Friday, May 23, 2014

The Language Of Scots.


Some books translated

The most recent census showed that 1.5 million Scots consider themselves to be native Scots speakers. I have no idea whether I am a Scots speaker or not.

As a language I can understand it but I remember getting slapped for talking it. It was considered to be seen to be ‘uneducated’ to speak it and my mother thought I might get on in life better if I spoke properly. And that is unfair on a beautiful language that is really our native tongue.  The problem is that ( and I might get into a lot of trouble for saying this )  is has never really been defined as a separate language. It’s just the way we talk.
                                                           The distribution of Scots

It’s more of a rainbow of language from one extreme (the Queen’s English) to the other (broad Scots).  Scots can be difficult to tune into if you are not used to it but most readers make the effort with Shakespeare.

                                                       he's trying to read The Sleekit Mr Tod

I’ve just had my copy edit back for book five and there are the usual queries over words, Scots words, that I use everyday that my editor has politely queried. If I correct them it makes the book sound very  unScottish, yet it has to be understood. It has to pass the Bratislavian Airport test as a previous editor put it. The text must be understood by a …. Yeah you get the picture.

So the words Dwaddle  (a very slow waddle usually by somebody in a dwam )
Dwam  - a persistent dreaminess not paying attention  for a long period of time.
Rummell – No one English word  describes it  - a good rifle through, a haphazard search. What woman do                     in TK Maxx. Or any sales…
                                                               A richt guid rummel

The aforementioned census showed that 64% of us Scots don’t consider it a separate language, and those that use it  were most likely not to see it as a separate language . Which makes perfect sense ..
I’ve read that Scots and English have the same relationship as Danish and Norwegian. Scots might be more related to German.

If I came across a wee toad in the garden, I would call it a puddock. And that is Scots but if I said  of some guy so drunk he was fair wabblin…. You would think that was just a lazy way of saying wobbling.  But if I said he was fair blootered.
                                                          There is nothing worn under the kilt
                                                           it's all in perfect working order

Weirdly a cupboard in Scot is a press.

There are some words that have no English translation…
Shilpit ;  that very thin, pale fragility of a person. I’ve heard it used for sick folk, supermodels and anorexics.
Sleekit ; like a fox or a sneaky wee person..’don’t trust her she’s dead sleekit’
Coorie  in :  a very particular form of cuddle, puppies coorie in,  people coorie in a bus shelter when heavy rain starts.
Spirlie ;  a wee skinny person, comes from spirl which is a wee twigletly, seedling type of thing…
Doit  or  numpty ;  Not a daft person but a clever person having a daft moment…. ‘I went upstairs to get something then forgot what it was, I was fair doity.’
Gowp ;  a pulsating pain…. ‘My knee is gowpin !’
Breinge ;  to go at something with no finesse what so ever.
Stour ;  plastery, dusty, ‘somebody open the windows in here’ ness
                                                       Fair Shilpit

This is a quote I found   
 ‘The survey concluded that there simply wasn't enough linguistic self-awareness amongst the Scottish populace, with people still thinking of themselves as speaking badly pronounced, grammatically inferior English rather than Scots, for an accurate census to be taken’

                                                             Hugh Himsel

In the early twentieth century a resurgence of Scots occurred as an art form.  At school we had to study this  in the form of  A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle by Hugh MacDiarmid  which was written in  1926 and has been reworked by Liz Lochead and Denise Mina amongst others. Here is a wee taster ...

I amna fou' sae muckle as tired - deid dune.
It's gey and hard wark coupin' gless for gless
Wi' Cruivie and Gilsanquhar and the like,
And I'm no' juist as bauld as aince I wes.

The elbuck fankles in the coorse o time,
The sheckle's no sae souple, and the thrapple
Grows deef and dour: nae langer up and doun
Gleg as a squirrel speils the Adam's apple.

Eith Innit?

Caro Ramsay  23/05/2014


  1. Reading Hugh's "A Drunk Man..." I found myself dropping into a sing-song sound-alike of Lewis Carrol's Jabberwocky, and with similar understanding. :-) I suspect I'm just fair doity more oft than not. (Hush, Jeff.)

  2. If "rummel" were a verb, I'd have suggested "rummage" probably comes close. The Dutch say "rommelde door", which means "rummaged through", and I daresay the Scots "rummel" might be akin to the Dutch "rommel".

  3. Eith Innet? I think I had a blind-date with his sister, Edith Outofit. Up until reading your post, Caro, I never realized why that date never worked out. For most of the time she sat in her apartment staring at me, shaking her head, and saying "breinge" and "dwam," and, I, being the gentleman I am, I left to bring back French cheese and Indian food. When I returned her door was locked and no once answered the bell.

    Thinking back, that experience was probably the first time I felt like a doity old man. (Your turn to hush, Everett.)