The act of settling into life in another country presents some amusing challenges all of its own, particularly when you have a strong regional accent and an unparalleled ability to speak at breakneck speed.
The little piece of the UK map from which I hail is known – with no trace of irony to its proud inhabitants – as ‘God’s Own Country.’ It boasts rolling green hills through which little cloud-like lambs frolic among bobbing bluebell flowers. A stone’s throw away from my old home, wild garlic and hazelnut trees grow high up in a wooded area. Against this slightly incongruous backdrop sits the local swimming baths; a square, concrete affair built in the 1970’s for sturdy, no-nonsense usage and designed by someone who likely snorted with derision at the frivolous notion of making a building pleasing to the eye. Who said Yorkshiremen don’t have a sense of humour?
The village is surrounded by variety in any direction – in just a few miles you can be in a large city or a country pub with wooden ceiling beams, a roaring fire and a meal in front of you that is without exception described on the blackboard menu as ‘hearty’.
Men, particularly older men, call each other ‘cock’ where I’m from – sometimes even ‘old cock’, and yet there’s not a fist to be found flying in the face of such a greeting. It is a term of endearment that is proudly Yorkshire-born, along with others such as ‘Kid’ (regardless of the addressee’s age) ‘Our Kid’ (strictly reserved for family members only), ‘Our Lass’ (female companion) and ‘Your Lass’ (someone else’s female companion).
Strangely, this does not extend to calling a husband or boyfriend ‘Our Lad’ or ‘Your Lad’, although it is generally understood that men will refer to their ‘Old Fella’ (their Dad) or even occasionally their ‘Old Fella’ (something that sounds the same but is in fact entirely different to their Dad) that they keep in their trousers and are very attached to.
You see why this might confuse the general observer and non-aficionado of the Yorkshire language? Now, bring into the mix the Australian way of life and colourful turn of phrase to fully appreciate the scope of comedy that can ensue.
The first time I heard someone in Australia say that they ‘had the sh!ts’, I thought they had a terrible gastro-intestinal complaint. Sometimes, Aussies even ‘crack the sh!ts’, too, which may provoke even more cause for concern for their wellbeing.
However, these expressions are not intended to invite the use of medication and a day off work, they are an expression describing intense irritation, even a tantrum of epic proportions in some cases. If an Australian cracks the sh!ts with you, run away fast because he is a very unhappy individual who will stand for no further nonsense!
In my next instalment, I hope to provide a list of comparable phrases for your education and enjoyment – Australian colloquialisms versus their Yorkshire counterparts. I hope you will enjoy them for what they are; my light-hearted attempt at producing a useful list of exclamations and descriptions with an affection for both languages – for they truly are entirely different in so many ways.