beer-off (off-licence)(BrE)

  • sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Sillitoe's fiction is set in Nottingham around the year 1960 and his characters use a lot of regional terms. Urban Dictionary has an entry for "beeroff" that includes dialogue spoken with what looks to me like a Nottingham/Derby accent. I live in Derby, but I'm not familiar with"beer-off" / "beer off" / "beeroff". On a web forum about Sheffield (which is little more than thirty miles from Nottingham) a contributor uses "beer off" and "off-licence" as if they are synonyms.
     
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    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    The OED's citations are the Nottingham Journal in 1939 and Sillitoe's Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.

    I was brought up in Birmingham and suppose that is where I heard it. It seems an ordinary expression to me - a complete synonym for "off-licence".
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    In my life I moved from Wolverhampton to Oxford, and then Loughborough. At first I only knew off-licence or offie. But when I got to Loughborough and drove a taxi, I very rapidly learnt beer-off, where I often had to pick up customers. It's the absolutely standard term in that area, but I don't know how far it stretches across the East Midlands.
     

    GrandadLol

    Member
    British English
    How interesting. My grandmother was born in Leicestershire and later lived in South Yorkshire.
    She used the term beer-off to describe the corner shop which was primarily a grocery shop but also sold alcohol.
    I have not heard the term used at all since the 1980s.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    Nope, never heard (of) it. I'm from Lancashire, where the term is offie. The Midlands ~ especially the East Midlands ~ have always been a great grey area for me :cool:
     
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    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    I'd never heard it either, before seeing this thread, and would have interpreted it in a way similar to play-off. That is, I'd have assumed it was some kind of beer-drinking contest (perhaps involving 'yards of ale').

    If someone then told me it was a shop at which beer could be bought, I'd have assumed it to be a shop that specialised in beer and did not really sell much in the way of wines and spirits. After all, given that the term 'off-licence' already exists, there isn't really a need for another.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    there isn't really a need for another.
    Since when did "need" come into the use of dialect vocabulary? The thread is not about "offie", but I know that as well as I know "beer-off". Why "beer-off"? Because most of the 1930s to 1960s customers went there to buy beer - not yet having developed a taste for posh, expensive wine.
     

    GrandadLol

    Member
    British English
    I'd never heard it either, before seeing this thread, and would have interpreted it in a way similar to play-off. That is, I'd have assumed it was some kind of beer-drinking contest (perhaps involving 'yards of ale').

    If someone then told me it was a shop at which beer could be bought, I'd have assumed it to be a shop that specialised in beer and did not really sell much in the way of wines and spirits. After all, given that the term 'off-licence' already exists, there isn't really a need for another.
    I seem to recall that early licences distinguished between Beer, Porter, Wines and Spirits - and whether they could be consumed on or off the premises. The licensee was required to clearly display details of the licence type above the door. In the area I know well, most would be licensed for beer only. You may have heard of it - a brown beverage with a large white foamy head 😂
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    (Perhaps we should include a note for American readers: This thread refers to the everyday word for "liquor store" used within a 20-mile radius of Nottingham, England. :) The "off" refers to a licence to sell alcohol to be consumed off the premises.)
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    In ... Loughborough ..., I very rapidly learnt beer-off. It's the absolutely standard term in that area, but I don't know how far it stretches across the East Midlands.
    I'm surprised that sound shift did not know it: I'm also from Derby (north part of the city) and, to me, it is standard local English.
     
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