All the random words you’ll learn when living with Northerners at uni

Sorry, did you just say you’re craving some ket?

The North/South divide is never more clear than when you go to uni and finally have to face your foe. You’ll likely spend the whole of Freshers’ needing a translator to give you a rundown of what the hell all those Northerners have just said, or what the Southerners have just posh-mumbled. “Shy bairns get nowt”? Sorry??? A nightmare.

But I’m from the Midlands, a sort of no man’s land where you’re not sure where your allegiances lie, and where we’re at a bit of a loss on both ends. Living with two Hartlepool gals (it’s right up there in the northeast by Middlesbrough, look it up) at uni hasn’t made the situation any clearer.

The best thing to do is simply nod along and pretend you understand before you get ripped for being a Southern-sympathiser.

So here’s a rough rundown of all the most random Northerner words I’ve learnt since being at uni, so you can save yourself from the Northern wrath:


If something’s really unfair, unkind or just a bit rubbish then it’s shan.

This one gets thrown around for the most random reasons: Accidentally brewed your tea too long? Shan. Did they run out of nuggets at Maccies? Shan. Just got wrongly accused of arson? Shan.

You say: “Shane got kicked off I’m a celeb last night!” They say: “That’s proper shan like.”


I can feel how excited you’re getting, but it’s not that sort of ket. It’s so much better.

Ket is any kind of sweets, crisps or snacky goodness that you can think of.

“Mam, have we got any ket in?”


(See: Ket)

The best sort of scran you’ll find is when you’ve just left the club and head straight for the chippy. But scran generally just means anything tasty (and probably greasy), similar to ket.

“I could proper scran some ket.”


Bairn (pronounced more like bearn) is the word for a baby.

It’s also a child roughly below the age of 10. But if you’re the youngest in your family, you’ll be the bairn. And if there’s someone younger than you behind the till at Tesco, he’s also a bairn. Its sort of similar to “bab” in Brummie.

“Ay she’s a sweet little bairn.”


If someone’s being proper awkward then they’re being chewy. You just want to avoid the chew. They chew is not the one.

“He was just so chewy about the whole thing”


Canny can mean a couple of different things: If something’s good then it’s canny, but it can also mean “quite”. Don’t ask me how it works – I didn’t write the rules, I’m just passing them on.

“She’s a right canny lass” / “That’s canny good”.


A radgie is normally a man who is a bit mad, but also someone who is quick to get all riled up.

It’s the sort of person you’d see outside the local pub at 2am when they’ve had one too many and start picking fights with a lamppost.

“You daft radgie.”

The lunch, dinner, tea dilemma

This one literally made my head fall off when I found out that it was a thing. So lets clear it up the Northern way:

Your midday meal is ‘dinner’, and then your evening meal is ‘tea’.

I couldn’t tell you how the Northerners differentiate ‘tea’ from actual tea. That’s clearly one of the great mysteries of the North and you’ll just have to accept that you’ll never know.


No, we’re not in Wales, so quit trying to do the accent. “Lush” is actually a name for someone who loves a drink (who knew?).

I mean, apparently, this one is just a really old British word, but since I’ve heard it from no one but Northerners, she’s going on the list too.

“My auntie is such a lush, you should see how she gets at Christmas.”

At the end of the day, who wants Queen’s English when you can have Northern English?

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