Fou's yer dous loons and quines and other Doric masterpieces

SLIP on yer baffies, it's time to talk about Doric, the language of the north-east of Scotland. Is it a language or is it a dialect? That is a matter of debate, but there are estimated 30,000 Doric speakers and many words have now entered everyday use. Baffies are, of course, slippers. They come in blue for loons and pink for quines.

Quine, or quene, is used nowadays as a word for girl or young woman. The earliest written record of the word is from 1617, according to the Dictionary of the Scottish Tongue (DOST), when it was used to describe a servant girl. Whilst loon is now used to mean boy, it dates back to at least the 1450s in DOST, where it was recorded as "loun" meaning "a worthless person".The quines and loons of old Aberdeen are mainly a friendly bunch and have given us no end of salutations which are in common use. "Fit like" means "how are you?" But it is important to remember not to be effusive in your reply as it pays to be understated. The correct answer to "fit like?" is "nae bad" or "not bad".

Or there is the esoteric "fou's yer dous?" This literally means "how are your pigeons?" but the intention is "how are you?". You don't have to be a pigeon fancier to be asked this and a cursory "nae bad" will suffice in reply. Or even better, "chavin' awa'" - or "working away" - will bring a smile to any face. However, a reasonable and more sophisticated response is also "aye, clicking", as in the pigeons are doing just fine. Or there is the familiar salutation "arite min cov" which means "how are you?".

But be careful of the Doric speaker who calls you a guff. There's no polite way to put this. A guff is a bad smell and is often used to describe folk from south of the Border. But, according to DOST, the origins of the word is "a low sound" and it was first recorded in the 19th century and has been used across Scotland since. Mary McIntosh, in her 1993 work Joy Hendry Chapman, wrote: "The fousome guff wis like tae mak him boak but he chockit it back." This translates as "the awful smell was enough to make him sick, but he held it back."A word often claimed by Doric speakers is nyaff, meaning a small or worthless thing. The first recording of the word is from the 1800s in Dictionary of Scots Language (DSL). It means to talk in a frivolous or senseless way, in particular when describing argumentative children. It can mean the bark of a small dog. It was also recorded in Banffshire where it meant to work ineffectually or feebly.

So there you have it - the beautiful language of the north. If you think you're into the swing of it, then why not test yourself with our wee quiz.

1. Ging at an affa lick

Ginger bread men

Going terribly fast

A book of stamps

An ice cream

2. Ken fit

Do you know?

A sports journalist

Very unhealthy

Tight trousers

3. Nivir een

Not on your life

Face cream

Never in the evening

No one

4. Fa aichs you?

Are you sore?

Is it far away?

Take a left

Who are your parents?

Check out the answers and see how you did.

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