As a nation, the Scots, with our unmistakable broad accents, can be really difficult to understand. Accents, dialects and unique Scottish sayings vary quite drastically from the very north of Scotland right down through the islands and into the lowlands and borders, meaning that sometimes we Scots can’t even understand each other!
As a wee girl my mum took us all up to Fort William for the whole of the summer holidays to stay with her own mother. My granny’s mother was a native Gaelic speaker from the island of Skye, and spoke Gaelic. It seems such a pity that only a couple of generations later we have so little understanding of our original native language.
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In the Lochaber area, in the foothills of Ben Nevis where my Granny lived, the Scottish accent is very pure and easy to understand. Having said that, sayings like “put it ben the hoose” did completely confuse me to begin with!
In some parts of Aberdeen though, it’s a different kettle of fish. Even a visiting fellow Scot can be baffled by the strong Doric Dialect which is still used there on a regular basis, especially in the more rural areas.
Here are a few words with their translations to give you an idea…
Wee Scottish Dictionary
Aabody. -Everybody Loon – Young boy Vratch – Nuisance
Baaldie -heidit -Bald Mochit – Dirty Yoke – To start work
Chiel -Young man Neep – Turnip
Dicht- To wipe Oxter – Armpit
Errins – Shopping Puckle – A few
Fash – Inconvenience Queets – Ankles
Geets – Children Reek – Smoke
Hummin – Smelly Scunner – To annoy
Ilky – Every Tint – Lost
Kyte -Belly Unca – Very
It isn’t unusual to hear some of these original Doric words even today in our everyday conversations. And being Scottish I think we all understand them intuitively.
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Here’s a few wee examples from our list;
Yon teuchter is baaldie-heidit
The gentleman from the country seems to have lost his hair.
Oh dinnae fash yersel
Oh don’t get yourself into a state
Gie the kitchen floor a dicht it’s mochit
Give the kitchen floor a wipe over it seems a little dirty
Get the geets in the bath they are hummin
Put the children in the bath they are a little smelly
I was fair scunnered
I was a little annoyed
Tam tint his reason althegether (From Tam O’ Shanter)
Tam lost his mind completely
Hi hiv an unca big heid on yi!
Your cranium seems to be abnormally large!
A language of our own…
So what happened historically to our wonderful and original Scottish language? Well, it ceased to be the language of the royal court when King James VI of Scotland inherited the English Crown upon the Union of the Crowns in 1603. It also ceased to be the language of the Kirk when the King James Bible was printed in English and not Scots. And so a process began that gradually downgraded the Scots language over the following generations. This was aided and abetted by the education system in Scotland where it was considered a punishable offence to use original Scottish terminology as it was considered uncouth. What a shame!
However, the good news is that there seems to be a genuine resurgence these days of the popularity of our wonderfully explicit and almost onomatopoetic old Scots vocabulary. But, if you are coming for a wee holiday and worry about understanding us, dinnae fash yersel, most of us Scots are very easy to understand. Enjoy – and mind, whits fur ye’ll no go past ye, and here’s hoping that lang may yer lum reek!
Whether you can understand our quirky phrases, words and accents or not, if you love Scotland and all of the quirks that come with it, the Gillian Kyle site is full of great homeware items and gift ideas that you’ll enjoy!
Till next time,
Lorna (Gillian’s Mum)