I wrote in an earlier post about regional variation in terms for lying snow. There are also phrases that belong to one part of the country rather than another.
My mother would look at a lowering sky, when dark clouds were gathering before a storm, and say “It’s looking a bit black over Bill’s mother’s”. I always assumed that this was simply a family saying, going back to a time perhaps when a family member or friend called “Bill” lived in the direction from which bad weather often came, but my partner, who was born thirty-odd miles away from me, and whose parents’ families were from Norfolk and South Staffordshire respectively, also uses it, so it obviously has wider currency. I’ve also established that it is known as far away as Blackpool. There is some discussion on various web sites about its origin, from which it also seems common in the East Midlands. Can we stretch it further?
Another one in use in Stoke on Trent is a phrase that means explain something in a long-winded way, or go a long way round for a short cut: “go all round the Wrekin”. The Wrekin (pronounced /ˈriːkɪn/) is decribed in Wikipedia as being a hill of volcanic origin in Shropshire, and so quite some distance from the Potteries, but visible on a clear day (in the old days there weren’t many of them, with hundreds of bottle ovens belching out smoke from being fired with coal!) from the hill tops. Obviously, the expression can only be used in those parts of the country where the Wrekin is a familiar landmark, but not very close by (photograph by Gordon Dickins). How far can we extend this phrase’s usage?