Pitmatic (originally "pitmatical") is a dialect of English used in the counties of Northumberland and Durham in England. It developed as a separate dialect from Northumbrian and Geordie due to the specialised terms used by mineworkers in the local coal pits. For example, in Northumberland and Tyne and Wear the word "Cuddy" is an abbreviation of the name Cuthbert (particularly the local saint, Cuthbert of Lindisfarne), but in Durham Pitmatic "cuddy" denotes a horse, specifically a pit pony. In Lowland Scots cuddie usually denotes a donkey or ass but may also denote a short, thick, strong horse.

Traditionally, pitmatic, together with some rural Northumbrian communities including Rothbury, used a distinctive, soft, rolled "R" sound, produced at the very back of the throat. This is now less frequently heard: since the closure of the area's deep mines, many younger people speak in a local ways that do not usually include this characteristic. The softly throaty "R" sound can, however, still sometimes be detected, especially amongst elderly populations in more rural areas.

While in theory pitmatic was spoken throughout the Great Northern Coalfield, from Ashington in Northumberland to Fishburn in County Durham, early references apply specifically to its use by miners "especially from the Durham district" (1873) and to its use in County Durham (1930).

Nowadays "pitmatic" is an uncommon term in popular usage. In recent times all three dialects have converged, becoming closer to standard English. English as spoken in County Durham has been described as "half-Geordie, half-Teesside", and is quite accurately described in the article about Mackem. Today young people with a pitmatic accent may describe their accent as geordie as north-eastern accents are all termed by people from elsewhere in England or occasionally mackem.

Melvyn Bragg presented a programme on BBC Radio 4 about pitmatic as part of a series on regional dialects.

Other Northern English dialects include

See also

In South East Nortumberland, the term for the local dialect (Ashington, Bedlington, Cramlington and Blyth) is 'Pityak' which is a term meaning 'Pit' 'Talk' (Yak meaning talk- to yak).

External links


  • Dictionary of North-East Dialect, Bill Griffiths (Northumbria University Press, 2004).
  • Pitmatic: The Talk of the North East Coalfields, Bill Griffiths (Northumbria University Press, 2007).

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