Thursday, 10 June 2010

Scottishisms – A Repost

I’ve just posted about “boorach” and “ropach” and, in the comments, Andrew has left a couple of other words from his childhood.  This reminded me that more than 2 years ago I posted on “Scottishisms”.  Given that my readership has changed so much I thought it would be worthwhile – and easy – to repost.  Here it is.


I think my brain is mush. For the last couple of days I've found several topics I wanted to write about but my brain hasn't been able to put the piece together. My poor frazzled brain has tripped out (drugless!!) and refused to function. I'm left, therefore, with finding a topic of interest that requires no brain power and I've found it: Scottishisms (or Scottish colloquialisms).

I'm sure there are lists available of Scottish words or Scottish phrases but here I'm only going to post a few which my parents used.

"Yer bum's oot the windae"

translates as: “your bum is out of the window”

means: “you have no chance”

My father would use this when, for example, we were playing cards - whist or rummy - and he knew that we were going to lose.

“Ah’ve seen mair meat on a butcher’s pencil”

translates as: “I have seen more meat on a butcher’s pencil”

means: “The person being spoken about is very slim / thin”

Many of you will be too young to remember the times before electronic cash registers when a butcher would write, with his pencil, on a piece of brown paper the price of each item bought. The butcher would tally up the total cost and then wrap the items in the brown paper. Because the pencil was always on, or close to , the counter it would pick up fragments of meat but not very much. Therefore, to describe a person as having less meat on them than a butcher's pencil meant that they must be very thin.

“Ah’ve seen bigger kneecaps on a sparra’ “

translates as: "I have seen bigger kneecaps on a sparrow"
means: "The person talked about is very slim / thin"

Person must be very thin if a sparrow has bigger kneecaps

"(S)he's as broad across the shudders as a kipper atween the een"

translates as: ""(S)he is as broad across the shoulders as a kipper between the eyes"

means: "The person talked about is very slim / thin"

A kipper is a herring split from head to tail, gutted, salted and smoked. The distance between a kipper's eyes is quite small. Therefore, someone described in this way must be very thin.

"Ye think yer the whole cheese and yer not even the smell."

translates as: "You think you are the whole cheese and you are not even the smell"

means: "You think you are very smart but you are not nearly as smart as you think"

I assume that this comes from the view that a whole cheese comprises rind, smell, taste and texture and so one who is not even the smell is a long long way from being the finished article or from where they think they are.


  1. Away an' bile yer heid (translation: Leave my presence immediately and place your head in a vat of bubbling water because what you just said has no validity whatsoever).

    Whit a stoater (translation: That is indeed a rather pretty young girl over there).

    Yer mooth's aw broon (translation: Unfortunately good friend, what you have just said is so invalid it could be compared with the colour of faeces).

    Oh, so many more could be offered...

  2. here's tae us
    wha's like us
    gang few
    an they're aw deid


  3. I like the cheese one best.

  4. I would love to use them, and impress my Scottish friends, but I don't know how to pronounce those words.

  5. I particularly like the variety of words to express the opinion that something is not nice/good. E.g. Minging, bowfing, louping, manky, etc. I suspect I have probably spelt these all wrong but they're not words you see written down very often.

  6. Indeed, Ruth. These are words I have often applied to Andrew's writing but never had the "balls" to write.

  7. Claudia, give me a few days and I'll see what I can do to help you with the pronunciation.

  8. Enjoyed a fantastic trip and a excellent experience through studying your blog