Bairns an Books – Braw!

A rare project wis run in Dundee a file syne – fir Book Week Scotland in fact. Junior Scots Ambassadors wis the name o this pilot.

Twa richt fine quines, Elaine Hallyburton and Moira Foster, faa wirk wi Dundee City Cooncil Libraries, ken aw aboot foo tae gaur bairns wint tae read. Their stamagaster o an idea wis tae gie Scots texts tae bairns in P6 and gaur them get eesed tae readin them. Syne, the big bairns went intae P1 clesses an read tae the wee bairnies there.

They hid a puckle o siller, an bocht a wheen o books fir the bairns tae choose fae. They gied them some advice an trainin an aw: A wis lucky eneuch tae be invitit tae help wi that bittie. An the bairns, Scots spikkers or no, were aw fair chuffed wi fit they were daein.

Twa clesses fae Craigowl an ane fae St Clement’s were inno this pilot. Their teachers helpit tae: singin sangs an yaisin Scots wi the bairns tae help wi their confidence.

Dis this soon lik somethin ye could dae yersel? Ye’ll need the books tae begin wi: yer library service micht help here. Yaisin picture books that the aulder bairns mind on fae faan they were wee is nae a bad idea.

Time tae plan is anither guid idea. Mak sure aabidy involvit kens fit ye’re ettlin for an faa is gaun tae dae fit. An mine an plan fir evaluation an aw. Foo will ye ken fit wirkit an fit maun be sortit afore ye dae it again?

Haud gaun! There’s mair nor ae wye tae gaur bairns read. This ane micht wirk fir you.


Tae an Toast an a Blether in Scots

On Tuesday 2nd June, Kirtonholme Primary Schuil in East Kilbride hid a Tae an Toast an a Blether in Scots fae 9.30 til 10.30 in their muckle ha. It did ma hairt guid.

The weans hid been wirkin on The First Warld War an Scots an Warld Waur II. They entertainit freens an faimlie fyle they ate toast an drank tae. The siller raisit fae donations is fir the wirk o Poppy Scotland, wha supports ex-service men an weemen an their faimlies in this countra.

Eifter the spikkin fae grown-ups wis by wi, the weans could tak the stage. Mr Murray Constable’s P5/6 cless cam first. They hid been wirkin on WWI. They gave us a scriptit history o the War, they actit oot fit enlistment wis like an syne ontae the Christmas Truce, wi actin and singin in German an Inglis, wi nae accompaniment. Wi heard a couple o poems read bi the bairns faa hid written them an pen portraits o medal winners they hid researchit. Eifter some information aboot the wirk o Poppy Scotland ilka wean pit doon a wreath fir minin a faimilie member or name-sake faa hid deit in the fechtin.

Neist cam Mrs Wilma McLaughlin’s P4/5 cless faa hid bin studyin WWII an Scots. First they gaurt us think o the ither wars involvin sodjers supportit bi Poppy Scotland. Wi then got a series o wee dramas fae Chamberlain annooncin the War, throwe evacuation, air raids, rationin, Dig fir Victory tae the tae pairties come the eyne o the War. Aw in braid Scots. Aw deliverit wi confidence an pure enjoyment on the faces o ilka bairn.

The hale group jynt fir ‘One Little Voice’ in the hinner eyne. Nae a dry ee in the hoose!

Faimilie and freens wis aw treatit tae rale evidence o the bairns’ lairnin. The Scots wis a natural pairt o fit they hid deen: they can yaise Inglis an aw an switch atween the twa leids wi nae bather.

The staff an weans o Kirtonholme shuid be congratulatit. Fit a rare mornin oot!

Tae and Toast 4

This is a pilot ongaun: mair information aboot hoo tae hae yer ain event can be socht fae or


Orrie? A Dinnae Think It!

Having taught in Dundee for eight years I have noticed an alarming belief amond Dundonian Scots speakers that their language is orrie. ‘Orrie’ is a much more pejorative term than its cognate in Doric, ‘orra’. The ‘orra loon’ was the odd-job boy on a farm and the word has come to be associated with dirty things as a result. An orra story is a dirty joke. In Dundee ‘orrie’ signifies something more completely beneath contempt and is the almost universal moniker for broad Dundonian Scots.

