Bairn… canny… toon… bait… Which bits of our dialect would you elect?

Sunderland’s prettiest bridge. But just how pretty is our language?


THE North East is known for its friendly nature, but sometimes the language in the region can be, well… interesting.

We asked our readers which words they find the most annoying – and got some interesting responses.

The word ‘ket‘ is strange because to many, as it could be taken to reference the painkilling drug ketamine, which some use illegally. But to people in the North East? Well ‘ket’ just means sweets!

Hopefully there are no Mackems wandering around the country asking people for ‘ket’, because they might be in for a nasty surprise…

Two suggestions here, with ‘bairn‘ being a word that came up with a lot of our readers. ‘Bairn’, of course, means a young child, and any child that is brought up in the area will be known as a bairn until they hit the age of 16.

Belta‘ means good, essentially. This is a word that many younger North East folk would use to show their satisfaction with a situation.

A controversial choice – the word ‘bait‘, which to most people outside the region would be what you use to catch a fish with. But not in the North East; ‘bait’ here means food, generally lunch.

Yem‘ originates from Ashington, and means home. We are not sure why Ashington has its own language but, hey ho – it does!

As a North East person, I have never personally used the word ‘clays‘ (though technically, this could be described as pronunciation, rather than a separate word altogether). And if I heard it, I would probably ignore the person who said it. But yes, ‘clays’ means clothes for some reason.

A personal favourite, ‘radgie‘ refers to someone who is (or is getting) angry. I personally enjoy this word because it is an example of onomatopoeia – it sounds like what it is.

Another controversial word: the ‘Geordie’ part of the region would say ‘Howay‘, whereas the ‘Mackem’ part would say ‘HaWay‘. We don’t know why – and we won’t ask.

Canny‘ is an interesting one, and to be honest, it is almost ingrained to my lexicon. Its basic meaning is good/fine/well (in response to the question ‘How are you doing?’ for example) but often it just adds a little bit more as a descriptor. I can be heard describing anything that happens in a football match as ‘canny good/bad‘ – so it takes on the meaning of very/fairly/pretty.

A new phenomenon is North East people becoming upset as language changes, and more southern words come up. I feel your pain Adam.

I won’t argue with you Luke. I really won’t.

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