The Scots Language

By: A.C.

In Scotland, no matter where one lives, we use phrases, words and descriptions in everyday conversations that occur nowhere else. We have a rich descriptive language, for our work, environment, domestic animals, flora & fauna, law, education, festivals, supernatural and more besides. Scots was at one time part of the Northumbrian language, but they grew apart and Scots became a separate language. Not a dialect of English as some would have us believe.

I was born in Lanarkshire and I have lived in in various places doing different jobs from labouring, sales, horticulture, farming, and quite a few more besides. My paternal family roots are in the Highlands and my maternal roots in Ulster. So I heard Highland as well as Ulster Scots phrases and words, as well as the melting pot of Scots Language dialects I heard from my peers and workmates.

The pronunciation of Scots words is according to where one lives in Scotland, and is just dialect within the Scots Language. After all there are 50 volumes of the Dictionary of the Scots Language at Edinburgh University.

In that part of Lanarkshire, I would hear women refer to a ” winterdyke”.  That’s a clothes horse that sits in front of the fire. Children would shout “borlies” when they were playing a game and the game should be paused.  (very interesting history behind that very Scottish term). Cattle were kye, sheep were yowes, small hills were knolls, knowes or knocks.

A “drum” wisny somethin’ ye banged, it wis a feature o’ the landscape. It looked like a hillock, with trees on it standing by itsel in a park. A stott wis a young cattle beast, as wis a stirk, but somebody that wis stottin’ wis drunk, then again, lassie’s stotted a ba’ aff a wa’.

Hoggs and  hoggetts were lambs ower six month aul. Gimmers were yowes that hudna been tupped. A tup is a ram. Yeld yowes wis big barren yowes. A fairmer cuid hae a cuddy in ower a park. Ye cuid aye ging close tae the dyke and gie the cuddy a clap.

Growin awa oan the verge, ye wid hae sourocks, an pee-the beds,  brammles, breem or whins. There micht be roddens, bourtree aroon aboot a scarp o’ grun. Ye aye hud tae ken fit wye ye cuid ploo a park. Ye didna want tae get in a fankle. Ye micht see a wee bit grun wi’ birks or birse an haws staunin in a ring,  at a place whaur the ancient fowk gathered at the stanes,  or mebbe see  a puckle laverocks or pee-wits, chaffies, corbies, cushie doo’s, maggies, an if ye hid a burn, ye micht se a chitty wren. There wis aye speugs, an stuckies.

Aye , ye  hud tae look oot furr hallirackit wee laddies that wid herry a nest o’ its yunks.  Worse than futtrets.

Ma mither wid aye talk aboot the scullery, nae the kitchen.   If I spilt sumthin on masel, ma mither wid ca’ me a wee slaister. She wid tell me ah wis a wee skite if I wis up tae nae guid. An ahd get ma bahookey skelpit. Or she wid skite me aroon ma lugs, or gie ma shouther or airm a richt yark, and gie ma lugs a richt clap as weel. Ma neb wis aye in her scone box. Afore she goat a fridge, everythin’ wis kept in tin boxes, bit somethin wid aye gin hairy-mouldit.

Fan ah used tae gang fishin’ masel, she wid luik at the maggots and cry them mawks. She said that word for aw grubs and larvae. A guid bone comb o’ ma heid got rid o’ the bowfies though. Ah wis aye hungry. There wis aye a pot o’ broth gaun, so ahd get that wi’ breid, an telt tae dook it. We’d dook furr epples at halloween. Thats fan we’d gae guisin – nae this American horror o’ trick or treat that his come back tae haunt us.

She’d throw mait tae the chooky-burdies, but a kent she wis meaning speugs, cos, we didna hae hens. She wis aye trauchled wi work. She’d cry any wee lassies that called roon furr me “teeny-bash”.

Fan a goat ma first pair o workin’ bits, a tied them up yasin whangs. Ye dinna see whangs sae much noo’adays. Lang leather strips furr laces.

Fan a workit furr the cooncil, yokin time wis echt o’ clock. Ah had tae mak shair a the men hud therr graith, an they wisna pauchlin bonus and time. Lowsin’ time wis y’weys fower. There wis auld chiels that wid argue wi ye aboot time. Ah wid say, ah’ll be roon hauf three, get yer graith the gither then. Ah meant 3-30. they wid stop work at 2-30. Cos they knew “half three” as “half the third hour after noon”  It worked the same furr every ‘oor.

There wis lads therr that wis sherp as a preen an they were the stang~o~the~trump , they cairrit a the bampots, nyaffs, bauchles an snauchles. There wis big brosie chiels, wee smouts, ba-faced yins, skinny-malinky wans, an there wis aye a “Sammy Dreep”. Some wid come in lookin like a half chowed moose, wi a face that wid hae fleggit a bogle.  There wis aye wan that wid hae a bad case o’the mulligrumphs, aye gaen  oan aboot a’thin, girnin an greetin, cryin this yin doon, gi’en the bosses laldy, it fair nipped yer heid.

What are your favourite Scots words and phrases?

If the words in the article puzzle you, use the link to the dictionary to find out what the words mean, or start a conversation here.

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