1 EAGLETON NOTES: Scots (Language)

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Wednesday, 25 May 2022

Scots (Language)

I happened to say to my brother this morning that I'd got myself into a bit of a fankle. It's a stoater of a word and I use it frequently and have done for as long as I can remember. CJ remarked that it was a wonderfully descriptive word. I commented that it was like so many Scots words that I use and hear used on an every-day basis. It made me realise just how many Scots words there are that fall into that category but which are not every-day words even in other parts of the UK. 

I am assuming that everyone can imagine what 'fankle' means. Can you? Do you use the word outside Scotland?

Dreich (dreek - but the k is gutteral) is another adjective and it's used to describe dreary, bleak weather but no words really describe it better than it sounds.

Having started this it occurs to me that I could go on for ages just with the words that I know and I'm sure there are many hundreds or even thousands more. I'll mention a few more favourites that come to mind.

Wabbit (as in rabbit. Although posh people I'm told say wahbit) is used if one is slightly unwell or in low spirits or 'under the weather'.

Scunnered  is a feeling of revulsion or loathing although many people just use it to mean 'fed up'.

Gallus is a word one doesn't hear very often. I have a friend (of my generation) who calls herself Gallus Lass so obviously regards it as a Good Thing (thank you, Sellars and Yeatman). Generally it means forthright or bold or possibly cheeky. I think a lot depends on the context.

Finally 'stoater' which I used in the first paragraph. I think it's principally a Glasgow dialect Scots word used to to mean it's a great example, fantastic, excellent. It's not to be confused with Scots, 'stotter' which means to stumble.

I would be really interested to hear what 'unusual' words you may have from where you live - or anywhere else for that matter.

50 comments:

  1. When I lived in North East Scotland. it wasn't so much as the words but the accent that got me. Such as in "Ah dae nae ken fit to dae."

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    1. Yes, Tasker, the North East of Scotland accent and dialect is a complete mystery to most other Scots. Many people are unaware that there are various languages historically used in Scotland: English,Gaelic and Scots being the most common. There is also a variety of English dialects including Lallans. However, like much of Britain there are over 150 languages spoken here according the the last Census.

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  2. Fascinating post. I'm realizing just now, that some Scots words do sound like their meanings. Love your list. I might start using them.

    Unusual words in America, I think, can give way to unsual pronunciations. I don't recall unusual words at the moment. My mother use to get a kick out asking ask a wait person for a fork (fahwk)with her Boston accent, until I asked her not to.

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    1. I'm laughing at the "fahwk!" I'm from the deep south of the US and we have the most awful and the most delightful of "southern" words. I've been away from my roots a long, long time, but I'm still called on my accent by strangers.

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    2. Maywyn and Jill, pronunciation can be a minefield in all sorts of ways. In the UK it used to be an indication of 'class' but that's rather a thing of the past I think.

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  3. Cumbria has a very strong dialect which can be incomprehensible for incomers. I have often overheard workmen chatting away to each other and really struggled to work out what on earth they were saying, and if you want to feel completely alien try any pub Whitehaven on a busy night.

    But what really stands out for me is the 'economical' way in which some perfectly innocuous words are pronounced:
    "thwaite" (as in Bassenthwaite) is "thet"
    Aspatria (town on West Coast) is "Spay-tree"
    Gilsouthern (small village) is "Gil-soon"
    and my favourite is a village called Tornpenhow. Always spoken as "Trap-en-ah".
    There are hundreds of others 😝

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    1. I once (in my weekend Lake District days) dated a girl who lived on a farm near Cockermouth. My accent was pretty much received pronunciation of the time (bizarre given that I was brought up in Liverpool) and telephone communication was not easy. It was a short relationship.

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    2. Hi Graham, I will reply to your lovely email later but just had a thought - have you ever listened to Shakespeare in Original Pronunciation? I have never been a fan of The Bard having had to endure it in received pronunciation at school which, to me, made most of the plays fairly dull. But if you search YouTube for "Ben Crystal" you will hear Shakespeare more as it was meant to sound. It's quite captivating and can swallow a great deal of time! I think it is something you may find interesting. x

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    3. Jayne, I have never listened to Shakespeare in Original Pronunciation. I'm not sure how anyone knows what it sounded like. As a youngster I actually enjoyed Shakespeare and as recently as about 5 years ago went to a live performance of Hamlet (a play I have seen more times than any other of his plays). In all honesty these days Shakespeare doesn't figure in my life much at all.

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    4. Carol in Cairns19 June 2022 at 18:51

      Last year I saw a wonderful reinterpretation of Othello from a WWII and our indigenous Torres Strait Islander perspective. https://queenslandtheatre.com.au/plays/othello

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    5. Good to see you Carol. As a genera rule I've not enjoyed 'modern' interpretations of Shakespeare. I accept that that's not a rational response because some are excellent and some I have enjoyed. I shall have a look at the link.

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  4. Just had a quick skeet, alright yessir! As they may say in these parts.
    Or, i have had a brief look, thanks mate/pal (or equivalent)

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    1. JayCee, skeet is a word I've not heard before. I think we used 'keek' as in 'gissa keek' for 'please may I have a quick look?'

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  5. I can't think of unique expressions here. Perhaps our history doesn't go back far enough to have permitted them develop over time. I suspect that the ubiquitous reach of television may erode some local terms in other countries and regions, and odd uses of language such as those employed by cockneys.

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    1. David I think you are correct in that many dialect words are now pretty common through Britain because of 'regional' accents and words being used in sit-coms etc.

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  6. The gutteral k comment catches my eye. At one time many Inuit words ended in a k. Now it's a q with the more guteral sound. It looks like I don't know how to spell gutteral.

