Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Scots Words

Scots-English/ English-Scots Dictionary Compiled by David Ross & Gavin D. Smith (Hippocrene Books, 1999).

I’ve been dipping into a Scots-English Dictionary lately. I picked it up to check the spellings of some Scottish words I used in dialogue in one of my stories. But that task done, I can’t stop browsing because I love these words. Here are some that I particularly like:

agley adv astray; awry; askew; obliquely. [This one’s well-known thanks to the famous line from Robert Burns’ To a Mouse: “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men gang aft agley.”]

bletherskite n babbler; braggart.

braw adj fine; handsome; splendid; admirable; worthy.

dreich adj bleak; depressing; dismal; drab; dreary; godforsaken; monotonous.

drookit adj soaked; drenched.

glaur n mud; ooze.

gowk n fool; simpleton. [In my experience (just overhearing it said to other people of course…), generally used as follows: “Ye daft gowk!”]

smirr n hazy rain. [I recently bought a wonderful Anthology of Scots literature that caught my eye thanks to its fabulous title: The Smoky Smirr O Rain.]

The particular appeal of these words to me is that each one sounds like what it means. That is, with the exception of “agley” which sounds very smooth and harmonious to me in complete contrast with its meaning. It’s a lovely word though.

This dictionary is a “pocket” one which unfortunately comes without a pronunciation guide. I may have to seek out a more comprehensive volume. Mind you, many of the words read like Scottish pronunciations of English words. But given the tangled provenance of these languages, who knows which came first. (Okay, some linguist knows, but I don’t.)

For a brief history of the Scots language click here. If you’d like to do some browsing of your own, you can find an online Scots-English dictionary here.

1 comment:

goodnightsafehome said...

Enjoyed your blog about the Scots words. I like to introduce some Scots words mysel' intae my blog. There is a bit of a revival in the Ulster Scots (Scotch-Irish) scene in Northern Ireland.