Dialect differences for household items in the UK

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When is a scone not a scone?

Is there a strong regional difference in the way we talk about simple items around our house and garden?

Long has the debate reigned between those who call a scone a ‘scon’ and those who prefer to eat a ‘scohne’ with their jam and cream. Although we all think our version of the word is correct, there will always be those who disagree!

As well as revisiting this already well-documented pronunciation conundrum, we were keen to investigate any other regional dialect differences when it comes to talking about simple items found in our homes and gardens. Specifically, as there are now 160 distinct English dialects spoken throughout the world – we were sure to find some interesting stats along the way.

So, are we a nation split between different pronunciations and weird-and-wonderful words for our furniture and appliances? Or, is an increase in travel and connectivity to other parts of the UK leading us to start speaking the same? We decided to find out!

Calling a spade, a spade

When digging for treasure or planting a new tree in our garden, most of us would head to the shed for a shovel or a digger to do the job. However, those living in Manchester would opt for a scoop, which is how 1 in 10 of Mancunians refer to the very same tool.

Continuing with the theme of household chores, almost 100,000 UK residents dry their wet clothes on a garment donkey – a word that is particularly popular with those living in Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester and Nottingham. Elsewhere in the UK, Bristolians prefer to use an airer and those from Norwich opt for a clothes horse.

On to one of our least-favourite jobs around the house – cleaning the toilet! While the shortened form, loo, keeps things short and sweet, a solid 50% of the nation still prefer to call the toilet its full name. Saying that, almost 20% of Southampton residents would state they were off to “clean the bog” as their preference. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it!

Chilling in the lounge

When the household jobs have been finished and it’s time to relax, many of us head to the living room or lounge to get some peace and quiet. For those living in Manchester, however, taking themselves off to the common room is the preferred option. The popular use of this name could have some reflection on the huge number of students in Manchester. The total number of students living within one hour of the city centre currently stands at around 383,000. Meanwhile, almost a fifth of those living in Southampton prefer the term sitting room, so too do 15% of Belfast inhabitants and 10% of Leeds residents.

Once we’ve decided on the name of the room we want to relax in, where do we then choose to sit? Well, it seems that Cardiff residents can’t agree whether to sit on the sofa or the settee, with a straight 50-50 split between those preferring each of the two terms.

Feeling relaxed on the sofa/settee? Now it’s time to reach for the doofer, the zapper or even the clicker. When it comes to the instrument used for changing the TV channel, a quarter of Mancunians can be found using a clicker, while you’re more likely to hear those in Glasgow searching for their zapper (15%) or a doofer if you’re in Sheffield (15%).

The scone debate continues

So, now we’ve found out a few new words for our household accessories and items of living room furniture, let’s get back to the scone debate!

Interestingly, when we asked the Brit population which word they would opt for, an overruling 67% chose ‘scon’ in preference to ‘scohne’. Remember this next time you head out for a spot of afternoon tea!

Additionally, when it comes to pronunciation of household items, 76% of Brits prefer to say ‘vars’, when referring to the pretty glass ornament used to hold flowers, while residents of Belfast and Glasgow opt for the ‘vayse’ pronunciation.

70% of us would head out on a Sunday morning to cut the ‘gr-ass’, whereas those in Norwich would dust off the lawnmower to mow the ‘graaaasss’ – a lengthier pronunciation of the same word.

Not so different after all

While we did find a few regional differences in the words used for certain household items across the UK, when it came to the full list of 28 words we carefully selected, we were surprised at just how little the differences were as a whole.

It seems then, that perhaps given the ease of visiting and conversing with those from all around the country, as well as access to anything at the touch of a button, we are slowly adapting to a similar way of speaking. This means using similar terms to refer to items that we regularly use and talk about in the home.

Only the future will tell if this gap in dialect and pronunciation will continue to narrow, however, in the meantime let’s head off to our common room to find the doofer and eat a sultana scon!

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