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    1. That's interesting, Red. I've been trying to do a guttural q. I don't find it easy.

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  7. I do know of the word 'dreich', but none of the others.

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  8. Those words do give a clue to their meaning, just by the sound of them, don't they? I can still surprise my kids by coming out with an Aussie slang word they have never heard before. I recently came across the old (1966) movie They're a Weird Mob on Netflix and laughed as hard as I did the first time around at the difficulty a migrant has in understanding Aussie English. I clearly remember upsetting my Kiwi husband-to-be by calling him a great galah when he'd been a bit silly.

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    1. Interestingly, Pauline, I'd have understood what you meant even though I've never hear the word used in that context.

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  9. One of my favourites is their verb to Cowp. It really amuses me when they say did you see the car in the field at ......? It had cowped right over.

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    1. For me, Adrian, coup (pronounced cowp) is the local rubbish dump.

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  10. Fankle is instantly understandable, even if one has never heard it before. Dreich I've seen many times, stoater never before but it, too, does not need much explaining.
    As for unusual words that I use, they are of course in my Swabian dialect and it would be useless to write them down here. But rest assured there are many, which are not (easily) understood in other parts of Germany.

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    1. Meike, of course I'd not understand any German Swabian dialect but as my German was "Berlin" when I was in Bavaria some pronunciation seemed to be a problem (both ways).

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  11. Scunnered is one of my favourites, along with dreich. X

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  12. 'Dreich' is familiar to me (possibly from you! but I think from other sources as well) but the others are not. I think the meaning of a lot of dialect words can often be gathered from context, but seeing them isolated one wouldn't have a clue. We have those in Swedish too, of course. Back in my youth I lived ten years in the province of VÀrmland - enough time to learn that there are some words and expressions used there that I never heard in VÀstergötland, and the other way round. There are even differences between BorÄs (where I live now) and 100 km north of here where I grew up. Not much point in giving examples here, though! (cf Meike's comment about German)

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    1. Monica, as you know my command of languages other than that of my homeland is limited so the understanding that you and Meike have of different tongues never ceases to engender admiration.

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  13. I'm sure I have heard Dreich but where is anybodys guess. I think accent is the thing that distinguishes a lot of the Australian vernacular: words are run together, added to and blurred to make a regular sentence sound quite foreign

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    1. Kylie, I have to admit that I found the accents and words in Perth and Sydney quite different too.

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  14. I have always been aware that different areas/countries have different slang words in their vocabulary, but it is interesting that you have another language sprinkled through your English. There is a strong push here at the moment to integrate a lot of Maori words into our everyday vocabulary (not slang words). As it takes me a while to get used to any new word, I am sometimes left struggling to understand what has actually been said. Must be getting old!

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    1. I suspect it is age - I need a dictionary to read a lot of educational newsletters these days! Pronounciation is improving but no idea what I am saying :(

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    2. Margaret and Fiona you've made me think about the use of Gaelic in Scotland. I am not aware of any formal integration push. Very many modern Gaelic words are simply English words that have been Gaelicised anyway.

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  15. I don't recognize any of the words. I feel at best utterly isolated and provincial and at worst undeniably stupid. Okay, dense. I hate it when that happens. Thanks a bunch (smile). Keep up the good work broadening the horizons of the masses.

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    1. Bob, I'm sure that you could come up with as many everyday words that you use that I've never heard of.

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  16. My friend is married to a Scot and she purchased a wonderful set of bone china mugs while in Edinburgh, with appropriate words, so I recognise blether, scunner, farkle and dreich particularly - when I am visiting I am aware of which cup I get given! Slitter was not on the mugs but will reliably crop up in conversation if I am not very careful eating!

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    1. Fi, you've added a word (slitter) that I'd never heard of before. Apparently it's used in Stranraer in Scotland and is originally Galloway Irish Gaelic. Fascinating. I shall add it to my vocabulary and see if it catches on. Mind you I try and avoid eating with messy eaters! It does appear in the Scrabble Dictionary though.

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  17. oh well I'm sure you know the strange words us kiwis have like 'sup (what's up), sweet as (ok), boomer (someone over 60 years old). And the funny thing is the English language keeps changing all the time so it can get confusing.

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    1. Amy, I still use as many of the Kiwi words that I learned in my wonderful New Zealand decade as I can get away with.

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  18. Too early for me yet...I've got to get my mind into gear. It is early Sunday morning, after all...that is my excuse! :)

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    1. No worries, Lee, you'll be right. Have a good day.

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  19. I have no interesting words which might link me to the past. I resent this because my ancestry is Scottish and you'd think there would be at least one of two. My daughter thinks my use of "chesterfield" for couch or sofa might qualify but I think not. Sue, Toronto

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    1. Sue, the linking of oneself to the past by language is probably far more subtle but we are essentially a product of what we were brought up with. I used Chesterfield as a name for a very specific type of couch/sofa/settee although, to be honest, I can't recall off hand exactly which type.

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    2. Sorry, Sue. I was sure that I'd acknowledged your comment. To me a 'chesterfield' is a particular type of couch or settee.

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  20. All of the Scottish terms you mentioned in this post were new to me, Graham. I have heard many British ones from watching shows and, of course, I can’t think of a single one to list here. There are also many unique American terms and those too escape me.

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    1. Beatrice, language is wonderful and so often enhanced by new and unusual words.

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  22. East Yorkshire was invaded by Danes and Vikings after the Romans left. The invaders brought new words with them as well as new place names. One of the Viking words I remember from by childhood is "yitten" which means scared.

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    1. ..."my childhood" not "by childhood". Sorry.

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    2. YP, I think all our regional languages are enriched by incomers. Language is constantly changing.

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