But why? Mary Slessor, Dundonian by upbringing and celebrated heroine of altruistic African missionary work, was a braod Scots speaker; Matthew Fitt, who has undoubtedly done more for Scots in Education than any other individual, is a Dundonian; the Dundee Makar, Bill Herbert, writes in Dundee Scots and English; Michael Marra, legendary, late-lamented folk singer, sang frequently in Dundonian Scots; Oor Wullie and the Broons, responsible for most of the written Scots read regularly over the last fifty years and more, are both products of Dundonian journalism. The list could go on.

The fact is, Dundonian is many things. Orrie is not one of them.

The most unique and distinct thing about the dialect is the ‘eh’ sound, pronounced ‘aye’ in much of the rest of the country. “Eh sehd eh!” was a frequent statement made to me in the early days of my time in Dundee when I was questioning reluctant teenagers. Now, the romanitc story is that this emphatic sound developed in the jute mills where a less robust ‘aye’ might disappear in the noise. Sadly, this is but a myth. The mills were so loud that workers developed their own sign language. The ‘eh’ is more likley due to the mix of Highland and Irish immigration with the local Scots.

Not orrie but adaptable – jinky, indeed.

“A plain peh and an ingan ane an aw” is perhaps the most famous phrase to come out of Dundee. This is beautifully explored by Saint Andrew and the Woolen Mill. Dundonians, it seems, feel the need to accept the plain before they can dream of asking for the extravagent.

Orrie? No – unassuming, or blate and canny.

‘Cundie’ is another particularly Dundonian word. the West of Scotland calls is a ‘sheugh’. Coming from the same root as the French ‘conduit’ this word demonstrates Dundee’s international outlook and ‘come awa ben’ attitude to new things and new comers.

Nae orrie, but inclusive. Fair freen-lyk.

One of my favourite Dundonian expressions is ‘Eh’ll no miss her an hit the waa.’ To me this typifies the direct, no-nonsense approach of Dundee in particular. And for historic reasons, Dundee women are particular. They tended to be the bread winners, working in low-paid jobs in the mills while the unemployed men of necessity ‘biled the kettle’.

This is not orrie, it is feminist pragmatism: sodger-clad but major-mindit.

When a Dundonian takes her leave, the ‘cheerio’ of much of Scotland tends to be abreviated to ‘cho’. So much more couthie, werm and succinct.

Orrie? A dinnae think it.

So if you are lucky enough to have Dundonian Scots, throw your shoulders back, hold your head high and rejoice. It’s nae orrie!cow pie

Ne’er Cast a Cloot til Mey be Oot

Weel div A mine ma Grunnie sayin yon. Bit the winters is lang in Scotland, an its aye the same; first blink o sun an some fowk’s gaun aboot nae half-clad. Bit ony gate, wi hiv it wrang! Ane o the maist kent mistaks seems tae be thit ‘mey’ in ma title is nae the month ava, bit the blossom o the mey-tree – ‘hawthorn’ in Inglis. Gie it a go; try tellin somebody an see if they dinnae tell ye aboot the mistak.IMG_20150121_170842

Fit ither mistaks div wi mak in Scots? Ony teacher can tell ye aboot the confusion aroon the Inglis ‘how’. Bairns faa hiv Scots o ony kine will answer a ‘how’ question be stairtin aff wi ‘because’. The Scots wird ‘how’ means ‘why’ an aat’s the wye they get raivelt.

A hid a guid ane the itther wik. A mannie hid scrievit directions fir ma. Noo the day afore A hid learnt the wird ‘caur’ meaning twa-three calfies. Ono ma bit paper A wis telt tae gang by the caur shawroom. Wir spikkin motor caurs, ye ken. Bit A did tak a lauch at the idea o shawin calfies ahint gless! Mair o a snorel wis tae come. A wis telt tae turn tae ma caur side. Fit? A wirkit it oot, an noo A ken thit ‘caur’ can mean ‘left haun’ an aw.

Ae time a filie syne (a lang filie noo A think aboot it), A wis experimentin in the kitchen. A telt ma sister A’d made a peanut saas tae gang wi oor maet. She speirt, “Satay?” Aw innocent A telt her, “It wisnae ower sautie – a didnae pit in muckle saut, cis ye ken fit peanuts is like” Foo we lauched!

