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  • Jo Clement

Searching for meaning: GEET

When I first moved to Newcastle my ears pricked up when I heard the word geet.  I found it as hard to place as it was to ignore. Ask a Geordie what it means and they will laugh. For a start, if they are using it, they will no doubt be in the full swing of storytelling. You don't know geet? Everyone knows geet. It's geet you know, it's like...really. Here in the North East of England, particularly on and around the River Tyne, geet is everywhere. But it isn't in the dictionary.  So what does it mean? Geet is often thought to be used without intent, a kind of colloquial tick, padding out what is being said, similar to the recurrent and frustrating use of 'like' in conversation today. In some cases, this is true. But structurally, geet can bridge dialogue: he was geet, 'come on, let's go', serving as a grammatical device to quote speech. Geet also functions as an adverb, amplifying the intended context. He was geet tall is another way of saying he was really tall. The size or importance of the thing described is given extra emphasis, tinged with admiration. You can be geet smart or geet handsome.  But you can be geet useless or geet ugly, too. Double edged, the word can suggest both goodness and a large amount of something. As geet is heard more in conversation, the pliability of the word comes to light. This regional quirk adds more to the vernacular, leaning toward an exactness in a way other words cannot. You should see this diamond. As soon as I saw it, I thought this is the geet one I need. Here geet doesn't prefigure the noun to imply the size of the diamond. Instead it points to the singularity and perfection of it. This use tells us this is the only one the speaker wants. A precision that only geet can convey.

Local dialect has drawn me in before. Living in a little fishing town in Northumberland, muckle had me hooked. Like geet, it was widely used. I hunted down the etymology to find the Old English micel, Old Norse mikill and Scots meikle, adjectives which, like geet, all mean exceptional, large or great. Geet has been linked with gey in Old Scots, which also means great. Though there are many links between Scots and Northern English dialects, the vocal leap from that soft gey to the glottal ending of geet seems unlikely, though language is a slippery character.  Aurally, geet is closer to the Swedish gott, meaning good. But this is still not near enough. Geet is hard to pin down. I prefer to think of it as a Geordie contraction of great, one that has grown linguistic legs. As a poet, I am very interested in following the places these legs can take us in order to preserve them, seeking the precision of geet poetry.  

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