DESPITE a growing recognition of the minority languages of Scots and Gaelic, Scotland's official language is English. Yet anyone visiting the country could easily be fazed not only by the variety of Scottish accents, but also the wide array of different words and phrases in use, with huge variation existing between towns and cities as little as 50 miles apart.
It's estimated that 1.5 million people in Scotland still speak Scots – often switching between English and Scots without even realising it – and there are many regional dialects to confuse matters. For example, even Scottish visitors to Edinburgh might wonder why people keep talking about a chap called "Ken" but "ken" is simply the word for "know."
Here are some common Scottish-isms:
Ahm away up the toon/town for some messages – d'ye want tae chum me? – I'm going to the city centre to do some shopping, do you want to come?
[Edinburgh people still talk about going "into" or "up the town" as the city has expanded to include many villages that were formerly outside the boundary.]
Ah've done hee-haw the day – I've got nothing done today
A face like a skeplt erse – A face like a smacked bottom
[A disparaging remark]
Aw right, pal/hen?– How's it goin'?”
[A popular greeting to a man/woman. Women who object to being called "hen" sometimes retort: If ahm a hen and you're a duck/Ah lay eggs and you lay muck.
Away and raffle yoursel – "Get knotted", a saying that derives from the Scots word raivel, or tangle
Ch'ro! – An abbreviation of "Cheerio", and used instead of goodbye or bye.
["Cheerio" is often chanted to the losing side at a football match – especially between arch-rivals the Jam Tarts and the Cabbage [And Ribs] – Hearts and Hibs.]
Dinnae forget yer (play)piece – "Don't forget your sandwich".
[A 'playpiece' is taken to school.]
D'ye think I'm buttoned up the back? – Do you think I'm daft (stupid)?
Fancy going oot for a peeve? – Would you like to go for a drink?
[Peeve is mostly likely to be used in Leith, and is said to be a travellers word for whisky.]
Fanny Toosh – A name used to describe a woman who is getting above herself, probably derived from the Scots word "fantoosh", meaning flashy.
He'd take the sugar oot yer tea – He's not to be trusted.
[And if you hear someone talking about being "out on the chory", they may be light-fingered so watch your wallet.]
She's got a fur coat and nae knickers – People used to say this about genteel ladies from Morningside who kept up the appearance of being well-off when they were in fact poor. It's now more widely used to describe someone pretentious – and is sometimes used to describe Edinburgh itself.
That's barrie! – That's great!
["Barrie" is said to be an old travellers word.]
The game's up the pole – Children say this when a playground game is over – usually because someone's broken the rules.
You'll huv hud yer tea? – You will have eaten already?
[This is the greeting you're reputed (usually by Glaswegians) to receive on visiting people in Edinburgh.]
Whit's the score? or sometimes Whit's the Hampden (roar)? – What's happening?
Glasgow sayings:On the web
Scots Language Society
Dictionary of the Scots Language
By-the-way – This catch-all phrase is added to the end of many sentences in Glasgow, by way of punctuation, as is the word "but", for example, "My ma telt me to stay off school, but."
Bolt, ya rocket – Get lost
Catch ya! – See you later!
[Sometimes used as an alternative to "Away you go!" or "Get lost!"]
Do you think I came up the River Clyde on a banana boat? - Do you think I'm daft (stupid)?
D'ye want a swally? – Do you want a drink?
[Derived from the word "swallow", but the "a" is pronounced as in "tally".]
Gies a skoosh ae yer boatil ae ginger? – Can I have a drink of your juice please?
Gonnae no dae that? – Please desist, will you?
He was giein' it lalldie – He was going flat out.
[Often used to describe someone carousing to excess. Another favourite is "He's awa on the ran dan".]
Heid the ba' – An idiot, or more literally someone whose large, football-sized head is blocking someone's view.
It's Baltic, by the way – It's freezing cold.
I was black-affronted – I was mortified/embarrassed.
She was up to high doe – She was in a state of anxiety.
That's pure gantin', by the way – That's disgusting.
Other Scots sayings:Bonus
Join us for a four-part series and quiz on the Scots tongue, starting 8 May and running each Monday through the month – from Heritage & Culture.
Ahm spewin'/spittin' feathers - I'm very thirsty.
Away in a dwalm - A 'dwalm' is a daydream.
Awa ye go! – Literally telling someone to "go away!", but actually this means you don't believe someone.
Awa' n bile yer heid – Get lost.
Dinnae fash yersel – Don’t trouble yourself.
In the name of the wee man! – A fairly polite expletive.
In a fankle – In a state of confusion.
It's raining in Paris – Your petticoat, or underskirt, is showing.
Lang mey yer lum reek – Literally "long may your chimney smoke", it means live long and happily.
She's a right nippy sweetie – She's an oversensitive female.
You're at yer auntie's/granny’s hoose – Relax and help yourself to the hospitality on offer.
You're a long time deid – Enjoy life while it lasts.
If you enjoyed reading this, you may want to read:
Our mither tongue
Father of dictionary and his anti-Scots views