Don’t dingie Scots slang say dictionary compilers

Boarded-up windows: Cooncil curtains
Boarded-up windows: Cooncil curtains
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SLANG such as “dingie”, “numpty” and “cooncil curtains” could be included in the first updated compilation of the Scots language in decades.

Colloquialisms are to be included in the Concise Scots Dictionary, which is to be put together by the Scottish Language Dictionary charity.

Experts due to gather next year at the first-ever global conference on slang said it needs to be taken more seriously as words can become ingrained in the language, rather than exist as just fleeting local or regional terms.

Dr Maggie Scott, a researcher in Scots and Scottish English at Salford University and one of the speakers at next year’s conference, said slang can be difficult to classify, particularly in Scots.

She said: “It’s difficult enough to decide if Scots is a dialect or a language. The fleeting nature of a word can determine if it’s slang or not.

“If it’s a word you can use with three different generations of your family, it’s more likely become part of the language.

“Slang is never going away. It shows the vibrancy of Scots and that it’s a living language, not just quaint terminology.”

Linguistic surveys of the 1950s and 1960s tended to focus on rural speakers, with words for farming equipment and animals, but not the “richness of urban dialects”.

Dr Scott said: “Scots tends to get lumped together as spoken by the working class, but that doesn’t take into account the many shades of grey. It’s the context more than the class that’s the issue.”

The Salford researcher said the example of “cooncil curtains” to refer to boarded-up windows shows new terminology is constantly being born in Scots. She said it is also difficult to state one person speaks Scots and one speaks English when there can frequently be crossover.

Dr Scott added that there should be a full study on the use of language, in the Scottish Parliament in particular, because of the colloquial use of Scots by various MSPs.

Some slang words such as “dingie” – to deliberately ignore someone – may be becoming more mainstream, but is still highly colloquial, said Dr Scott.

School slang can be difficult to research, she explained, as it is often used as a “secret” language and can fall out of use by the time dictionaries document it.

She said: “One term for ‘playing truant’ is, or was, ‘dogging it’, though it may have fallen out of fashion because ‘dogging’ tends now to be associated with sexual activities. And ‘red neck’, ‘neck’ ‘ha neck’ and other variants have been used as exclamations when someone was embarrassed, rather insensitively drawing attention to their blushes.”

The Scottish Government has provided £200,000 to the charity Scottish Language Dictionaries this year towards the updated Concise Scots Dictionary.

First compiled in 1985, new entries will be taken by volunteer readers and contributions, but need to be verified by at least three sources.

The conference is being organised by slang expert Professor Julie Coleman.

She said even the spread of English through the web did not stop creation and use of local slang terms, such as “numpty” in Scots, or “skobie” in Irish (a scumbag), or “hata”, originally an African-American term for a “critic motivated by jealousy”.

Prof Coleman said: “Slang arouses strong feelings, both for and against, which is why it’s often in the news. For some, it’s a demonstration of creativity and independence; for others it’s a symbol of moral decline. Slang is the melting pot of language: it’s where we can observe changes taking place most rapidly.”


Corned beef: deaf (deef)

Cooncil juice: water

Cooncil curtains: boarded-up windows

Salisbury Crag: heroin (skag)

Shan: unfair (current use)

Dingie: to deliberately ignore someone

Ned: coarse, uncultivated

Numpty: stupid person, idiot

Spraff: to talk at length

Cooncil telly: Freeview TV

Ginger: fizzy drink

Gadgie: bloke, man

Jakey: an alcoholic, tramp