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Understanding Pompey Dialect: How people in Portsmouth really speak

October 17th 2017


Understanding Pompey Dialect

So, you arrive in England, sure about your level of English. You listen to films and feel you understand English very well. Then you get off the train in Portsmouth and feel you can’t understand anything! This happens very often to our students who have a good level of English but find it difficult to speak to local people because of their local dialect.

Here in Portsmouth, with our proud naval and football heritage, we have both a regional accent, but also a dialect which is made up of words you probably won’t find in the dictionary.

Sarah from TEG Portsmouth will help you understand 5 words or expressions that you will probably only hear in Portsmouth.

1. Pompey  /ˈpɒmp/

This is Portsmouth’s slang word for the city itself and also it’s football team. There is no conclusive evidence of where this word originates from, but some people believe it comes from a shortened version of Portsmouth Point (Pom.P) which was entered in ships’ logs as they entered Portsmouth Harbour.

You will often hear “Play up Pompey, Pompey play up!” at football matches at Fratton Park Stadium

How to use it in a sentence: “I’m going to Pompey to study at TEG English Portsmouth

2. Weee! /wi:/

Not to be confused with the Scottish slang word for very small, people in Portsmouth usually use this to express surprise at something that is amazing.

How to use it in a sentence: “Weeee! That English test was really hard!”

3. Mush /mʌʃ/

The origins of this word are old Romany and it means ‘my good friend’. Some people also use it to mean ‘face’.

How to use it in a sentence: “How you doing mush?” (Notice the incorrect grammar that is often used all over the UK!)

4. The Lippy Tower /ˈlɪpi/

This is quite a recent addition to Portsmouth Dialect and refers to a new tower block in Gunwharf Quay. Although apparently designed to represent a ships funnel, locals believe it looks more like a lipstick – hence the name the ‘Lippy Tower’.

How to use it in a sentence: “Meet me by the Lippy Tower”

5. Getting lairy /’lɛəri/

Used to describe someone if they lose their temper and get angry – normally shouting.

How to use it in a sentence: “I couldn’t get to sleep because the next door neighbour was getting lairy”

To Conclude…

Of course, we don’t expect everyone to use these in their day to day speaking, however at TEG English, our courses are designed to teach you the real English you will hear in the street – not just in the coursebook.

Contact us for a free trial to try our classes for yourself!


Sarah @ TEG English Portsmouth