One of the books that Father Christmas brought me last month has got me thinking about Swindon.

It’s Dent’s Modern Tribes, by Susie Dent, the Dictionary Corner lady from Countdown, a lovely book about the ‘secret’ lingo associated with various occupations and pastimes.

Sadly, though, it doesn’t include regional language, which is a shame because I would like to see somebody write a book about words and sayings that were peculiar to Swindon, which are now in danger of dying and being forgotten.

Some phrases, like working “inside” (in the Railway Works) or the annual holiday, which became “Trip”, are well documented, but others could be lost. And language is heritage too.

I am thinking, for example, of what our mum used to say to me and my brother, whenever she saw the mess in our bedroom, which was: “It’s like Rodbourne Tip in here.”

I still say it, but few others do, nor its modern equivalent - perhaps because “It’s like the Household Waste Recycling Centre in here” wouldn’t have the same ring.

Then there’s what local people used to say when somebody left a door open.

In the rest of the UK you would probably be asked, sarcastically, if you lived in a barn, but in Swindon, for some reason the correct question would be: “Where do you come from? Purton?”

Now, I have been to Purton and I can tell you doors are as fashionable there as they are in Swindon, so there is no shortage, but I have never been able to find out why Purton couldn’t be trusted to close them.

A couple of miles west from Purton is what I simply call “Bassett”.

It’s a term of affection really, as if it were Swindon’s little brother, and when I was young, everybody I knew used to refer to it that way, despite the potential for confusion because there were plenty of other Bassetts in the atlas, including some locally.

I actually spent the first ten years of my life thinking the place was built of timber because if the full name was used, Swindonians’ lazy approach to pronouncing Ts made it sound more like “Wooden Bassett”.

Bizarrely, my wife still insists on pronouncing it like that.

In March, it will be ten years since Bassett earned its Royal epithet, adding yet another word to the name, and this is something to celebrate, except I have noticed it has led to a disturbing and growing trend.

It’s fine for local people to keep on calling it Bassett - you wouldn’t start calling your brother “Sir” if he was awarded a knighthood - but it seems that those who ought to call it Royal Wootton Bassett find it too much of a mouthful, so abbreviate it to RWB.


Firstly; it’s ugly and lazy. Secondly, I am a pedant, and although this sort of thing maybe shouldn’t keep me awake at night, it does.

So, please. We are not talking about Milton Keynes.

That sort of thing might be OK for MK, but not Bassett.