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The Potteries dialect is a dialect found in the northern West Midlands of England, almost exclusively in and around Stoke-on-Trent.

A popular cartoon called May un Mar Lady, created by Dave Follows, appears in The Sentinel newspaper and is written in the Potteries dialect. Previously The Sentinel has carried other stories in the dialect, most notably the Jabez stories written by Wilfred Bloor under the pseudonym of A Scott[1]

Like all English dialects, the Potteries dialect derives from Anglo-Saxon Old English. Example words and phrases:

  • "Nesh" meaning soft, tender, or to easily get cold is derived from the early English, “nesc, nescenes.”
  • "Slat" meaning to throw, is from the old English “slath,” moved.
  • "Fang" meaning catch or seize, as in "Fang 'owt of this" - "catch hold of this", is from Old English "fang, fangen".
  • "Sheed" meaning to spill liquids, most likely derived from the word "shed" in the sense of getting rid of something.
  • "Cost keck a bow aggen a woe an y'ed it till thee bost it?" meaning, "Can you kick a ball against a wall and head it till you burst it?"
  • "Duck" a common term of affection towards both men and women as in "Tow rate owd duck?". "Are you all right dear?" Duck being derived from the Saxon word "ducas" as a term of respect, which by another route is where the word "Duke" arises from in English. Duck in this context may also relate to the Roman military honorific "Dux", meaning troop or tribal leader, but it is unclear if ducas pre-dates Dux or if they are etymologically related.
  • "Spanwanned" (agricultural) meaning the state of being stuck astride a wall whilst attempting to climb over it. Probably from the Saxon "spannan winnan", Span Woe.

Two noticeable features of the dialect are the vowel sound "OW" which is used where standard English would use "OL" as in "Cowd" = "Cold", "Towd" = "Told" etc and the use of "thee" and "they" in place of you (both singular and plural).

Another perculiarity is the use of the addition of "ne" at the end of words to indicate the negative as in "thee cosne goo dine theyr sirree, theyl get thesen ow bautered up". Although clearly similar to Latin in the way this is used, this might just be coincidental. There are differences in the way people from Staffordshire Moorlands villages speak to people from the Potteries. Indeed it used to be possible, within living memory, to be able identify which village people came from simply by their acceent or words used. ie thesen is a moorlands word and thesell is Potteries. You rarely hear a Sparrow described in the Potteries as a "spuggy", a watering can a "lecking can" or a horse a "tit".

The Late Mr John Levitt from Keele University was extremely interested in recording this dialect and often stated that the Potteries or North Staffs Dialect was the most difficult dialect to speak as well as it being the closest to Anglo-Saxon. It is interesting that if you, as a native dialect speaker, attempt to read "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" in this dialect it suddenly changes from incomprehensible to a lilting poem as it was constructed to be. This has led scholars to speculate that it was written by a monk from Dieulacres Abbey.

Mr Levitt was also intrigued by the ability of Potteries people to be able to confuse the letters O and H as in otel or horanges!



Arfur Tow Crate in Staffy Cher ISBN 0 905074 00 9
The 2nd book of Arfur Tow Crate in Staffy Cher ISBN 0 905074 01 7


  1. ^ The Wilfred Bloor Papers

External links

See also

Owd Grandad Piggott



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