Oi Speak Narrfuk Oi Do

Anyone living on these damp little islands and anyone who visits them knows that Britain is a nation of a thousand and one accents and dialects. Homespun and imported lingo twists and turns through town and county. We may live in a global village and in a mass media world where ‘Globalish’ (the cut-down version of English-light) dominates, but that hasn’t stopped many regional accents kicking against the tide. In many cases, they are thriving. English in all its variants is constantly evolving and because the language is such a magpie, words are being dropped and added, borrowed and adapted, created and extended all the time. Our cousins across the Pond might be forgiven for thinking that there are only two English accents: posh and Cockney. But even those stereotypes are changing. These days, only the Queen speaks like the Queen and the word on the street, the inner city London street, is a marvellous infusion of words, phrases and pronunciations from right across the world. Quite different from an Eastenders episode.

Unfortunately, many English dialects are truly indecipherable to an untrained ear. Pity the poor foreigner, jumping into a cab at East Midlands International Airport to be greeted by:

“Ayup me duck.”

The thick Norfolk accent, aptly named “Broad Norfolk” is no less difficult to fathom and notoriously difficult to imitate. Norwich may only be 115 miles from central London but that’s far enough away for Broad Norfolk to survive the onslaught of the insipid Estuary English, the dominant accent of southeast England (and the one Liam and I speak). There’s even an organisation, the Friends of Norfolk Dialect (FOND) which is…

…dedicated to conserving and recording Norfolk’s priceless linguistic and cultural heritage, thus keeping ‘Broad Norfolk’ alive.

Broad Naarfuk is rich in local words and phrases, some of them variants on standard English, others completely unique. A year in and Liam and I are only just beginning to look a little less baffled. Here’s a few to give you a titty-totty taste:


Want to know how all of this sounds? Take a look at this. I’ll be testing you later.


25 thoughts on “Oi Speak Narrfuk Oi Do

  1. Oh Jesus… you’ve just brought me back to my formative years. Our parents wasn’t to keep our diction pure and unsullied, and we were corrected at the dinner table if we happened to bring any Broad Norfolk home with us … we had to leave it at the door!

    I’d like to add a classic to your list “a’ya gotta lite boi?”

    Have a listen to this video (skip to about 1:20s) to where this fabulous song starts .. sung by the Singing Postman from East Anglia singing about his “little nicotine gal”


  2. Robert Elms recently told on his radio programme of a Scottish tourist who jumped in a cab at Euston and asked for “Tutankhamun” [supply your own Glaswegian accent at this point], expecting to end up at the exhibition at British Museum, only to find himself an hour later deposited on Tooting Common!


  3. I was brought up on the NE coast (a mix of Geordie/Durham) and was told by my mother I had one language for school and friends and another when I was at home! I have no recollection of this but know that I mimic accents.


    1. My ex partner was from Glasgow but moved to London when he was young. He spoke Glaswegian to his family and Estuary to everyone else. PS My Dad was from Co Durham so I know the accent well. 🙂


  4. This is all very familiar to me, Jack, as my old man is from Norfolk and he often lapses into dialect to make me laugh. I love the accent and the strange words, particularly the word ‘bishybarneybee’ for a ladybird.

    I also notice that some of the sentences are very similar to broad Yorkshire … another dialect I am familiar with as I come from Yorkshire.

    Thank goodness for people who keep these differences alive … I dread the time when we all have to speak in sentences that go up at the end. :/


      1. “Can I get” is at least a little more polite than “I want… ” .. hear it all the time and it just sounds so rude.


  5. I find it interesting that some of this made it’s way into American! Chimley (more often said “Chimbley”) is used by some people out of habit (they could usually tell you it is a mispronunciation if they stopped to think about it), but more often as an intentional and humorous usage – most famously in Dr. Seuss’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” When I ran across “Lummox” on this list, I was surprised that it wasn’t recognized as a part of standard English – it’s a commonly recognized word, stateside. And while “Lollop” is not used for “saunter” in American English, it is certainly common in it’s use for a different kind of locomotion – a sort of careless running or bounding.


    1. This is fascinating but I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised by it. Many of the original English settlers to New England were East Anglian puritans fleeing religious intolerance and, presumably, some of their words and phrases survived into modern times.


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