Mebbies lost in translation: how wor Billy is ganun awa wi' morder

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A canny bairn divant wanna box. Eed be in bother wi' his ard man when he finds his bairn ganun be a dancer and gan ti London.

A canny bairn divant wanna box. Eed be in bother wi' his ard man when he finds his bairn ganun be a dancer and gan ti London.

This, as explained in its native Geordie, is the plot to Billy Elliot, the hit film starring Jamie Bell and Julie Walters, that has just spawned a West End musical.

But for the producers of the new stage production at the Victoria Palace Theatre in London, such argot is apparently beyond the comprehension of metropolitan theatregoers.

To angry cries of "howay man" from Geordies, the programme includes a helpful glossary of terms designed to end any confusion. It casts light on the meaning of such apparently puzzling words as cannut (it means can't) and reet, which perhaps only the most entrenched Southerner would not know means "right".

It is not the first time that Geordies have suffered the indignity of a translation for an audience beyond the banks of the rivers Tyne and Wear. Such a fate befell Peter Beardsley during some of his early post-match television interviews.

Another famous Geordie, the darts commentator Sid Waddell, who won a scholarship to Cambridge, was accused during a college rugby trial of being German. Later in his college days he got into a fight when another student suggested he was putting it on. Now his voice has become his trademark. "Many of the darts fans find it warm and humorous and the ladies like it as a contrast to the aggression of darts."

Academics believe the Geordie dialect can be traced to first millennium settlers from southern Denmark. It is also associated with lowland Scottish.

Billy Elliot's producer, Jon Finn, himself from the North-east, said the glossary was included because Americans in the audience complained that they couldn't understand what was going on.

"They had no idea what a bairn was, and were baffled by the line 'aye man, woman man.' My Mum came the other night and said the actors weren't very Geordie but to anyone who doesn't come from north of Watford they sound pretty authentic I think," he said.

Despite the apparent language barrier, the musical is a resounding hit. The stage version differs from the film with its focus on the miners' strike .The songs, written by Sir Elton John with lyrics by Lee Hall, have taken audiences by surprise, with one featuring miners chanting: "Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher, we celebrate today because it is one day closer to your death."

The director Stephen Daldry said he would be fascinated to know what the former prime minister thought of the show.

Nee bother: The theatre-goer's guide to Geordie

* ARL Rhymes with Karl, means all

* AWA Pronounced hour, means over. "Admittedly the sausages are a bit awa done."

* BAIRN Like bear with an n on the end. Means child. "He's only just a bairn."

* CANNUT Second syllable unstressed, means can't.

* CANNY Means clever, knowing, useful. "He's canny."

* DEE Rhymes with bee, means do.

* DEEYUN The first syllable rhymes with bee, second like the end of canon, means doing.

* DIVANT Rhymes with didn't, means don't. "Divant be daft, that's just for lasses."

* GAN Rhymes with pan, means go. "What would you want to gan to London for?"

* GANUN Rhymes with canon, means going. "Look, everyone else is ganun home."

* GANNA Rhymes with manner, means going to.

* HOWAY means come on. "Howay I want to show you something."

* MEBBIES/MEBBIE Rhymes with Debbie's/Debbie, means maybe. "Mebbies you could run away."

* NAAH Rhymes with far, means know. "Plenty of lads dee ballet, ye naah."

* NEE Sounds like knee, means no as in "nee bother" and "neebody".

* NOWT Rhymes with about, means nothing.

* OWLD/ARD First example is as in owl, second as in hard without the "h". Both mean old.

* PUND For Northerners, it rhymes with fund, means pound. "That makes nineteen pund, seventeen and half pence and twelve pesetas."

* REET Rhymes with feet, means right.

* YE Rhymes with bee, means you (singular).

* WI/WOR As written, the second version is used for emphasis, it means our.

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