Ten years ago today my sister and and I arrived in Edinburgh. My first week was spent whinging about the £1 = $2.60 exchange rate*, drooling over men in kilts on Princes Street (sadly not a regular occurrence; just rugby fans), grumbling about the snoring dude in the youth hostel, searching for work and accommodation, swooning at the sun setting over the Castle, and generally believing I could control the shape of my two-year stay through meticulous planning and to do lists.
I’d hoped to write some profound reflections on this unexpectedly long Scotland stay but looking back through my 2003 mega Book of Lists I found the long-running one below, where I noted new-to-me words. There are so many things I love about this country, but the juicy words it’s added to my vocab may be the most golden prize of all.
Disclaimer for the pedantic: These words may not all be of Scottish origin, I just first heard them whilst living here.
All the definitions in quotes are courtesy of the Scottish Vernacular Dictionary.
- numpty – “a useless individual”
- bawbag – “a useless individual”.. Or a scrotum, obviously. Or an affectionate greeting in our household, “Awright bawbag!”
- dug – a dog
- dobber – “A tube, a bampot” which are also terms meaning “a useless individual”… are you sensing a theme?
- pish – it’s a verb and noun for urine/ation but it’s most useful as a descriptive term for something that is rubbish, boggin’, pants, terrible. I dunno how I survived so long without being able to say, “You are talking pure PISH”.
- fanny – lady parts but mostly usually “A stupid or clumsy person”.
- coupon – pronounced “coo’pn”. It’s your face. I most frequently hear it as, “You’ve got a bit of tomato ketchup on your coupon”.
- shoogle – to shake. Gareth says this when cooking dinner, “I’m just going to give the oven chips a shoogle”.
- skelf – a splinter. One of my favourites! I was confused the first time I heard Gareth say, “I’ve got a wee skelf and it’s driving me daft!”.
- jobby – a turd! I actually loathe this word. It is almost onomatopoeic and makes me want to run from the room. See also the loathsome phrase, “turtle’s heid”.
- baffies – slippers. It just sounds comfortable!
- skive – to slack off from work; or bludge as the Australian goes. “I skived off school today”.
- clarty – dirty, unkempt. Correct spelling “clatty” according to the dictionary. Gareth often says this to me, “What’ve you spilled on your shirt now, you clarty bastard!”
- stooky – correct spelling: “stookie”. Plaster cast for a broken limb. Isn’t that a brilliant word? Sign mah stookie!
- belter – “Something that is very good – ‘that’s a pure fuckin belter by the way'”
- pan – verb – to break
- windaes – windows. There was a local band that had a song called “Yer Windaes Are Panned” which is just bloody brilliant.
- boak – to vomit. “The thought of breakfast with this hangover is giving me the boak”. Endlessly useful word.
- spuggie – a sparrow! another all-time favourite. Such an energetic wee word for an energetic wee bird.
I wish I’d kept this list going over the years, there’d be SO many more since then!
* today the exchange rate is £1 = $1.45 AUD. Reverse pain.