduced his book, ‘The Byker Lion’,
Which consists of a collection of short stories,
Together with drawings.
The writer speaks
about his life and his family
at great length.
He mentions his weaknesses
and his strengths.
It took me no time at all, to find out,
That this was my lucky day.
I listened carefully, and with great admiration,
To what this gifted author had to say.
I felt, his writing was sensational,
Touching and inspirational.
It had class and style,
it was uplifting and made me smile.
‘The Byker Lion’ talks humorously,
Of a little boy with guts,
Living through a deprived childhood,
And many hard years.
The author speaks
with passion about his mother,
Of a family struggling in Byker,
Having little food, and no education.
‘The Byker Lion’, is a joy to read,
A sincere dedication,
To the tender feelings of love,
Written by a man, with profound understanding
And determination.
It is a reason for joyful celebrations.

Geordie memories

Library staff joined by facilitator and entertainer Yvonne Young visited The Wellbeck Centre, a care home in Walker, as part of the Evolving English project. We spoke to residents about their favourite Geordie words and showed them images and books from the local studies collection in an hour reminiscense session. You can listen to a short clip from the session below.

Find out more about Evolving English at the British Library.