Virtual Sunderland : Mackem’s

What is a “Mackem”? It is a resident of the City of Sunderland, a term which is steeped somewhat in mystery as to its origins.

Many will say it’s a football thing as most supporters of the City’s football team call themselves “Mackem’s” though the official  nickname of the Club is The Black Cats.

Others, especially those from outside the region say it is a term used to insult Wearside residents.

So what can we tell you about this word “Mackem”?

Well it comes from the term “Mak’em and Tak’em”.

One story states that during World War 2 shipyard workers from Wearside were asked to help out building ships on the Tyne (Newcastle),  probably due to their vast experience in the shipbuilding trade. This was not well met by the local Geordies who viewed it as  taking work away from local people, thus the Wearside workers were making the ships and taking away jobs from Tyneside folk  – “Mak’em  and Tak’em”.

Thus the term “Mackem” was born and used to insult Wearside shipyard workers.

Another story simply states that it’s because local dialect often shortens words and thus once again the term “Mak’em and Tak’em”  meaning we make up words and take letters away from other words.

Either way the term “Mackem” is certainly not insulting. Those on Tyneside may differ in their view but their reference to it  being an insult is down to pure jealousy.

So how do we talk? Well we do indeed shorten words by not pronouncing certain letters, likewise we will make up words to  mean something else.

Here are a few examples:

Ca’d = Cold
Gar’n = Going
A’reet = Alright
Yer Knar = You know
Ha’way = Come on
Sunlun = Sunderland
Aye = Yes
Nor = No

(Note the spelling of “Ha’way” with the letter “A”, the Geordies use the same term but with the letter “O” as in “Ho’way”)

Also next time you speak to someone who lives in Sunderland you may want to note that we never pronounce the letter “H” in our  words and we also have a knack for over pronouncing words with a slight drag to them i.e. “school” –  we will say it “skewl”, or “curry” – we will say “kerry”, “book” we will say “bewk” and so on.

The strange thing about the term “Mackem” is why we spell it with the letter “C” and not simply “Mak’em” – probably because it  looks better?

One last point though, never call us Geordies!