Tag Archives: Dundee

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. www.youtube.com/watch?v=0c4l_T3KRNo 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