Scotland’s new collection of best put-downs, characters and curious sayings released

It’s a collection of the best put-downs, characters and curious sayings that help make Scotland’s humour – and approach to life – what it is.

A new expanded edition of A Dictionary of Scottish Phrase and Fable is published this week and includes the latest takes on daily life, language and culture as we see it.

Author Ian Crofton, who has compiled more than 4,500 entries for the compendium, worked on a UK-wide version of the dictionary, first written by an English minister in the late 19th century, before coming to the conclusion that Scotland needed its own tome.

He said: “Back in the early Noughties, when I was working on a number of the Brewer’s dictionaries of phrase and fable, it occurred to me that there was a big gap as far as Scotland was concerned.

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    Armstrong Baille - aka Armstrong the Good Giraffe - who carried out good deeds across the country while unemployed, is included in the new edition of A Scottish Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. Picture Ian Rutherford

    "Scotland, I knew well, had a lexical fecundity, a folkloric and literary richness, a diversity of histories and local cultures, that were undreamt of by the Reverend E. Cobham Brewer and his largely English successors.

    “So during my researches I started gathering specifically Scottish fragments of phrase and fable that I came across.

    "Initially it was mostly a matter of serendipity, but as my baby began to grow and take shape, I realised what a wealth of expressions and cultural memes Scotland has produced over the centuries, and embarked on a more systematic approach to collection.”

    Mr Crofton said the coverage of US president Donald Trump’s election defeat last year by a weekly newspaper was among his favourite new entries, with the Ayrshire News simply reporting the story under the headline ‘South Ayrshire golf club owner loses 2020 presidential election’.

    The Ayrshire News' coverage of Donald Trump's 2020 election defeat has also made its way into the compendium. PIC: Contributed.

    The entry for entertainment duo The Krankies has also been updated to include an alleged insult Boris Johnson made against First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as planning for the coming COP26 summit got underway.

    New entries include the Loony Dook, the outdoor New Year swimming experience, and The Third Forth Bridge, which opened since the last edition in 2012.

    Events from deep history have also been included, with the early 17th-century War Of The One-Eyed Woman on Skye, fought in light of Donald Gorm Mor, chief of the MacDonalds of Sleat’s treatment of his wife, Margaret, also included.

    Mr Crofton said the tale of ‘Armstrong the Good Giraffe’ was another deserving entry.

    The entry of The Krankies has also been updated to include an alleged put-down of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. PIC: Contributed.

    Armstrong Baillie hit the headlines in 2012 for his acts of charity when twice a week, wearing a giraffe costume made by his mother, he travelled to different parts of Scotland to spread some kindness.

    His good deeds included handing out bananas to runners in the Edinburgh Half Marathon and giving £10 vouchers to mothers in hospitals. He funded his good deeds with money raised by busking.

    The author said it was a “matter of some regret” that some entries missed the cut, such as Edinburgh’s infamous ‘Golden Turd’, the nickname given to a new statue on top of the St James Quarter, which had appeared after the new volume had gone to press.

    A Dictionary of Scottish Phrase and Fable by Ian Crofton is published by Birlinn and available now.

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