Been to Wigan, got the T-shirt that translates their dialect

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The Independent Online

To those uninitiated in the local dialect, even the process of choosing a builder can be a bewildering experience in Wigan, Greater Manchester. "We con do ought and I'm not codding," read the words on the side of one well-known local tradesman's van, by which he means he can do anything and isn't kidding.

Life is even more challenging for any child newly arrived from the South, who will be none the wiser when his teacher tells him "Don't thee threeup me eawt" ("Don't you keep answering back") or - rather more unenviably - "Tha't backerts thee" ("You're not very bright").

But the mysteries of the language are about to become a little less unfathomable to non-Wiganers. After years of embarrassment about the fact that a girl may hear the words "Her'd frick'n a police horse" ("She's not very good looking") when walking down central Wallgate, the tourist board has decided to issue a line of merchandise parading some of the more memorable examples of the local dialect.

A number of T-shirts are being issued, but "Ah wur fair klempt" should be ideal when your other half is cooking ("Hello, I'm starving"), while "Gulladowdlad" is ideal for a trip to your child's football match ("You scored a good goal lad") and "Al si thee" ("I'm going now, goodbye") is handy at the end of a relationship.

To prevent any mix-ups, each T-shirt comes with accompanying dictionary definitions and there is an accompanying line of mugs. The "Al reet lad" range, as it is known, will eventually expand with postcards and fridge magnets. "There was a time when we might have been keen to pretend that we did not have such a dialect," said Dave Mather, a spokesman for Wigan Council. "But the town is strong enough now not to have to engineer our heritage."

In tourism terms, George Orwell's muse is certainly enjoying untold success. The renowned Wigan International Jazz Festival, which started yesterday for its 21st year, attracts 6,500 visitors, while Wigan Athletic's ascent to football's Premiership has brought an additional 200,000 visitors, according to the Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust.

The decision to branch out into merchandise has also been prompted by the launch last year of a Wigan Monopoly Board, featuring such locations as the Uncle Joe's Mint Balls factory, Haigh Hall, Pennington Flash and, inevitably, Wigan Pier.

Precisely why Wigan's dialect is so unfathomable is something of a mystery. "Each Lancashire town has its own dialect," said Fred Holcraft, author of two books on the subject. "I could have written another book on [the village of] Billinge alone. The dialect was established when there were not the mass communication and travel we see today. People lived very close to where they worked."

Any Lancastrian will tell you that Preston is the more posh, with its short A, making late sound like "layte", while a Wiganer will give you a longer A, as in "laaayte". But Wigan is also known for its Liverpudlian twang (such as "booook"). Navigating such mysteries is a challenge which should end with a nice "brew" and the words "Am powfagged un jigger't" ("I'm extremely exhausted").

Peerless words

* Her's gerr'in agate er mi - She is getting on at me

* He's a reight bletheryed, or He's backerts - He's not very bright

* Aah'l at clen th'esshole eawt - I will have to clean under the fire grate

* Aah mon deg mi plants or thill dee - I must water my plants or they will die

* As't feckl't it? - Have you fixed it?

* Swant a brew? - Would you care for a cup of tea?

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