Liverpool Scouse - WHAT AN ACCENT!
Years ago I overheard a conversation between two actors. One was American, the other was British.
Brit: You can’t audition for a Willie Russell play, you’re American
American: I can do a British accent [said in an unconvincing, plum, English accent]
Brit: Can you do Scouse? ‘Cos I can’t.
American: Can I do what?
Britain is filled with an array of accents from different regions and cities. It’s commonly accepted that Liverpool has one of the most distinctive accents in the country. But it’s not just the speed or way in which words are pronounced, but the phrases that are used that can confuse even the sharpest eared amongst us. You may have already come across an unfamiliar term: ‘Scouse’ is a type of chunky meat stew that comes from Liverpool. So Liverpudlians are known as ‘Scousers’ and speak in a ‘Scouse’ accent.
Our Fab 4 Taxi drivers are well versed in communicating with those unacquainted with the local vernacular and make a conscious effort to soften their accents and speak in layman’s terms. So don’t worry, you’ll be sure to understand everything that they say during your tour! However, while you’re visiting Liverpool, you may well come across some colloquialisms that could leave you slightly baffled. So, before your trip, sit back and enjoy our Survivors Guide to Scouse Terms.
As a Beatles fan, you may have already come across some Beatle-ese, ‘Fab’ being one of the most famous and easiest to translate: ‘4 Fab lads’ are obviously ‘4 fabulous young men’. If you’ve seen Beatles interviews or their films, you’ll be familiar with several other slang terms that are now well established in English speaking countries, but originated here in the North West corner of England.
Take the word ‘grotty’ for instance, it rose to fame when George Harrison was mistaken for a teen model in ‘A Hard Day’s Night’:
George: I wouldn’t be seen dead in them. They’re dead grotty.
Simon Marshall: Grotty?
George: Yeah, Grotesque!
Beatles fans jumped onto the word and hey presto, it entered everyday usage. Over five decades later and teenagers are still screwing up their noses and sneering that something is ‘grotty.’
You may have noticed that the word ‘gear’ is also shoehorned into the same Beatles film. ‘Gear’ was a very common Liverpudlian term used to mean great, good or cool. It’s not used so much anymore, although you might still catch your Dad saying it. The word ‘Gear’ has now been replaced with …
If someone calls you ‘boss’, it’s got nothing to do with employment, it’s a compliment. For example, if you speak with someone who’s been on one of our Fab 4 tours, they may say:
‘Fab 4 Taxi Tours are boss! Me bird told me that we were going and I was like, nice one! It was a right belter of a tour!’
Which brings us onto a few more slangs that may be confusing to non-Brits.
Most of the North of England use the word ‘me’ instead of ‘my’. ‘Bird’ is used throughout the whole country, but is more common around Liverpool. There’s nothing feathery about this word, ‘bird’ is used to describe a woman, and ‘me bird’ suggests that she may be a girlfriend. Again ‘bird’ was used by the Beatles in the films ‘Help’ and ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ when they described girls as a ‘posh bird’ and an ‘Eastern bird … lady…’
If something is ‘belter’ then it means that it has turned out well. You’ve had a positive experience and a fantastic time.
Thanks to the Beatles, most of these Beatle-ese words are familiar, if not used by most English speaking people. Even if you didn’t know them, you can decipher the majority of the above words by their context. However, don’t rest on your laurels because there are copious words used by Scousers that lose all meaning to a ‘Wool’ like you.
To a what like me? A ‘wool’ or ‘woolyback’ is someone who is not from Liverpool. Although to be pedantic, it’s really someone who lives near but not in Liverpool, such as the Wirral or Runcorn. As you can imagine it’s not designed to affectionately describe a neighbour. The term is thought to have come from labourers from out of town who carried wool bales on their backs. A ‘wool’ isn’t a real Scouser, they’re a …
In other words, they’re a ‘plastic’ Scouser. They’re not what they claim to be. And when that happens you find yourself proper …
‘Devoed’ is short for devastated, but it can be used in any context when something bad has happened, for example:
‘I wanted to book a Fab 4 Taxi tour, but they said they were chocka and couldn’t fit me in. Devoed!’
(To avoid being devoed we recommend booking your tour in advance, but we’ll always do everything we can to squeeze you in at the last minute, even if we’re chocka!)
You’ve probably worked out that ‘chocka’ means really busy.It’s short for ‘chockablock’. As with many of Liverpool’s slang it originated as a nautical term referring to blocks on a pulley system that were pressed together so they couldn’t move, and could be used when hoisting a sail.
Other Scouse terms that you can usually work out for yourself are those that have just been shortened and had a ‘y’ stuck on the end. Why? ‘Y is a crooked letter’ (one of those annoying sentences that Scouse nans would often say to stop the incessant ‘Why?’ questions’. ) But seriously, if you’re a smoker, you’ll step outside for a ‘ciggy’. If you’re hungry you might pop down the ‘chippy’ and while you’re in Liverpool, you’ll almost certainly want to go out for a …
Don’t worry, ‘Bevvy’, short for beverage, is normally accompanied by the universal hand gesture of drinking from a cup, it’s therefore particularly easy for visitors to understand. ‘Bevvy’ usually refers to alcoholic drinks, so if you have too many of them, you’ll end up getting ‘bevied’. Work it out.
If you’re staying in Liverpool on your ‘bill’, in other words, on your own, then there are a few essentials with which you should become familiar in case of an emergency.
You’ll be forgiven if you assumed that ‘bill’ meant the police, but no. The ‘Old Bill’ is London slang for the police, in Liverpool they’re known as ‘Bizzies’, either because they’re too busy to help you, or because they stick their nose in your business. There are so many terms for the police from all across the globe: cops, fuzz, bobbies, the boys in blue and so on. Are you familiar with the 1960s/70s name ‘Blue Meanies’ which related to the blue police uniform? If so, did you make the connection between this term and the music-hating baddies in the Beatles animated film ‘The Yellow Submarine’? Not many people do. Anyway, back to some emergency essentials. When visiting a new City, it’s also useful to know the way to the nearest ‘Ozzy’. Any ideas?
Hopefully, you won’t need one, but it’s always good to know that ‘Ozzy’ is short for hospital. If you are going to visit an ‘ozzy’ whilst in Liverpool, you can always flag down a ‘jobe’ or better yet look out for one of our Fab 4 Taxis with the light on.
Yes, we squeezed in another colloquialism, a ‘jobe’ pronounced Joe-B is a taxi and one of the best ways to get around our fab city, whether you’re off to match, if you’ve got a train to catch, or are just looking for somewhere to get some …
‘Scran’ is food. Although a well-known Scouse term, the word originated in Scotland as any scrap of food that Victorian children were able to scrounge. Yummy!
And that’s it. You are now armed with our Survivors Guide to Scouse Terms, we hope that this knowledge enhances your stay in Liverpool. So ‘Ta’ very much for reading to the end and ‘Ta-ra’ ‘til next time.