Monday, 1 July 2013

Twairtling Idle Jacks

Last Thursday the lovely people at the Bookcase bookshop in Lowdham gave me a wonderful dictionary of Derbyshire slang called Ey Up Mi Duck. I have, of course, devoured like a dipso with a crate of Armagnac. It's filled with delights like scrawk (scratch frantically), scroddy (puny), and scrozzle (grope along).

But my two favourites were idle jacks and twairtle. Idle jacks are the little bits of loose skin around your finger nails: something that I've often had, but never before named. And to twairtle is to fiddle with something. This means that in Derbyshire it must be possible to twairtle with your idle jacks.

One curious thing about the book is that it talks of a "well-known ditty" that goes:

Ah'm a Derbyshire man born and bred,
Strong i'th'arm and wick in the head.

The book explains that wick here is a variant of quick. Now, I do know that ditty. I've heard it for years. But I've always heard it as:

Derbyshire born, Derbyshire bred,
Thick in the arm and thick in the head.

And that version I learnt in Derbyshire.


  1. Being from Yorkshire I've always heard as "Yorkshire born and Yorkshire bred...", sometimes with the dialect "wick" or sometimes the modern "thick", but almost always "in't arm" and "in't 'ead".

    There's an entry for it in the OUP's Dictionary of Proverbs...

  2. I think this little ditty, or something very close, applies to most counties. I am from Norfolk and have heard "Norfolk born and Norfolk bred,strong in the arm and WEAK in the head."

  3. If you get a chance, possibly on YouTube listen to a Derbyshire band 'Mucram Wakes' their 1976 album of the same name has some lovely tunes, lyrics and local phrases and also contains the classic 'Derby Ram'....

    Laurie -

  4. I've always called the loose skin by my fingernails "hangnails," despite it not being nails at all.