Pompey is the slang term for Portsmouth, a waterfront city on a tiny island off the South Coast of England. With a vast association with the Royal and Merchant Navy, it is culturally a very diverse city with a unique and fascinating history. The slang I grew up hearing was once widely used by many other locals as a signal of heritage and a sense of pride in their community. If you go ‘dayntain’ to the local markets you will still hear the spoken slang commonly known as ‘Pompey Speak‘ which has also been captured in the literature of many famous authors!
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This includes the work of Charles Dickens who was born in the city. Sir Arthur Conan Doyal the author of Sherlock Holmes was once a resident here too, as well as Rudyard Kipling author of the Jungle Book and H.G Wells author of War of the Worlds and The Time Machine. Other notable people born in Portsmouth included Isambard Brunel, an engineer during the Industrial Revolution, James Callaghan, who was the British prime minister during the 1970s and John Pounds, the founder of the first ragged school. Ragged schools provided free education to working-class children across the city. The comedian and actor Peter Sellers was born in Southsea. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger once lived and trained in Portsmouth!
For more information about famous people who have been residents in Portsmouth or the secrets, the city holds check out ‘Secret Portsmouth’, available on Amazon. Click the picture for more details.
What’s in an Accent?
The maritime connection in Portsmouth has really set the Pompey accent apart from the typical local Hampshire accent which is more country sounding. The closest match to a Portsmouth accent would have to be Cockney. A lot of the slang words from London have worked their way down to Portsmouth over the years. There is a reason for this as after WW2 many Londoners were rehomed in Portsmouth and also many dockworkers came from the East End of London. ‘Pompey Speak‘ is rather diverse structurally and phonetically from all other regional English accents. There are also a lot of borrowed words that are Cockney slang and Romany Gypsy in origin. When Gypsy and Traveller sites in Hampshire, especially New Forest area were closed they moved to the Portsmouth area.
If you are planning a trip to Portsmouth here is your guide to understanding and speaking like the locals…
The A-Z Pompey Slang Guide
Cream Krackered – To be really tired and exhausted. This is a phrase that has worked its way down from London.
Chore – Meaning Stolen. ‘Chored‘ is of Romany Gypsy origin, which makes its use in Pompey slang rather ironic.
Chuffed – Happy or proud of an accomplishment.
Cushty – It’s all good. Another word of Romany Gypsy origin.
Diamond Geezer – A really top bloke.
Divvi – A word borrowed from the Romany Gypsy language meaning crazy.
Dinlo – A lighthearted insult meaning fool. ‘Din’, and ‘dinny’ are also used. Like many words on this list, it is Romany Gypsy in origin.
Duff – A term used for when something is broken. “E got duff’ed up real good” actually translates as “He got broken (beaten up) badly“.
Eze up – When someone is getting a bit too much in your face and you need them to calm down.
Gavvers – A Romany Gypsy word for police.
Gettin lairy – What someone is doing if they are being overly sarcastic or losing their cool.
Got a chuffty on – When you are commenting on a person being proud of something. Sometimes said in a sarcastic tone, i.e. “I bet you got a chuffty on about it“.
Knackered – Exhausted, tired, can also mean ‘broken’ if applied to an object.
Knukledayn – To get on with a task.
Well, Mangey – Something looks dirty, ill or uncared for.
Mush – (Pronounced as moosh). Another Romany Gypsy word originally meaning man, but now used for a mate.
Mush Bird – A rather masculine woman!
Mullered – Once again a word borrowed from the Romany Gypsies that can either mean intoxicated or someone has been beaten up really badly.
Noice One Geeze – Good job mate.
Off ya ‘ed – Someone who isn’t thinking right… likely to be intoxicated!
Roight Scank – Disgusting.
Sort – A person that is good looking.
Scrummy – Something that is really delicious.
Squinny – To complain or cry a lot!
See a man about a dog – Borrowed from Cockney slang this means to attend a meeting or to go to the toilet!
Skive – To take an unwarranted day off work or school, for example, pulling a sickie!
Taking the piss – Mocking someone.
Tickety-boo – When something is going smoothly without any disasters.
Turk Tain – Is a reference to the neighboring town of Gosport.
Turned ’round n said – When referencing to how someone had told another person off (i.e. I turned ’round n said to erm…).
Weee! – A surprised expression. Not to be confused with the Scottish term for little.
Well ‘ard – Someone who knows how to take care of themselves. Don’t mess with them!
Bonus Tip: Wanna sound like a local then forget ‘Ts‘ they become silent and add an ‘S‘ to the end of everything you say, for example, Yous twos, Tescos, Asdas, and ones… because even one can become a plural when you are from Pompey!
Thank you to Jennifer Hudson, Charley Jenkins, Rebekka Lee, Carly Morrissey and Neil Ansell for your support on writing this blog post and sharing your photographs.