Scots Words

Last time: the magic of Scotland. This week – a little bit about Scots words.

I didn’t use many Scots dialect words in The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle. Using dialect is tricky. Too much and people get turned off. Too little and the story doesn’t sound authentic.

words kill

A kill

But the Scottish language is so rich and varied. It’s often said that the Inuit have more than 50 words and phrases associated with snow. But there are more than 400 Scots words associated with snow. These include flindrikin (a slight snow shower), spitters (small drops or flakes of wind-driven rain or snow), and unbrak (the beginning of a thaw.)

Words I did choose to use include ken (to know), bairn (child), and laird (landowner). When I named the castle Rookskill, it was to suggest death (with the word kill), but also because in Scotland a kill is a kiln-shaped chasm in the rocks, linked to the sea by a tunnel, and Rookskill is near the sea.

Rooks are birds of the crow family. But you wouldn’t want to run into a bogle (a specter) or a kelpie (water demon).

words burn

A burn in the Scottish Highlands

Scotland is characterized by many fast-running streams and so has many words for running water: burn (stream), cleugh (a gorge that is the course of a stream), glen (a hollow traversed by a stream), grain (tributary), pow (slow-moving stream), stank (pond), syke (small stream)…I could go on.

haggis_A0

Tatties, haggis, and neeps

And, of course, perhaps the most well-known of Scots poets is Robbie Burns. Burns is beloved by Scots, and every January 25th, his birthday is celebrated in Scotland and the world over by a Burns Supper, at which a traditional Scottish meal of haggis (a savory dish of sheep innards), tatties (potatoes), and neeps (turnips) is served and the bard’s words are recited, culminating with his most famous:

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!

And gie’s a hand o’ thine!

And we’ll talk’ a right guid-willie waught,

For auld lang syne.

Next time – all about Lady Macbeth.

2 Responses to “Scots Words”

  1. Lawrence Roy

    After watching the five episodes of outlander,I thought I’d read a few of Diana Gabaldon’s series of related books.The books,more so than the tv series really uses a hugh amount of the Scottish dialect.their language with its guttural and sibilant sounds seems to mirror the once hard and unforgiving life style of their highland culture.Thanks for the brief word lesson. I look forward to more.

  2. Hanna

    Hi from Poland. English is my second language and I have been teaching it for years. Scotland for many reasons is of my great interest. My daughter lives in Scotland. In her address there is +burn. Thank you for claryfying “burn”!