My stepdaughter has recently received her Ph.d from the University of Nottingham and has been hired there as a lecturer. Her boyfriend, a Mr. Higgins, yes that is his real name, has posed to me the seemingly trite question many educated Britons ask, “Why can’t the English speak English?” as if we are in the film My Fair Lady.
The question is nonetheless well taken. Mr. Higgins has sent me a compilation of the local dialect from which I will tell the story of my time in the Orange Tree Pub located on, I am not making this up, Shakespeare Street, in downtown Nottingham.
I ask for a pint of bitters. For the uninitiated, this is a cask beer that is not carbonated, and generally not chilled more than the temperature of the basement of the pub. It’s delightful. As my barkeep pumps the pint out for me he calls over to another bar keep and refers to me; “Izon Iz-ollidiz” or He’s on holiday.
After a time of sipping on the bitters I ask for the directions to the men’s room. “The Bog? Aya gorrowt? Or The Toilet? Do you have any money? I look confused so the man relents, apparently he was just pulling my leg. “Ar, you go aht that jyitt-eh kawzi and rahnd. It’s a bit manky but gozz” he says to me pointing. What he means is Yes, you go out that cut through pathway and around. It is a bit dirty, but go ahead and try it.
I returned and finished my pint and ordered another and asked for a menu. “Another rahnd? Dinna or Snap?” meaning Another round? Dinner or just some food. Snap, I reply cautiously. “Gozz the Taytuzz and knobby greens” or Try the potatoes and Brussel sprouts.
“Just Yu-sen? Aya gorra wi’ya?” translates to : Just you then? Have you got her ( meaning wife ) with you.
She’ll be along I explain. “Aya gorra mardilippon?” he says, asking if I am down implying there has been a disagreement. No, I just prefer to stay in a place like this while she shops I reluctantly explain to the man I am finding suddenly far too familiar.
“Jagadahn?” he asks, which means he wants to know if I have gone to the Nottingham Forest. I am unclear if he means Sherwood Forest, which is in fact just north of town. No. “Am goowin wi mi-sen” he says, meaning he is going by himself.
I think he is about on the cusp of asking me to board the bus with him, “bus” pronounced “buzz”, when two characters resembling Robin Hood and Maid Marion saunter up to the bar and he turns to them.
“Youalrightthen?” he asks them. Are you Ok? “Wojadoin? “ What are you doing?
“Ah, bits and bobs” Robin answers. Oh, this and that.
“Wotyavin, you and gorra” meaning What are you having, you and you wife?
“Allhavapintabittas, mi-sen” or I’ll have a pint of bitters, myself, “Duddos ere all hav code cider, haf pint” or Sweets here will have cold cider, half a pint.
“Ennyrode, Notts is snided out. Bloody frogs everiwer, Anyway, Nottingham is crowded, bloody French everywhere Ot out! Hot out! Takin snaps of mi and tuffeh ere ahl ova than. Taking pictures of me and my sweetheart all over town.
At this point the barkeep had had enough, “shut ya gob’ole amd gerritdahnya” shut you mouth, be quiet, and drink your pint swiftly.
At this point I elected to retreat from the conflict, leaving the menu behind find a comfy chair near the fire and open my kindle, to read English.