1 EAGLETON NOTES: The Scots Have a Word For It

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Saturday, 24 August 2013

The Scots Have a Word For It

'What a dreich morning' I thought as I opened the curtains to reveal a blanket of grey drizzle hanging bleakly over the roads and houses around me here in Bishopbriggs.   Having made a cup of hot water with lemon I decided that it really was about time that I got myself in gear and wrote a post and 'dreich' provided a useful opening.

It's apparently the Scots' favourite Scots word (as voted for in a Scots Government survey) and a word you are unlikely to hear uttered much in England although, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary it is of Middle English, of Scandinavian origin.  However the other dictionaries seem to place it fairly and squarely as a Scottish word.

What does it mean?   Weather where at least four of the following apply in combination:  dull, overcast, drizzly, cold, misty and miserable. 

The example of the use of the word given in the Urban Dictionary is:  Historically regarded as a dreich corner of Britain, Scotland's very name comes from the Greek word for “dark”.

That reminded me of the story as to how, in New Zealand, Dunedin (the Scots name for Edinburgh) came to be colonised by the Scots and so named.  It is said that a group of Scots arrived in the north of the North Island of New Zealand but, realising that it was hot and sunny set of south down the eastern side of the island stopping at various places along the way but always finding the climate to warm and sunny.  They then crossed the Cook Straight and set off down the east coast of the South Island.  Having passed the temperate lands of Marlborough and discovered that a little England had been established in Christchurh they hurried on down the coast.  When they arrived almost at the southern tip of the country they realised that they had stumbled upon a place which much resembled the north of Scotland in so many ways: not least the fact that its weather was so often dreich.  There they stayed and when one is in Dunedin it is just like being in a little version of Edinburgh.

I'll leave you with a photo I took on the east coast of Harris a few weeks ago on a dreich day:


24 comments:

  1. The English have a word for it as well!
    It's forecast to brighten later but then the midges will pop out for a feed....There's an real Anglo Saxon word for them.

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    1. The English have a word for most things Adrian but with my delicate nature I'd be far too shy to repeat it.

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  2. It's an excellent word, and every since I first heard it used on a trip to Skye a few years ago, it has been well employed describing the weather in Penistone (this summer being the rare exception).

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    1. The Skionachs have a very odd way of pronouncing their words Mark whether they be Scots or English words. Even their Gaelic is odd (although they think it's the perfect Gaelic).

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  3. The Germans have a similar word "bleich", which means washed out, or drained of color. Don't know if they have anything in common, but it made me think of that.

    Mersad
    Mersad Donko Photography - Capturing the beautiful side of life

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    1. They certainly have a similarity of pronunciation and a connected meaning Mersad so there may well be a root connection somewhere.

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    2. There will most likely be a common root somewhere, since our languages are of common Anglo-Saxon-Scandinavian-Germanic origin, all more or less related to each other.

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  4. I'm keeping my fingers (and toes) crossed for you that the weather clears up soon.
    Loved the story on the colonisation of Dunedin...if I were in that caravan, I may have stopped off further north in one of the sunnier areas.
    Believe it or not we have some "dreich" days here too every once in a while. They always make me think of rainy cold grey England, I don't know why.

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    1. I'm sure Virginia that you would have been sensible and stayed with the sunnier more equable climate. By the way England is not rainy and cold. That's just a rumour put around by the French wanting to keep all the tourists to themselves.

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  5. It's a word whose meaning I knew before I even read your definition. It sounds....dreich. But your photo looks just as beautiful as when it's fine.

    Btw do you speak with a Scots accent? And after all this time, may I call you Graham?

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    1. Frances, before he tells little porkies. Yes he does and no he doesn't. It's like listening to a Weagie John Lennon or Paul sir whatever but with a greater command of the English language.

      I'm sure I can answer as a fellow northerner. Ladies can call us anything they like. We answer. "Yes dear." or "Right Pet." Then wonder why we get battered.

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    2. Sorry Adrian... to the ears of this child of dreich Lanarkshire and often times Glasgow, Graham's voice sounds 'educated English'. Eh, Graham? ;-)
      I'd have voted for 'dreich'. I used it this morning when talking to my neighbour because it really is a gey dreich day here.

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    3. Frances you may call me whichever you choose. I have been known by a number of names in my life. Most of my friends and family now call me Graham or GB: I answer to both. As for my accent I suspect that I'm the last person to ask. Unfortunately whatever my accent is it was formed at prep school by elocution lessons from a French lady (can you believe that?).

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    4. At one time I would have called your accent BBC English but it was a compliment in those days. Nowadays I suspect that would be an insult!!!

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  6. So don't you just wish you were here on Lewis? The sky is blue, the wind is very light and the sun is shining AND your primroses have arrived in the post. x

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    1. Pat I'd always rather be where the sun is shining and the skies are blue and I'm pretty scunnered by half of the primroses arriving a month early but wotthehellarchiewotthehell we'll have a good time potting them on when I get back. I think it'll take a day with breaks for coffees and lunch at the very least.

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  7. I don't know why but it looks to me as if that little cottage is illuminated by a shaft of sun. So... not so dreich after all?

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    1. Well Jenny it is South Harris and it is said that the sun always shines on the righteous.

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  8. Dreich

    A new word for me. Thanks GB. Christchurch (North Canterbury has just had the most beautiful sunrise and is meant to be mild with no rain.) I do hope so.

    Thanks for the story too.
    Jaz

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    1. Jaz I can't imagine Christchurch having dreich weather. I'd leave it to your southern neighbours!

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  9. I'm afraid it's pretty dreich here as well at the moment. I was hoping you'd bring sunshine with you.

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    1. Well, CJ, it's full sun and a blue sky here in Bishopbriggs this morning (Sunday) so I just hope it stays with me on the drive down.

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  10. I tried to think of a Scandinavian equivalent to 'dreich' (as you say it is supposed to have its origin here) but nothing comes to mind. If the word has gone missing here it can't be for lack of similar weather though ;) (not that we've had a lot of it this summer)

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    1. I would have thought that every country in Europe should have had such a word Monica but it seems not to be the case.

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