Ken Ken

“Jeezo, it’s hot.”

Two crumbly old blokes on the bus were complaining about the weather. It was a sultry 18 degrees and they bemoaned their lack of ventilated footwear.

“Only yesterday we were moaning about the rain and the landslides.

“Ha!” I love when old men laugh in short, wheezy bursts. “HA! HA!”

And there’s one reason I adore Scotland. People constantly whinge about things, but they can laugh about the fact they’re whinging.

They went on to complain about tardy buses, football, the Olympics, and how one of them’s bathroom has been prone to flooding since the war. He didn’t specify which one.

Then they started asking after mutual acquaintances. This involved one of the more baffling phrases of the Scots language. When I first arrived off the boat I noticed some people referring to Ken a lot. “Ken what I mean?” they’d say. Who the fuck was Ken and why did everyone in Edinburgh know him? Thank goodness for the Scots Dictionary.

To ken is to know. The word is in frequent everyday use everywhere in Scotland, with the exception of the Glasgow area.

“D’ye ken Mary?”


“Her bathroom leaks tae. D’ye ken Ken?”

“Which Ken?”


“Well I dinnae ken which Ken.”

“Ken fae Leith.”

“Oh aye. I ken Ken.”

“D’ye ken Filthy Fred?”

I’m regretting not going a few stops further to find out who Filthy Fred was.

About Shauna Reid

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8 thoughts on “Ken Ken

  1. I *need* to go to Scotland!!

    The people here in New England complain a lot but not quite so good-naturedly… We complain when it is hot, when it is cold, when it is humid, raining, not raining… you get the idea.

  2. You need to check out a James Kelman book. When I read “How Late it Was, How Late” oh, about a million years ago, it took me a long time to figure out who the hell “ken” was as well. Hee, hee

  3. Too hilarious for words! I was laughing hysterically reading the “ken Ken” line. You should consider contributing these wonderful tidbits to Scottish sitcoms 🙂

  4. I grew up in Edinburgh, and have had many glorious experiences of overhearing old buggers complaining in the local vernacular…your mentions of Edinburgh make me homesick! (good thing I’ll be back visiting there in a couple of weeks)

    My personal favourite overheard phrase was a teenager referring to the stereo he’d just failed to make work: “the f*ckin f*cker’s f*ckin f*cked!”

    It’s harder to enjoy the southern California local dialogue style quite so much. There’s only so many “like, ohmygawd”s you can take…

  5. What would really rock is someone saying: “Alright hen? Ya ken ken, then?”

    … but that may be hoping for too much.

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