Tuesday, 28 February 2012

"Wheyoop, Buh!"

"Hello", "Hi", "How do you do?"

But while out walking a few days ago a strange and half-forgotten word came into my mind. A word my father used nearly every day when I met him about the farm where we both worked. I never gave it a second thought at the time but now it sounds anachronistic and odd. So let me greet you with a hearty "Wheyoop!". It means, roughly translated, "Hello, how are you, I'm delighted and perhaps a little surprised  to see you here at this time". Or, more succinctly, "Wheyoop!"

My old dad with some old pigs

In the neighbouring village of Bourn the farm-workers were even more economical with their breath as they shortened it to "Whoop!", a habit noted by two boys at my school who set about making it the fashionable greeting in the playground, much to the annoyance of the teachers. In Childerley they wasted no breath at all and just made a small sideways movement of the head in acknowledgement as they cycled past one another.

They addressed pretty much every male person as "Boy" (usually pronounced "Bor" or "Buh") regardless of their age. This became more complicated since they used "old" as a term of endearment as well as a description of a person's age. So this could give rise to such impenetrable information as this:
   " I saw old Bob the other day, nice old boy. Anyhow he were movin' some of his pigs and he only had his old boy helpin' him. They were havin' all sorts of trouble, but then the old boy come and give 'em a hand."
And everyone would understand that the first old boy was Bob himself, being helped by the second old boy who was Bob's son, while the final old boy who gave extra assistance was Bob's father. Slight changes of emphasis made it clear to those in the know. To make things worse they were all called Bob!

Of course you will have realised by now that in the caption to the photograph above - My old Dad with some old pigs - "My old dad" means "My dear father" while "some old pigs" means "some despicable swine". You've got that, haven't you?

It was all crystal clear to anyone in the village. As one old man (and I mean that he was getting on in years, not that he was dear to me, or despicable) told me quite seriously, "People down in London talk funny, and up north they got a funny haccent, but round 'ere we in't got no haccent at all!"

Take care.  


  1. Absolutely delightful, John.
    We are still chuckling over the informal greeting given here in Kentucky. Rather than "hello" or "How are you?" the colloquial form is "Doon-ah-raht"--which means [so we had to be told] "Are you doing alright?"
    There are various slight changes of inflection, depending on the amount of teeth belonging to the greeter, and whether he's lived "round 'ere" most of his life or been "o'er air"--which I take to mean anyplace other than the immediate county.
    I'm always impressed that Englishmen of a certain age wore coats with suit-like lapels even though busy with farm chores.
    I daresay I 've been much influenced in my view of English country folk by numerous episodes of "All Creatures Great and Small."
    Great post!

  2. That was a great post and fun to think about how we talk and why the English language that we so take for granted is quite difficult for a foreigner to learn.

  3. Delightful story - you made me smile :)
    Pia xx

  4. Love your old Dad with them old pigs .. A great read John.

  5. Hello John, I loved this piece. It reminded me of my Grandfather, a true Devonshire man who always addressed me as 'maid'. I'd forgotten until last summer when in a Devon post office, an old man came in and said to the post mistress- 'I hear your young maid is back from London' it brought back such memories! Jane xx

  6. Very good, John. Here much of such language is being lost due to the homogenization brought on by television and mixing of populations. I still love to listen to the old timers from back in the mountains, although there are few left and I no longer sound like them. There have been multiple efforts to record the speech on tape and in videos, and I'm afraid that will be the only place we'll find it in another generation. Pity. Jim

  7. Great story today, John. You live such an authentic life. I am a bit jealous.

  8. 'Round here, important people (the farmer who just pulled your car out of the ditch, the backhoe operator who just fixed your culvert, the Hydro man who just got your power back on)say, "G-daaay!" and it certainly is a good day when they have finished their work. Your post was a hoot!

  9. I loved reading this - the term 'boy' is very East Anglian I think. I remember my dad (Cheshire born and bred) greeting men he knew with a phrase that sounded like ' Ahdoo surree!' To this day I have no idea what this means though I'm sure the first bit is the same as your 'Wheyoop'.

  10. I've loved reading your post! When we lived in South Lincolnshire I used to work with a local man who called his next door neighbour's 3 year old son 'the little old boy next door' for ages I thought he meant a small elderly man. Where I was brought up on the Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire borders the greeting was always 'eyup me duck':)

  11. Sounds a lot like West Virginia-speak, John. Maybe that's why I'm so comfortable here :) Lovely photo; I don't think I've ever seen it before. Those are some fine hogs!

    BTW I call my Larry "old man"--and it's really a term of endearment, not a reflection on his age :)

  12. Love hearing the quirky sayings of others.

  13. Wheyoop-I love it! And the photo is just great!

  14. Enjoyed your post John ..

    “and just made a small sideways movement of the head in acknowledgement as they cycled past one another” is a little akin to the lifting of the forefinger from the steering wheel in acknowledgement of another car passing on an outback country road. Just one of those little courtesy how ‘ya goin’ mate things.

    The ‘boy’ one is familiar to me also, but I remember one Cassius Clay didn’t appreciate it when an Australian host of TV awards show responded with an “I like the boy” to him. It bought on a very mean Cassius! Obviously didn’t interpret with the same endearment it was intended.

  15. Yes, I know for a fact that Southerners do not have an accent either, in spite of their twanging :^)

  16. Morning's Minion: Doon-Ah-Raht would be understood here too. I recall one man who always wore a white shirt and tie to do farm work.
    John: They should have shapely legs; one of their descendants won Supreme Champion at the Smithfield Show!
    John (of Sinbad fame): I saw a coach the other day which advertised "London Hourly : Just Turn Up And Hop On!" a Chinese man approached somewhat tentatively; probably wondering what he had to turn up and whether he'd be allowed to use both legs to get on or whether it was imperative to hop!
    Thanks, Pia. Thanks, Dianne.
    Jane: We had old maids but not young ones in my part of the world.
    Jim and Jack: It's the same here. The authentic speech of the area is disappearing fast though there are odd survivals if you keep your ears open.
    Thanks, Jenny.
    Rowan: Ahdoo is surely just How do? but Suree I've never heard. Hope you enjoyed Reuben's Corner, plenty of "Awlroight, bor" language in there!
    Rosie: Exactly!
    Sue: I think that photo must date from about 1964 when I got my first camera.
    Thanks, Mo. Thanks, Tipper.
    Carole: I remember the Cassius Clay incident, it was akin to calling him a slave, wasn't it.
    Doug: Even some of your photos have a Southern accent!


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