Yerf! The ultimate mask-slang translation guide

With everyone in lessons wearing masks, how are teachers supposed to understand what their students are saying? Stephen Petty has the answers

Stephen Petty

Secondary pupils in a playground, all wearing masks

Even at the best of times, many of our pupils tend to mumble or make no sense. We teachers are not always that much better. 

So the current wearing of masks by all pupils, as well as by the teacher in many cases, can mean that several minutes in a lesson can pass without anyone having much of a clue about what anyone else is saying.  

Don’t get me wrong. I am all in favour of masks in classrooms. But they can cause many a consonant to change or disappear entirely. Even the odd vowel sometimes seems to flutter off in that ongoing breeze between open door and window

So, to avoid any possibly premature removing of masks in mid-May, I have recorded, analysed and decoded the new classroom language. This free and handy ready-reference guide should keep us all going until the end of the school year if necessary.

It converts the most common mysterious outbursts back into what the pupil or teacher intended to say. I see this as my own contribution to the great pursuit of lost learning. Rather than extending the school day, why not simply make it a clearer one?  

Covid in schools: the ultimate mask-slang translation guide

So, here it is at last: your mask language to English translation guide – with tips on how to avoid possible misunderstandings, exclusions and summary sackings.

Pupil to teacher

Plea kerner go turdle? – Please may I go to the toilet? 

Furrk you ho whirr – I forgot to do the homework

Yerf – Yes

Nerm – No

Dermner – I don’t know 

Dermner howdee smelly – I don’t know how to spell  it

Willy be in tess? – Will it be in the test?

Plea car I fit wee Jay? – Please may I sit next to Jake?

Eeeve a spare perve plea? – Do you have a spare pen please?

Ers too co wiv dur weirdo owing. Curry shurry? – It’s cold with the window open. Can I shut it?

Cur I harr new burr? – Could I have a new book?

Worrertile? – What is the title for this?

I doan kerry warrior doodoo – I don’t get what I have to do

Teacher to pupil

If the teacher is wearing a mask too, a further list of translations may be necessary, if only to prevent a disciplinary hearing.

Good mornee aw! Shiddin your ule sheets – Good morning all! Sit in your usual seats

Hell is a semaphore me, nod you – The bell is a signal for me, not for you

I doan ink ass appropeer – I don’t think that’s appropriate

Anywur know the atchoo? – Does anyone know the answer?

Oi, could you repee – Sorry, could you repeat that? 

Ee a toppy in dur tag, yerf – It’s a topic in the TAG assessment, yes

Plea lean and doan chav beehive yo marv – Please listen and don’t chat behind your mask

Doan ear up me – Don’t interrupt me

Doan wee orchard air – Don’t swing on your chair

Stop! Woo voodoo at at ome? –  Stop! Would you do that at home?

Eee yor tie u wazy – It’s your time you’re wasting

You see, eee evie to undertan, when u get dur angovit. Far better that we all fully understand each other than to add extra hours on to the day. 

“Quordeedee, nod quondeedee” as teachers have said for generations: “Quality not quantity”. 

Stephen Petty is head of humanities at Lord Williams’s School in Thame, Oxfordshire

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Stephen Petty

Stephen Petty is head of humanities at Lord Williams's School in Thame, Oxfordshire. 

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