Scottish word of the week: Greeting

THERE are some slang Scottish words which are so common that you have to remind yourself that nobody below Berwick has the faintest idea what you’re on about.

The bairn is greeting again. Picture: Creative Commons
The bairn is greeting again. Picture: Creative Commons

I will always remember as a 15-year old being completely shocked that my English teacher, born and raised south of the border, had never heard of the term “greeting” before arriving in Scotland.

She said something along the lines of: “I worked in a shop and I asked a colleague where Lesley was, and the response was ‘she’s in the back greeting’. I thought she’d lost her mind and was continually saying ‘hello’ and waving into thin air.”

Of course, to us Scots greeting can mean to welcome somebody, but it can also describe the action of somebody crying.

Bairns greet quite a lot; your partner might greet if you have a massive row with them; and you might indulge in a wee great yourself at a particularly sad movie. Man On Fire always gets me.

In recent years it’s even extended to being used as a put down for someone who is complaining too much. You might say to your mate the pub: “Och, gon’ stop greeting.”

Nobody is sure where the word came from. The popular theory is that it originated from the Old English word gretan, meaning to come into contact with someone, which is also the ancestor of the English word greeting, meaning to welcome somebody. However, this doesn’t explain why the slang use of the word veered off on a completely different course.