How to understand fast spoken English…… Liverpool.

Listening Exercise:

You can listen to me read the blog post at the same time as listening.     

Liverpool is a very multi-cultural city.   The Liverpool accent itself originates from the mix of accents of the Welsh and Irish and other European migrants who moved into Liverpool in the second half of the 19th Century.   The Liverpool accent was first recognised as a distinct accent different to the Lancashire accent in the 1890’s.

Scouse is spoken by Scousers, who also eat Scouse.

According to Wikipedia the word Scouse is a shortened version of Lobscouse.   People from Liverpool are called either Liverpudlians or Scousers.  This word Scousers originates from multi-cultural history of the city based around the docks.  This is what Wikipedia has to say about this:

Norwegian lapskaus, Swedish lapskojsand Danish labskovs and the Low German Labskaus, and refers to a stew commonly eaten by sailors. In the 19th century, poorer people in Liverpool, Birkenhead, Bootle and Wallasey commonly ate “scouse” as it was a cheap dish, and familiar to the families of seafarers. Outsiders tended to call these people “scousers”.[16]

Even today the word Scouse is the name of the accent spoken in Liverpool by Scousers and Scouse is also the name of a meal that is still cooked by many in the city and surrounding towns.  Recipes for Scouse vary but it’s basically a stew made from cheap cuts of lamb or beef, potatoes and whatever veg you’ve got.   You can find a recipe here in this link.

Liverpool is a city built around the docks.

The history of Liverpool is the history of British colonialism and immigration.      Liverpool is a city built around the docks.   The city has its roots in the slave trade.    There is now an Internationa Museum of Slavery at Albert Dock in Liverpool which is next to the docks where 18th-century slave trading ships were repaired and fitted out.    There is no denying that the money that came into Liverpool at this time was from the slave trade.   Many of Liverpool’s streets are named after businessmen who made their fortune on the back of the slave trade.   Liverpool does not shy away from the horrors of its history.and the Museum of Slavery is involved in many anti-modern slavery campaigns.


Modern Liverpool

Liverpool is a very multi-cultural city and is very welcoming to people from all over the world.   Liverpool has one of the oldest Chinese communities in Europe and has a large China Town area within the City.

Liverpool is also home to two universities and has a student population of around 70,000 students.   Liverpool is a great place for students as discussed in this article 7 reasons why Liverpool is great for students.

However, students who arrive in Liverpool from outside the area will have to learn the local expressions as there are lots of local phrases that they will hear.

Liverpool Expressions

Watch this video of a German resident being taught some useful local expressions:

Kid:               You’ve been in Liverpool for a couple of weeks now so how are you settling into your new surroundings?

Jürgen:          Well Liverpool is much more beautiful than I thought,

Kid:                Yea

Jürgen:           good places, nice people

Kid:                 best city in the world

Jürgen:           come on say it again…

Kid:                 it’s the best city in the world

Jürgen:           (laughing)  it’s a commercial for Liverpool that’s good…

Kid:                   if you like I could teach you a few scouse phrases that might come in useful

Jürgen:             very very useful for me, because if you speak scouse to me I’m off, no chance, OK

Kid:                   Here’s the first one…….

Jürgen:             ma heads chocka

Kid:                   Mi heads chocka

Jürgen:             Mi heads chocka …. headache?

Kid:                   well it just basically means that like, your head, you just can’t think straight…

Jürgen:             ah… my head is full… not my, me     ….. me heads chocka……ok

Kid:                   the next one is….

Jürgen:             givin it bifters   (laughs)

Kid:                   it just means basically, you’re just trying your best

Jürgen:             givin it and bifters is for best something ahh and how to pronounce it

Kid:                   givin it bifters

Jürgen:              givin it bifters …..and to smile like you…. givin it bifters   oh my god……. it looks like the name of a snake…ok…..gorra…. gorra cob on

Kid:                    brilliant

Jürgen:              brilliant  yea

Kid:                    well basically gorra cob on it means not happy

Jürgen:              if I’m not happy I say “gorra cob on”

Kid:                   and here’s the final one…

Jürgen:              boss tah boss tah …….. hello boss?

Kid:                    no it basically means that it’s just really good

Jürgen:               boss is AHH yes I heard about it  – that’s boss

KId:                     and now I’d like to set you a challenge..

Jürgen:                nobody told me something about a challenge..

Kid:                      to use a scouse phrase in one of your press conferences

Jürgen:                we win against Man City and as a…  that was boss tah  or the lads……given it bifters


Kid:                    now let’s talk football…. why do you love it so much?

Liverpool expressions explained.

NOTE:    I am not a scouser.  I don’t have a Liverpool accent.   I am what Scousers would call a WOOL or Woolly back meaning someone from one of the towns on the outskirts of Liverpool.    

Mi heads chocka

Mi heads chocka  I can’t think straight, mi heads chocka

——- my head is chocka  – this means my head is full, I can’t think straight, I am feeling overwhelmed with information.

Chocka – means full.     If something is chocka or chocka-block  it is very full.  eg  Gosh, the train was chocka I couldn’t get a seat the whole way to Lime Street.

Throughout England the  word  MY is often a weak unstressed word in a sentence and spoken in the weak form.    In many places this sounds like m+schwa sound, meh  for example “Where is my coat?  My is weak and sounds like m+schwa, meh.  That happens throughout England  but in Liverpool it sounds more like the word ME.  Where’s me coat?

In this phrase and all the other phrases the words are also linked together using connected speech – me-head’s chocka.    Notice, the H of head in not pronounced, this is a very very common feature of informal spoken English in the North.   so it sounds like me-eads chocka.

Givin it bifters

Giving it your best effort.       It is very very common throughout the whole of England that we don’t pronounce the G at the end of …ing.    So GIVING sounds like GIVIN.  This is very common everywhere.

BIFTERS   Well in this video the kid says this means BEST.    I must admit I have not heard it used this way.   There are other meanings for this word in English slang.    I have often heard “bifters” used to mean cigarettes.   eg “have you got any bifters?”

Gorra cob on

Got a cob on.   This means in a bad mood.   In the Scouse accent when there is a  T in between two vowels – goT a    the T  turns into a Scouse R sound.  I will look at this in more detail in another post. Because I can’t actually pronounce this Scouse R sound properly.   Again the words are linked together with connected speech and so it sounds like one word    “gorracobon’  eg  He’s gorracob he’s in a right foul mood.


This means – really good.

There are lots more words and phrases used in Liverpool.    I will give more examples in my next post.

Have you ever been to Liverpool?   What do you think of the city and the people who live there?  What is your favourite thing about Liverpool?   Did you have any problems understanding the local accent?


If any of my Scouse friends have made it so far in reading and listening to this – then I apologise for murdering parts of your accent and please contact me if you are able to make some more “authentic” recordings for me.

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