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"Mak'em" is an informal name for residents of and people from Sunderland, a city in North East England. Spelling variations include "Mackem", "Makem", and "Maccam". It is also a name for the local accent (not to be confused with Geordie); and for a fan, whatever their origin, of Sunderland A.F.C.


One explanation for the term mackem is that it stems from "mackem and tackem" with mackem as a corruption of the local pronunciation of "make them" (roughly "mack 'em") and tackem from "take them." The expressions date back to the height of Sunderland's shipbuilding history, as the Sunderland shipwrights would make the ships that would sail down the River Wear which would take them to the sea. A variant explanation is that the builders at Sunderland would build the ships, which would then go to Tyneside to be outfitted, hence from the standpoint of someone from Sunderland, "we make 'em an' they take 'em." The term could also be a reference to the volume of ships built during wartime on the River Wear, e.g. "We make'em and they sink'em".[citation needed]

Whatever the exact origin of the term, mackem has come to refer to someone from Sunderland and its surrounding areas, in particular the supporters of the local football team Sunderland AFC, and may have been coined in that context. Newcastle and Sunderland have a history of rivalry beyond the football pitch, dating back to the early stages of the English Civil War,[1] the rivalry associated with industrial disputes of the 19th century and political rivalries after the 1974 creation of Tyne and Wear County.

Evidence suggests the term is a recent coinage. According to the Oxford English Dictionary,[2][3] the earliest occurrence of it in print was in 1988.[4] The phrase "we still tak'em and mak'em" was found in a sporting context in 1973 in reference to Sunderland Cricket & Rugby Football Club.[4] While this lends support to the theory that this phrase was the origin of the term "Mak'em", there is nothing to suggest that "mak'em" had come to be applied to people from Sunderland generally at such a date. The name "Mak'em" may refer to the Wearside shipyard workers, who during World War II were brought into shipbuilding and regarded as taking work away from the Geordies on Tyneside.[5]


To people from outside the region the differences between Mak'em and Geordie accents often seem marginal, but there are many notable differences[citation needed].[6] There is even a small but noticeable difference in pronunciation between the accents of North and South Sunderland (for example, the word something in North Sunderland is often contracted to summik whereas a South Sunderland speaker may often prefer summat).

Pronunciation differences and dialect words

  • Make and take are pronounced mak and tak ([ˈmak] and [ˈtak]) in the most conservative forms of the dialect. This variation is the supposed reason why Tyneside shipyard workers might have coined "Mak'em" as an insult.[7] This pronunciation is also used in Scots.
  • Many words ending in -own are pronounced [-ʌun] (cf. Geordie: [-uːn]).[clarification needed]
  • School is split into two syllables, with a short [ə] sound added after the oo, separating it from the l: [ˈskʉ.əl]. This is also the case for words ending in -uel or -ool, which are monosyllabic in some other dialects, such as cruel, fuel and fool which in Mackem are [ˈkrʉəl], [ˈfjʉəl] and [ˈfʉəl]. This "extra syllable" occurs in other words spoken in a Mak'em dialect, i.e. film is [ˈfɪləm] and poorly [ˈpʉəli]. This feature has led to some words being very differently pronounced in Sunderland. The word face, due to the inclusion of an extra [ə] and the contraction thereof, is often pronounced [ˈfjas]. While [ˈfjas] and some other cases of this extra vowel have been observed in the Geordie dialect,[8] school in that variant is [ˈskjʉːl] versus Mak'em ' s [ˈskʉ.əl] (and [ˈskʉːl] or [ˈskʉl] in most other dialects).
  • The word endings -re and -er are pronounced [ə] as in Standard English, unlike the rhotic Scots variant. Cf. Geordie [æ].
  • Wesh and weshing (for wash and washing) are part of a wider regional dialectical trait which is reminiscent of Old English phonology, where stressed a mutated to e. This can also be observed in other modern Germanic languages, but it is particularly prevalent in German and Icelandic.[clarification needed]
  • Dinnit (for do not or don't), as in "dinnit de that". [clarification needed]
  • Claes for clothes[clarification needed]
  • Wee or whee for who: as in "Whee said that?" ("Who said that?")
  • Whey or wey for why: "Whey nar!" ("Why no!")[clarification needed]
  • Tee for to in some constructions: "Where yae gawn tee?" ("Where are you going to?")[clarification needed]
  • Wuh or wa for we: "Wuh knew wed win" ("We knew we'd win").[clarification needed]
  • The dialect word haway means come on. In Newcastle it is often spelled and pronounced howay, while in Sunderland it is almost always haway. The latter spelling is featured in Sunderland A.F.C.'s slogan, "Ha'way The Lads." The local newspapers in each region use these spellings.[clarification needed]

See also


  1. ^ "Football Derbies: Geordies v Mackems". Sunderland Life. Archived from the original on 27 July 2007. Retrieved 21 September 2007. 
  2. ^ "The Mackem Wordhunt!". British Broadcasting Corporation. 21 June 2005. pp. "Wear > Voices 2005" section. Retrieved 31 July 2011. 
  3. ^ "BBC Wordhunt: Your Language Needs You!". Oxford University Press. 10 June 2005. pp. "OED News" section. Archived from the original on 8 February 2009. Retrieved 31 July 2011. 
  4. ^ a b "New Entry for OED Online: Mackem, n. (Draft Entry Jan. 2006)". Oxford University Press. 11 January 2006. pp. "OED News: BBC Balderdash and Piffle (Series One)" section. Archived from the original on 19 April 2009. Retrieved 31 July 2011. 
  5. ^ "Mackems". Virtual Sunderland. Retrieved 21 September 2007. 
  6. ^ "Accents & dialects". British Library. Retrieved 31 May 2015. 
  7. ^ "Mackem Accent". OED Online. Oxford English Dictionary. Archived from the original on 24 October 2007. Retrieved 21 September 2007. 
  8. ^ "Where I Actually Live". Blast. BBC Lincolnshire. 5 August 2006. Retrieved 21 September 2007. 

External links

  • Mackems Virtual Sunderland
  • Wear Online – Home of the Mackem Dictionary
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