The Glossary of Freda

A note from Annie:

Having grown up on a salt-of-the-Earth type council estate in North-East England and being a champion eavesdropper by the age of three, I whiled away most of my childhood listening to my Grandmother and her friends (cronies) gossiping and harrumphing in the kitchen. It was only when I got to secondary school that my friends started to point out that some of my terms and language were more at home in a Bingo Hall than in a teenage girl. Therefore I have no problems understanding Freda and although she’s more than a bit huffed about it, others aren’t so able, so here are a few of the words that may have you scratching your head if you live south of York or outside of the UK. Please use them repeatedly and pass on. Never mind those strange looks you get. They are too good to lose!

Bat/Bint/Bag – Woman, usually of the crone/hag variety.

Bonny – Naturally pretty, beautiful.

Chops – The well-known meaning of this refers to a cut of meat e.g. Pork Chops. However, in some parts of the UK, just to confuse the rest of you, we also use ‘Chops’ to refer to the general mouth/cheek area. For example, ‘I’ll smack you in the chops’ means ‘I’ll punch you in the face.’

Cronies – Friends, mates, pals. You get the picture.

Fettle – Being in a foul and dangerous mood, eg. ‘She was in a fine fettle’ means ‘She was in a stinking mood.’

To Fettle, Fettled – Using said foul and dangerous mood to sort out something, or someone, who is putting you in the fettle, eg. ‘My Dad told me off so I put chilli powder in all of his underpants. That fettled him.’

Fruity Old Bat/Bint/Bag – Crazy old woman of the crone/hag variety. Usually has lots of cats.

Girdle – Medieval torture contraption. Modern Girdles are often called ‘control pants’ and generally prevent you from breathing.

Gob –

a) Mouth (physical) eg. I drew a stick man and gave it eyes, nose and a gob.

b) Mouth (vocal) eg. If someone is particularly loud or talks a lot you might say ‘have you heard the gob on her?’

c) Spit. Yes, gross I know. Usually the kind that comes from deep within the chest and makes a lot of hrrrrrghhhhing and clacking noises coming up.

Gurning – The art of pulling one’s lips over one’s gums to make one’s face crumple in on itself, to humorous effect. (Best achieved without teeth.)

Hmph! – People think that this is a sound, rather than a word, but I beg to differ. When my Grandmother said it, it commonly meant ‘wait til I get you home’, ‘you’re going to regret that’, or ‘I’m not impressed.’ Either way, I was normally in trouble.

Huff – Sulk. Or offer someone a service in a begrudging manner. If you want an example of someone speaking huffily, go into a well-known burger restaurant and ask for a burger with no gherkins, extra cheese and mayonnaise instead of ketchup. See what the counter assistant does? That’s a huff.

Muck – Dirt, Poo, Manure. Anything sticky brown and smelly, really.

Nowt – Nothing. Can also be used as an insult ie. ‘You cheeky Nowt!’

The Trots – Diarrhoea. Particularly the kind which has you running to the toilet every five minutes. – hence ‘the Trots.’ Easier to spell than ‘diarrhoea,’ for lazy authors, as the spell checker rarely understands poor attempts. Also handy to use is ‘the runs’, and ‘the squits.’


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