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Not to be confused with Makkum.
For the American anatomic pathologist and physician-scientist born in 1954, see Susan Mackem.

Mackem, Makem or Mak'em is the informal nickname for residents of and people from Sunderland, a city in North East England. 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. It has been used by (a proportion of) the people of Sunderland to describe themselves since the 1980s, prior to which it was mainly used in Tyneside as a disparaging exonym. Prior to the 1980s, the people of Sunderland were known as Geordies, in common with the rest of the North East. An alternative name for a Mackem (except in the sense of a football supporter) is a Wearsider.


One explanation for the term Mackem is that it stems from "mak'em and takem" with mackem as a corruption of the local pronunciation of "make them" (roughly "mak 'em") and takem from "take them"

The expressions date back to the height of Sunderland's shipbuilding history, as the shipwrights would make the ships, then the maritime pilots and tugboat captains would take them down the River Wear to the sea – the shipyards and port authority being the most conspicuous employers in Sunderland. 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" – however, this account is disputed (and, indeed, as an earlier form of the name was Mac n' Tac, it seems unlikely). Another explanation is that ships were both built and repaired (i.e. "taken in for repairs") on the Wear. 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".

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, the rivalry associated with industrial disputes of the 19th century.

Evidence suggests the term is a recent coinage. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the earliest occurrence of it in print was in 1988. 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. 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.


There has been very little academic work done on the Sunderland dialect. It was a site in the early research by Alexander John Ellis, who also recorded a local song called Spottee. Ellis considered Sunderland close to a dialectal border, and placed the nearby village of Ryhope in a separate dialectal region together with areas that would now be seen as speaking Pitmatic. In the Survey of English Dialects, the nearby town of Washington was surveyed. The researcher of the site, Stanley Ellis, later worked with police on analysing the speech in a tape sent to the police during the Yorkshire Ripper investigation, which became known as the Wearside Jack tape because the police switched their investigation to Wearside after Ellis's analysis of the tape.

To people outside the region, the differences between Makem and Geordie dialects often seem marginal, but there are many notable differences. There is even a small but noticeable difference in pronunciation and grammar between the dialects of North and South Sunderland (for example, the word something in North Sunderland is often summik whereas a South Sunderland speaker may often prefer summat and people from the surrounding areas prefer summit).


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This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Mackem, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (view authors).

Date of last edit: 2021-01-29T13:05:03.000Z