The Scottish Language: 2006 and 2015

“Good grief, it would be easier to learn Mandarin than all the nuances of the Scottish language.  Why can’t everybody in the British Isles speak the same language?” (D.I. Shona MacKenzie in Killers Countdown by Wendy H.Jones).

On 14 November 2016, I blogged about my tea towel called the ‘Celebration of the Scots Language’.  I had forgotten that I had two other tea towels devoted to the Scottish language – each with a different story to tell but with the same theme of attempting to decipher both the language and dialect for the English speaker.  “They are not sarnies ma’am. They’re pieces around here”. (Peter from Killers Countdown).  ‘Pieces’ is defined in the Scottish Mini Dictionary.  I love the way words evolve and change in the British Isles; sometimes you can see where they come from, sometimes you have no idea.

Scottish Alphabet: 2006.                                                                                                                                 This is a white cotton tea towel, quite thin, absorbancy not too good, with blue writing, in the main.  I bought it in a tourist shop, selling cheap and cheerful souvenirs, on Princes Street in Edinburgh.  I have spent quite a lot of time in Scotland, on holiday as well as visiting friends and relatives.  The journeys up by car always involve listening to CDs of Kenneth McKellar and Andy Stewart.  I always get stuck on the meaning of a word or two.  ‘Semmit’ is one of those words which Kenneth McKellar uses in his song about midges.  You will note that neither tea towel has a definition of ‘semmit ‘.  I had to buy a Scottish dictionary for that.  Always a great believer in the power of tea towels to provide answers, I thought this tea towel might help with general conversation.  The ‘Scottish Alphabet’ offers a pronunciation for each letter of the alphabet.  Don’t you love W = 2 x YOU?  Classy, eh?  I think the selection of words that are ‘translated’ are interesting.  I am still trying to work out the context in which I am going to use ‘Lumber’ (Concubine).  How often does anyone use the word ‘concubine’ these days, except when reading history books?  I suspect there maybe people rushing to the Oxford Dictionary to get a definition of the original word, before trying to use ‘lumber’ in Scotland.  I love ‘Wallies’ meaning ‘false teeth’.  When you are in Scotland it is always useful to be able to say ‘false teeth’ in the vernacular.   Finally, ‘Zoomer’ is a good word.  Would I describe myself as a ‘zoomer’?  ‘Oxter’ is always useful when on holiday; you always need to be able to discuss an ‘armpit’!

Scottish Mini Dictionary: 2015.                                                                                                                     This tea towel was a present from Jenny for my birthday.  She had been to Scotland for her holiday and “I thought of you”, having recently started my Tea Towel Blog.  This is a very different style of tea towel, much thicker, with a hook and good absorbancy.  The tea towel is surrounded with a tartan border, akin to the Stewart tartan, possibly.  This tea towel offers meanings to words, in alphabetical order, with a second line putting the word in a usage context; just like a ‘real’ dictionary.  You can see how ‘Voddie’ is ‘vodka’ but I am not so sure how ‘Rammy’ means ‘noisy fight’ or a brawl or ‘Hackit’ is ‘ugly’.

Both tea towels define ‘Eeijit’, ‘Isnae’, ‘Aye’ and ‘Mingin’; you’ll need to look up the meaning of these words on the tea towels.  When I use these tea towels, not only do I think about instances where I have been stuck in understanding what someone is saying but also of all those great holidays I have had and plan those to come.  I am getting a bit scared that I might find even more tea towels, with definitions of Scottish words, just wait and see but in the meantime “I’m off to bed as I’m feeling wabbit tonight” where I will practice conversations where I can use ‘lumber’ and Insult somebody.

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