What could be a more fitting way to celebrate Alba but choosing a few nuggets from our vast linguistic wealth – both celebrated and despised? This is a subject that deserves more scrutiny as it seems as if Scots are as confused and generally backward about language as they are about religion. Even the terms used for the languages are confusing.
The original ‘Scots’ was of course Gàidhlig, being the Celtic tongue of the Scotti who settled Argyll almost two thousand years ago. Gaelic was referred to as ‘Scottice’ by monks writing in Latin until around the 1500s. And then, Anglo-Saxon divide and rule really kicked in. Perhaps one of the first major pieces of strategic genius by the Sasannaich or Anglo-minded Scots against Scotland’s nationhood was to rename their language, Inglis, as… Scots! Almost overnight, the original language of the Scots became foreign – Erse, Gaylick, Celtic, Heeland, Heedrum-ho-drum etc despite having left its influence in virtually every corner of our land and having never been solely confined to the Highlands – for example our earliest extant written Gaelic is from Aberdeenshire and remnants of poetry in the Gallowegian Gaelic still exist.
Hence, I tend to make reference to Scots Gaelic and Scots English. This is partly due to historical pedantry on my part and partly due to the fact that it’s difficult to tell where ‘Scottish English’ and Scots/ Inglis/ Lallans separate. This fact being acknowledged even by J. Derrick McClure in his book ‘Why Scots Matters?’
Despite that, both these tongues contain a wealth of wit and humour and provide a key to unlocking both past and present culture. There is absolutely no criteria for choosing these words and phrases other than that I find them amusing or interesting. I’m also willing to read other such nuggets in the comments section below.
Cuir do chorrag nad thòin is leig fead – put your finger in your arse and (make a) whistle. A phrase that Celtic fans should aim at their chairman, John Reid, though to be honest, Reid’s recent pronouncements on morality are as profound and honest as this anyway.
‘S fheàrr sgur na sgàineadh, ach ‘s fheàrr sgàineadh na deagh bhiadh fhàgail – It’s better to stop than to burst, but its better to burst than to leave good food.
Na gèill is tu beò – Do not yield while you still draw breath. Have seen this both on a poster in Acha Mòr, Leòdhas as well as on the wall of an Anarchist Centre in Edinburgh.
brochan – can mean ‘a mess’ or porridge. A woodland at Killiekrankie is called Coille a’ Bhrochain as Robert the Bruce is reputed to have stopped by there to eat porridge from a shoe.
Mac na Bracha – ‘son of the malt’ and a reference to single-malt uisge-beatha. Hence the name of the blog on the subject.
Baile nan Trodach – the original Gaelic name for the village of Temple in Midlothian. The ‘Township of the Warriors’ referring to the Knights Templar who once made it their base.
thall’ is cac – away and shite. Oft used in conjunction with the Butcher’s Apron as in Oi Polloi’s angry Gaelic rant of ‘Union Jack – Thall is Cac’. A song of the same title was performed by a Leodhasach punk band of the 80s.
dreich – onomatopoeic or whit?
The guy’s erse wis knittin socks – the man was somewhat frightened.
glaikit – not to be used about John Reid, he’s got a PhD he has.
bawbag – the thin bag of skin in which a man’s clachan are held. Is Scots English the world leader in terms of base abuse? I’m sure Spanish could give it a run for its money. Any linguistic evidence of this or otherwise is welcomed.
jakie – ‘Lord Foulkes’ though to be honest, we’ve aw got one in the family. Part of the ‘Union dividend’ – even dark and formerly depressive Finland has got to grips with its booze culture. They don’t have the Old Firm though…
These lists are by no means exhaustive and a dram or two of a smoky Bunnahabhainn is sure to trigger a flood of others. To be continued no doubt.