Wha Daur Meddle wi ma Lingo – –

Jack’s Wednesday post makes it over the line in time – –

As Wendy continues to deliver masks, hand sanitizer and gloves around this corner of the world as well as trying to hit three publisher deadlines, I’m still holding the fort here on her blog. She is hoping to be back next week!!

I may have posted about this before, but language is something that fascinates me, and particularly my own Scots language. From an early age I have spoken a mixture of standard English and Scots. More recently, my singing of songs and ballads in Scots has probably made me even more aware and more knowledgeable. It didn’t hurt to have a grandfather living with us from my birth until I was fourteen who was a very natural Scots speaker.

Because of the ‘Scotch-Irish’ who were the main settlers here in Appalachia I’m often asked about my language and vocabulary whenever I sing at concerts or festivals. This is what I usually say – Scots and English are two different but related languages. Think of Spanish and Portuguese, or Danish and Norwegian. The same kind of relationship. Scots differs from English in many ways – sentence structure, vocabulary and pronunciation etc. It’s not simply a dialect of English.

The problem is that when the King James Bible was published English became the predominant written language throughout Britain, while Scots continued until very recently as only a spoken one. Over time and following the establishment of The United Kingdom Scots began to be regarded as a ‘sub-language’ and for anyone to succeed in life they had to master English.

So let’s take a look at some examples of Scots language alongside the English translation –

It’s a braw bricht moonlicht nicht the nicht (it’s a lovely bright moonlit night tonight).

Mony a mickle maks a muckle (lots of small things makes a big thing).

Ah kent his faither an clappit his dug (I knew his father and even patted his dog).

Through the historical connections over many centuries with other European countries, Scots has often borrowed words from Germany, France and Scandinavia. Kirk for Church (German), bigging for building (Scandinavian), ashet for large plate (French). There are also some imports from Gaelic such as whisky and loch.

Because Scots became a mainly spoken rather than written tongue various local versions developed over the years, So Aberdonian is quite different from Glaswegian or Fife.

Happily, following the re-convening of the Scottish Parliament there has been a greater effort to encourage a proper appreciation of my language in schools and colleges.

But something that still depresses me is when I see written passages with apostrophes to indicate supposed missing letters – continuing to suggest that Scots is just poorly pronounced English. No, it isnae ava.

If you’d like to find out more this is a great resource – https://www.scotslanguage.com/articles/node/id/575

5 thoughts on “Wha Daur Meddle wi ma Lingo – –

  1. Thanks, Jack. I’m still muddleing over some of the James Hogg books. Some in English, but the song books mostly. Scots. I also have a pile of Historic Romance, another Cozy Mysteries, based on American concept of Scotland.

  2. When I first started reading the novels of Sir Walter Scott his insistence on scots in, for instance, THE HEART IF MIDLOTHIAN , made it v hard going till I picked up the rhythm of it. 🌹

    Laura Kalpakian Author of The Great Pretenders ravennablue@gmail.com laurakalpakian.com Facebook // Twitter


  3. My grandfather, born in Perthshire at the turn of the previous century, used to tell us that he spoke five languages before he came here at the age of 10. When we looked suitably astonished, he’d then name five towns. (His father was famous for telling kids on New Year’s Eve that, if they walked up to the corner – a mile away – and waited long enough, they’d see a man with as many noses as there were days left in the year. My mother said each grandchild fell for that one exactly once.)

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