I love to see the look on the faces of foreign language speakers when they have recently arrived in Scotland. Of course, they go there thinking that their English lessons are going to make life easy for them. Right? Wrong.
Apart from having a fairly impenetrable accent, we Scots also have a host of unique words we love to use. While the basis of our tongue is English, all it can take is a ken, a braw or a drookit in a sentence to throw a non native speaker completely off balance.
So what are the best and most useful Scots words and phrases to learn?
If you have ever watched the film Benny & Joon then you have already heard this word, even if you didn’t realise it at the time. Haver (and havering) are included in the lyrics of the popular song I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) by Scots band The Proclaimers. The song is part of the soundtrack to this film and a few others as well. What does it mean, though? Well, it means to talk rubbish or to try and discuss something you know nothing about. Saying “Stop yer havering” is way to tell someone to stop spouting nonsense.
This expression isn’t a million miles away from what it would be in English but I am not sure how easy it is for a non Scot to work out what it means. It basically means “What’s for you will not go by you”, as in “What is meant for you by fate won’t pass you by”. It’s a nice wee Scots expression which probably takes a lot of practise for a non Scot to get right.
Haud Yer Wheesht
This is a Scottish way of asking someone to be quiet. It is quite a funny expression and my mum uses it a lot so I don’t find is as offensive as telling someone to “Shut Up”. Haud simply means hold and wheesht can also be used on its own to mean the same thing. I don’t think that wheesht means anything in any other context.
Lang May Yer Lum Reek
If someone says this to you then you might think that it is a bit of an insult they are throwing at you. However, they are actually wishing you a long and prosperous life. Lum is chimney and reek is smoke, while lang is long. So we are really saying here that we hope that your chimney keeps on smoking for a long time, which would be a good thing really.
Dae Ye Ken
Before I forget, I better explain what the title is all about. “Dae ye ken” is “Do you know”. Some Scottish words are more common in parts of the country than in others and I personally have never used ken in this context when speaking. However, if you want to give your new Scots words and phrases a try sometime then everyone across the country will understand what you mean with this.
Have you ever been baffled by a Scots phrase you didn’t understand?