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Three things called something different wherever you go

John Murray

English is the most widely spoken language in the world, but that’s not to say that all of its speakers can always understand each other. Even in a fairly small country like Britain, little pockets of it develop their own ways of speaking, often oblivious to the fact that it’s unique to them.

Somehow, people all around the UK have settled upon their own peculiar little words for certain things. Here are  three examples:

1. Bread rolls

This has to be the ultimate example of something that changes its name from town to town. People all across Britain often have no idea what to ask for when they want a bread roll.

As an example, I am from the Wirral in Merseyside, and a bread roll here is known as a ‘batch’. Even in areas as near as Liverpool and Chester, however, using this term will get you blank looks. “A batch of what?”, I’ve often been asked. Strangely, ‘batch’ is also used in Midlands areas like Coventry and Nuneaton.

I also lived in Huddersfield for three years, where a roll is known as a ‘teacake’. To me, that’s a fruited bun, or one of those chocolate marshmallow things. They agree with me even as nearby as Halifax and Bradford, where the term is hardly used.

Elsewhere, it might be a bap, nudger, stottie, barmcake or breadcake, among many other monikers. If you want one and don’t know the local lingo, it might be best to just point at it.

2. Plimsolls

The types of shoes you were made to wear during PE lessons in school, or the canvas ones made popular by brands like Converse, are also a matter of regional debate.

‘Plimsolls’ sounds like a very formal word for them to me, but it is widely used. I would call them ‘pumps’, as many in the North West and Midlands would. In Wales, however, they’re often called ‘daps’, whereas in Scotland, a shoe seller might be asked for a pair of ‘gutties’.

3. Troublemaking youths

In the early 2000s, the media began to latch on to the word ‘chav’. It generally referred to young people who behaved badly and wore (or thought they were wearing) designer clothing. There was a bit of class snobbery there too, because ‘chavs’ are usually seen as people from lower income backgrounds.

Around Liverpool, though, these people have always been ‘scallies’. Yorkshire’s young hoodlums are called ‘townies’, while those in the North East are ‘charvers’. Perhaps my favourite is in Scotland, where they’re ‘neds’.

So, before you put on your pumps, dodge the scallies in the street and head over to the bakery for some batches, have a think about whereabouts you are in the UK.

John is every inch the wordsmith and loves a game of Scrabble above all else. With experience writing for newspapers, John’s time at university was spent studying Creative Writing – something which comes across in his love of the pun.

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