Nar Then: a Guide to Yorkshire Sayings and What They Mean

Yorkshire is a beautiful area with some unique, and sometimes baffling, sayings
Yorkshire is a beautiful area with some unique, and sometimes baffling, sayings | © robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo
Kim Gregory

Yorkshire is known for its baffling phrases said in even more baffling accents. Culture Trip is here to decode some classic Yorkshire sayings for you. Nar then!

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Welcome to Yorkshire, a northern English county self-proclaimed “God’s Own Country” – and it actually is that good. (Well I would say that, I’m from there myself.) It’s known for rolling hills, the loveliest people and accents thicker than its famous Yorkshire pudding. It’s a place where “Eyup, cock” means “Hello, dear”; “Si thi, lad”, or “Goodbye, fine sir”; and “Nar then” is a fond welcome. Also, it’s anyone’s guess whether “All right” is a greeting or a genuine enquiry after your physical and mental health.

From Barnsley to Harrogate, they’ve got more sayings than they own flat caps – and they sure have a lot of those. A conversation with a true Yorkshireman can leave an unassuming outsider completely baffled, but Culture Trip is here to give you the lowdown on the luvleh lingo. Nothing in return, though, please. As we say, “Tha can always tell a Yorkshireman – but not much.”

‘What can tha do when thi boots let watter?’

Translated as “What can you do when your boots let in water?”, this phrase reminds listeners that if you fall on bad luck and your situation can’t be changed, you just have to accept it. Yorkshire people are humble folk, once you wade through the confusing pronouns.

Some traditional sayings are harder to understand than others

‘Tha’ll stand for egg under t’cap’

Shout this at a friend if they need reminding to stand up for themselves. It’s the equivalent of saying “You’ll put up with anything” – even an egg under your cap! It’s the highest form of caring.

‘If ever tha does owt for nowt, do it for thisen’

This saying is a reminder to those out there who are often taken advantage of. “Owt” means “anything” and “nowt” means “nothing”, obviously. So, if you ever do something for nothing, make sure it’s only for “thisen” – “thyself”, ie yourself.

‘I could eat oven door if it were buttered’

“I’m hungry! Fetch me a Yorkshire pudding with gravy!”

Yorkshire accents are thicker than traditional Yorkshire puddings

‘Well, I’ll go t’ foot of our stairs!’

When a Yorkshireman is truly shocked, this is his battle cry. Think of it as the northern equivalent of “Oh my goodness”. Should said Yorkshireman live in a bungalow, he might even add “If I had any” for accuracy.

‘It’s not me, it’s t’others’

This phrase is a standard response to “How are you?” and a sentiment we can’t help but agree with. “It’s not me, it’s the others” means the person is fine if only they were to be left alone. It’s everyone else that’s the problem!

‘Were tha born in a barn?’

Passed down for generations, this is a regular call from Yorkshire mothers demanding their child shuts the bloody door lest it gets any colder in the room.

Some sayings have been passed down for generations, such as ‘Were tha born in a barn?’

‘Gi or, ya daft hapeth’

Usually said with warmth and fondness, this one tells a person to stop it when they’re either playing around or saying something with little truth (for example, “I’m worried that not everyone loves Yorkshire”). “Gi or” is a short form of “Give over”, “daft” means “silly” and an “hapeth” is short for “halfpenny’s worth” in old currency, because who can be bothered to say that?

‘Has tha been out lekkin’?’

“Lekkin” means “playing”, so this can be used to ask a person if they’ve been out having fun, or it can insinuate that frankly, they look terrible and must have a stonking hangover after a fun night of boozing.

After a night out partying, you can ask someone ‘Has tha been out lekkin’?’

‘Does thi father know thar out?’

Next time someone’s throwing their weight around, pull out this bad boy. It suggests that a person is so young and weak, they need their parents’ permission to go out. Haha! Who’s laughing now? I mean, probably them, but whatever.

‘Has tha cat died?’

If you’re wearing too-short trousers with your ankles bared anywhere near a Yorkshireman, they’re not likely to let it go. Indeed, they’ll ask you if you’re paying tribute to your late cat because Englishmen fly flags at half-mast to honour someone’s death. The insult was thrown around Yorkshire playgrounds a lot when kids grew out of their uniforms, but it can easily be applied to today’s ankle-flashing hipsters.

If your trousers are too short, prepare to hear the phrase ‘Has tha cat died?’

‘Eee, by gum! I’m chuffed t’bits’

If a Yorkshireman won the lottery, this is likely what they’d say. And high praise it is indeed! The saying means they’re shocked and absolutely delighted. It’s roughly translated to “Well, my gosh. I’m so happy!” What a lovely folk.

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