Ee Ba Gum: The Greatest Saying in English History

Ee Ba Gum
Indeed.

British English has all manner of confusing sayings that’ll baffle many folks—even fellow English sorts.

And in Yorkshire, there’s one that’s stuck around and surprises us to this day it hasn’t been outlawed due to its confusing capabilities.

What Does “Ee Ba Gum” Mean?

“By God!” That’s what. It’s an exclamation of surprise, done with a sense of humor or disdain. The term is famous for its use in Yorkshire.

Typically, people who use ee ba gum are doing so as they don’t wish to use a more unpleasant expletive (such as bastard or fuddy-duddy).

It’s a minced oath, which is a euphemistic expression. We make them up from mispronouncing words, misspelling them, and adding in a dollop of profanity.

Is There a Rhyme To Go With That?

Of course! It’s a very catchy one, too, you’ll sing for the rest of your life!

Ee by gum
Can your belly touch your bum?
[Lyrics removed for decency purposes]
Can you tie them in a bow?
[Lyrics removed for decency purposes]
Can you play it in a band?
Does your bum play a tune?
*Blow a raspberry*

That’s a popular rhyme for schoolkids in England. We sang that all the time when we were young ones in the early 1990s.

It was a, sort of, early morning ritual to get the day in action ahead of elementary mathematics and playtime.

A Few Tips on Yorkshire Dialect

Okay, this Hale and Pace clip is your reference point from now on (see the mushy peas nods there for further relevance).

If you’re ever in Yorkshire (such as Leeds in West Yorkshire), then you’ll need to get to grips with a few more terms. These include:

  • Hello: Ey up (arguably the most famous of the lot)
  • No: Nor, nah or nay
  • Yes: Aye
  • Nothing: Nowt
  • Anything: Owt
  • To/the: T’
  • Him/Her: ‘im/’er
  • Give: Giz
  • Take: Tek
  • You: Tha, thee
  • How are you doing?: Ow’s tha doin?
  • I am: ‘Ahm
  • Baby: Bairn

Many of these drift into use across the North West, such as in Lancashire, Manchester, and Greater Manchester.

We’re always using “o’reet” here as it’s so common—a merger of “all right”. You can go “Reet?” as well. Or just grunt. Anything goes here.

We have a guide to talking Northern English to help out there, mate.

Michael Palin’s Take on Yorkshire

Monty Python star Palin is from Sheffield in South Yorkshire.

Super smart, he qualified to study history at Oxford University—his father was an engineer who graduated from Cambridge (his mother was also brainy).

However, he’s always been able to playfully mock his native roots. He did so in the best episode from Ripping Yarns (his post-Python show that aired in 1977 and 1979).

The Python lot were also always happy to rip into the Yorkshire stuff. Palin also did the same for the Secret Policeman’s Ball (the clip above, fool).

Whereas with Python, in typical clever fashion, did the inverse of common trends. The Yorkshire lad rejecting his miner roots to go on an intellectual path.

So, yeah, Graham Chapman was very effective as a Yorkshireman (although he was from Leicester).

And the whole shtick was a big part in The Meaning of Life (1980). So, the Pythons saw a great deal of humour in all of that. Almost to the point of reverence.

Is There a Horse Called Ee Ba Gum?

Of course! As far as we’re aware, Eeeh Ba Gum is still racing away as of 2020.

We don’t particularly understand horse racing (or condone it), but the beast is making a name for itself. And delighting Yorkshire folk at t’ same time.

Key Yorkshire Takeaways

Anyway, hopefully this is of some use for you non-English folks! Our tips from all of the above lessons?

  1. Inject more Yorkshire into your life.
  2. Drink more tea.
  3. Indulge in the dialect.
  4. Embrace your inner ee ba gum.

13 comments

    • The idea of this post is to ensure a small selection of people across the world suddenly start adopting Yorkshire accents. So for the next few days, please go everywhere announcing, “Ee ba gum!” Cheers!

      Like

  1. Yorkshire dialect as my mother tongue made learning Swedish a whole lot easier. Not only did I already have a built-in lexicon that worked with little or no modification, but it also made getting the phonetics right considerably easier.

    Weird thing is, it’s changed my English accent. Several people have pegged me for a “posh Manc”, and one went as far as thinking I was from Barnsley. York people often act surprised when they find out I come from there, or as one taxi driving charmer exclaimed…”You’re from round here? Not speaking like that you aren’t..!”

    Liked by 1 person

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