Lost in translation: trust launches glossary of Yorkshire terms

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 25 June 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c3431
  1. Rebecca Wilkins
  1. 1London

    Yorkshire based doctors seeking to interpret local phrases need look no further than the Glossary of Yorkshire medical terms, a guide published by NHS Doncaster to help doctors understand why their patients might tell them that “Barnsley’s at home” among other euphemisms.

    The glossary—aimed at European doctors but useful for any healthcare staff needing a Yorkshire refresher—contains 138 translations for common ailments and parts of the body.

    All of the terms have been used by patients during consultations, and the glossary carries a health warning that “whilst these phrases are in common use locally, readers should be aware that some people may find them offensive.”

    The translations range from common use terms—for example, “belly button” for umbilicus—to the unfathomable: “my husband is good to me”—translation: my husband doesn’t expect sex.

    The glossary includes terms such as “gripes” (abdominal pain), “boggles” (nasal discharge), “sixpence” (vagina), “club note” (sick note), “gipping” (vomiting), and “trotters” (feet).

    It also includes eight terms for menstruation, including “Barnsley’s at home,” “got me friend,” “on my Honda,” and “I’ve got a visitor.”

    Unsurprisingly, the prize for most euphemisms goes to penis, with 14 translations, including “winkle,” “widgy,” “sparrow,” “todger,” and “old man.”

    Ian Carpenter, from NHS Doncaster, said the document was first put together in 2006 following a shortage of home grown GPs when the trust employed several Austrian doctors.

    “Although their English was very good, they were not so good at speaking or understanding the Yorkshire dialect. They’d be looking for these words in their dictionaries and couldn’t find anything, and were completely bemused by some of the terms,” he said.

    Lis Rodgers, medical adviser at NHS Doncaster, had the idea to include a glossary in the induction pack for new doctors, and wrote the now legendary guide.

    The document then found its way onto an unofficial blog and was an instant hit, receiving over 20 000 hits in a week. It was then made available on the NHS Doncaster website.

    David Wong, a trainee in accident and emergency medicine who studied in Leeds, said, “This glossary is as essential as the Oxford Handbook for those foreign doctors (including southern English) who hope to extract sensible diagnoses from a population that speaks a seemingly alien language.”

    He added, “In my view this glossary should be made a compulsory part of the curriculum for medical schools south of Watford.”


    Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c3431

    View Abstract

    Sign in

    Log in through your institution

    Free trial

    Register for a free trial to to receive unlimited access to all content on for 14 days.
    Sign up for a free trial