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  • Paul Anthony Jones

“That’s Exeter!”

(phr.) spoken when you believe your work to be completed, only to find that there is much more left to do

parish church of crediton in devon england exeter

A fairly niche and apparently long-disused dialect expression cropped up on HH earlier this week:

And, well—it was all just a little too bizarre to leave unexplained.

As mentioned over on Twitter, this phrase can be used in situations where, just you think your work is done, you find more that needs doing. It originates in the dialects of southwest England—which is also (for the benefit of anyone outside the UK) where the city of Exeter is located, and is where (for the benefit of anyone outside the southwest of England) the small Devonshire town of Crediton is located.

In fact, in it’s original Devonshire dialect—which is how the expression is listed in some dictionaries—this phrase reads ‘That’s Ex’ter!’ said the old woman when she saw Kerton.

The story that supposedly lurks behind this expression describes to an old woman who one day set off on the long walk to Exeter market. On the way, she reached the top of a hill and saw on the horizon the impressive spires of Crediton’s Church of the the Holy Cross (pictured above—h/t Crediton Parish Church).

Mistaking the church for Exeter Cathedral, the woman gleefully exclaimed, “That’s Exeter!”, believing that her arduous journey was almost at an end. In fact, Crediton is 8 miles north of Exeter. So her journey—and hence a her proverbial “work”—was still a long way from being complete...


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