Mine, we deliberately cause confusion wi wirds aa the time. Puns, they’re cried. ‘Fit fit fits fit fit’ is the aft- spoken joke fir Doric spikkers tryin on sheen. (Which foot (shoe) fits which foot?)

Ma pictur is fir anither pun bit it disnae wirk richt in Scots. A’v a nephew his a birthday on Mey the fourth – Luke Skywalker’s birthday (speir at a fan o Starn Waurs). Aye, its nae sic funny in Scots.

Bit ye ken, wir afa lucky: haein baith Scots an Inglis maks puns an wird gemmes a sicht easier. Gie thon gemme Taboo a shot wi a mixtur o Scots spikkers an fowk wi nane. They’ll get fair raist faan ye can yaise aw the wirdies ono the caird, bit in Scots. So if the heid wird is “Christmas”, eence ye’v said “bubblyjock” yer awa. It’s nae on the caird as ‘taboo’; turkey is, bit nae yon! Chaetin? Mebbes.

Bit is aat nae fit ye love about leids? Playin wi yer maet micht be ‘verboten’. Bit playin wi wirds is some eese.

Hunner Wird Challenge

Fitna excitin! There wis a lion at ma door iss mornin afore A’d even ae cornflake inno ma mou! Nae a rael lion, richt eneuch. It wis jist ma cattie, wintin in fir a haet up. Faan A openit the door, oor Elsie fair dauncit he wis that hungert. Nae cereal fir him, nor yet parritch. He gets Go cat ilka day an tuna ilka nicht. Mine, iss mornin ma man wis makin his peece faan I opent aat door. The ham wis oot! It didna staun a chance. Oor Elsie wid aet ham tae the beat o a drum!


Aprile is the coorsest month

‘Aprile is the coorsest month,’ accordin tae TS Elliot. He didna scrieve in Scots, richt eneuch, bit the personification dis gaur ma think oan the metaphorical natur o wir leid.

A wis spikkin tae a wifie nae sae lang syne faa pyntit oot foo direct Scots is. Her example wis the English, ‘it’s raining cats and dogs’ – flooery, evocative an metaphorical. Scots disnae yaise as mony wirds. ‘It’s bucketin’ is a shorter wye o sayin it. Sae is ‘hale watter’. Bit ye ken, thir are baith fair flooery, evocative an metaphorical an aw.

Tae gang awa fae the wither (fir peetie’s sake wi maun ga’wa fae it files!) a fair puckle o Scots is afa metaphorical, ye ken. Billy Kay is fair tricket that ‘wapinschaw’, a term meanin ‘muster’ thit he thocht wis lang deid, is bein yaised in Ayrshire fir bowlin gaitherins. Fit a graan metaphor thon!

Lowsin time and yoking time are baith wirds ma faither yaised ilka wirkin day. Bit as a jyner he nivver hid tae tie horses tae a ploo nor yet lowse them. Foo mony wirkin Scots yaise thay terms withoot minin, or kenning, far they come fae?

Ma mither aye telt ma A hid a ‘tongue that wid clip cloots’. A dinnae ken thit it’s oany less insultin than being telt tae ‘whisht!’ (forbye it hid the same result). In Dundee, fowk telt ye they’ll ‘nae miss her an hit the wa’ – she’s an afa besom, so she is. Fit a rehr image thon! An of course, we hae anither metaphor there an aw, as weel yaised as tae hae bin forgotten: the witch’s besom is bein yaised as synecdoche – the pairt fir the hale. Ilka time ye cry a bodie a ‘besom’ yer likenin her tae a witch.

Maet gie’s us an afa lot o guid images. A fine smell ‘gangs roon ma hairt like a hairy worim’ and a fine taste is a ‘histe ye back’. Noo dinna tell ma ‘moreish’ says as muckle. We yaise metaphor tae name wir maet tae: flees’ cemeteries, bowler hatties, sair heidies and pokie hats. Fine seein A’v a sweet tooth!

Fit metaphorical wirdies his ticklit you, A winner?

Coorse? nae fan we hae sic bonnie heather!
Coorse? nae fan we hae sic bonnie heather!

Yalla Photies

A’m nae affa sure A’v unnerstood iss richt. Bit here’s ma gallery o yalla photies.

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