Culture and language
These mining communities developed their own unique culture, customs, myths and even language. People from Durham mining villages were known as pit-yakkers and often spoke a recognised separate dialect of English known as Pitmatic. When pitmen were exchanging stories of colliery life, usually very grim stories, they would do it in ‘pitmatik’, which is Scandinavian in origin, far nearer to the Norse than the ordinary Durham dialect. It was an excellent medium for grim tales of accidents far underground & the sagas and secrets of the deep pits..
Some examples of this culture and language…
- It was a custom for front doorsteps to be scrubbed religiously, but never back steps, as the miners believed that doing so robbed their strength.
- A cheeky child is a “brazen fond” or “impittent fond” and he might be warned “I’ll dad your lugs”, or even worse, jokingly threatened with a “braying”.
- A packed lunch was “bait”, and a baitpoke – a bag to carry the meal in.
- When you rolled in from playing in the garden, you were “hacky” or dirty.
- Terms of endearment were “hinny”, “pet” or “pet lamb”. Your friend was your “marra”. Especially used by male coal mining colleagues to show a mutual respect for one another.
- Bonny gan on – serious trouble.
- dab-hand – a capable or efficient worker.
- fettle – to repair or mend.
- flayed – frightened.
- for-fairs – no trickery or underhand work.
- fullick – a blow with great force.
- spelk – a splinter of wood that has stuck into the skin, also a small person.