The Doric Dictionary
I chose to study abroad in Scotland expecting to find it vaguely similar to America—after all, Britain and the U.S. were once one in the same, weren’t they? Both countries speak English, and both generally enjoy meat, potatoes, and beer. I knew that Scotland would be different from home, but I never expected to experience the culture shock that awaited me in the rainy, windy, and beautiful city of Edinburgh. The grocery stores are miniature, with teeny bags of flour and no tofu. The crosswalks are confusing, since the cars drive on the “wrong” side and pedestrians have roughly five to ten seconds to get themselves to the opposite sidewalk before potentially being hit. Pumpkin, whole or canned, virtually does not exist in the same large quantities as in the autumn-obsessed states. I became lost trying to read a short story in a traditional Scottish dialect, in which a line literally reads, “Let a tinkler marry a tinkler, an’ the ane is a king an’ the ither a queen; but to mate wi’ a dependednt being! Figh, fie! A crust o’ cheese an’ moss water to that.” To put it simply, I was a wee bit lost.
Interestingly, most of the students who I’ve met in Edinburgh are English, American, or only mildly Scottish. I was absolutely thrilled that I understood most accents and slang. Everything changed, though, when I got close with my first Glaswegian (hailing from Glasgow). Erin Crockett is a true Scottish native, from her ridiculously thick accent to her wonderful freckles. She pronounces her name “Errrrrin” and mine “Brroooke”—rolling the “R” in both and elongating the “O” in mine. More than anyone else, she has taught me the Scottish way of speaking and conversing. We laugh at each other’s odd accents—mine, a strange and very subtle mix of north-Eastern fast-talk and slurred southern; hers, a strong Glaswegian, or as she (only slightly seriously) says “fae Glasgae.”
Erin and I have put together a list of words and phrases, mostly Scottish with a bit of general British thrown in, that what we like to call “The Doric Dictionary” (Doric being a northern Scottish dialect). Some are useful, some are humorous, and all are real.
Affa: an awful lot
Bahooky: bum, butt, ass
Biscuit: cookies of any kind. Not to be confused with chocolate chip cookies (which are “cookies”) or shortbread cookies (“shortbread”).
Blether: to talk or chat
Bobble: hair tie, scrunchie, ponytail-holder
Can’t be bothered: I don’t feel like it, I’m too lazy
Chavy: a sketchy person
Chips (and cheese): (cheesy) fries
Crisps: chips (i.e. potato chips)
Dawner: a casual wander
Don’t get your knickers in a twist: Don’t get your panties in a bunch
Dressing gown: bathrobe
Fanny: vagina. Also, a person’s name, usually female.
Fringe: bangs (e.g., hairstyle)
Gai: very, i.e. “it is gai windy outside”
Haud yer wheesht: be quiet
Hoover: vacuum cleaner; to vacuum
Kirby grip: bobby pin
Lad, laddie: boy
Lass, lassie: girl
Minging: nasty, grody, unpleasant
Mink, minger: someone who doesn’t or can’t afford to wash
Nae, naw: no
Pants, knickers: underwear
Quid, squidly: money, same as “buck”
Rat-arsed: “drunk off your ass”
Rucksack: backpack, book-bag
Scaffy: someone who doesn’t look after himself or herself or who is dressed horribly.
Scumdee: a negative nickname for the city of Dundee
Shop: (grocery) store
Tea: dinner (although dinner is still a word that is used to describe a nighttime meal)
Wee: small, little