Mostly whimsical reflections on life
Scotsmen have taught the world much, such as Scottish School pragmatism. Some would argue they invented the modern world. And now, as Scotland weighs whether to reclaim its independence by referendum this fall, it is adding to the world’s lexicon of fighting phrases.
The BBC has thoughtfully listed the Scottish verbiage, old and new, that may come in handy whether or not you are voting on your independence.
For example, we all know the meaning of “aye” and can figure out the meaning of “naw.” But think of the linguistic practicality of the Scottish phrasing: Mibbes aye, mibbes naw (maybe yes, maybe no). What better way to answer a politician who asks for your vote – or your money.
Then there is “blether,” which means to talk foolishly or brag. Americans use “blather” to describe a loquacious speaker who says very little, but how much better of a put-down is it to scream at a political rally fully of windbags, “You’re just a wheen o’ blethers!”
We giggle when the British say they will knock up someone at their homes. The Scots have their own expressive term for going door to door. They call it “chappin,” which sounds like something Texans do on horseback.
When Scotsmen quarrel about the independence referendum, they call them rammies, which roughly translates to a “free for all” or “scuffle.” Indeed, some rammies have turned into actual scuffles.
The Scots will vote on whether to be independent or stick with the United Kingdom. Polling shows they wished they could vote on what is referred to in shorthand as “Devo-max,” something short of independence in which the Scots regain control of spending and taxation, but leave the British Parliament the job of providing a mutual defense and coherent foreign policy. Devo-max never made it to the ballot, but seems to be on the tip of many o’ Scottish tongues.
Being called a “feartie” is not a compliment. It implies someone is afraid, and not just of his shadow. Opponents on both sides of the referendum have called each other fearties, pretty much like a bunch of juveniles jeering at a timid companion and calling him “fraidy cat.”
Typing out “Scottish independence referendum” can get tiresome, so “Indyref” is accepted as an abbreviation. It even has its own life on Twitter as #Indyref.
One of the most useful new coinages is “scunnered.” This versatile word can be used as a noun, verb or adjective and probably as an adverb, since no one really knows when and how to use them anyway. This would be a perfect word for Woody Allen who constantly feels a sense of digest, loathing or nausea.
There has been so much hubbub over “Indyref” that two words have been summoned to describe them – “stamash” and the much preferred “stooshie.” Of course hubbub isn’t so bad either.
People who fail to agree with you after you present “the facts” are “thrawn” – perverse, obstinate, contrary, intractable or in a sour mood. This is a word destined to live large in American discourse before long because we seem to have a surfeit of thrawns.
Despite all the blethering, feartie-bating and scunnering, a lot of Scotsmen remain in a “swither,” still undecided how to vote and perplexed about what course to choose.
In that, the swithering Scots have a lot in common with the rest of the world, especially those caught in stooshies of their own.