Hello Everyone. This week im going all Broons and Oor wullie on you. As a child I used to read these comics almost religously and so I think its only fair to dedicate at least one post to them. When I was a child I learned a lot of special scottish phrases from these comics and have very fond recollections to boot. Okay so how am I going to approach this,
(snaps his fingers) lets do a little history first shall we, that would make sense.
The Broons and Oor Wullie, both born in the 1930’s, have long since been favourites amongst the scots. Licensed and published here in our very own Dundee, they have weekly columns in the Sunday Post, enjoy a yearly annual publication, which alternates each year between the two and between them they can count multiple media coverages, documentaries and celebrity appearances to name but a few. The fact that both comics have been around for over 75 years speaks volumes about their popularity. I even read an article just recently that stated, that the first copies of the first annuals were fetching something in the order of £5000 in online auction sites. CRIVVENS! Believe me when I say, if a scotsman parts that much money, in cash, then he must consider it valuable. You have all heard the story about the two scotsman, the penny and the copper wire, right?
Anyway, the comics have been around for a long time and they are very much ingrained into the national psyche. The stories feature lovable characters, often getting into comical everday situations that everyone can relate to in some respect. So why are we talking about them today? Well like I said, when I was younger I learned A LOT of the scots I know and still use today, by reading these comic books over and over when I was younger. Today i’m going to go through some of the more common phrases and words that cropped up in these books and explain the meanings of them, give examples of usage blah blah blah. I’m not quite sure where to start, as usual so lets just pick the title phrase of this post and then see where it leads from there.
EDIT – After much consideration i decided to not talk about The Broons in this installment because I think it will lead to a VERY long post, therefore i have split it up and will deliver the rest of this post talking about The Broons in another post.
“Jings, Crivvens, Help ma boab!” – An exclamation of surprise,bewonderment and a cry for help all rolled into 1.
I guess the literal translation of this in todays standard english speak would be something like “Oh my goodness gracious me” or “For goodness sake”, Just as a quick side, The phrase “for goodness sake” or “for f***’s sake” gets used a lot in modern day scottish. In fact we use them so much we even abbreviated them just because, well….
… because we are scottish and we are lazy in that sense. We shorten words because it’s easier and sounds a more unique to us and makes it harder for “The Auld Enemy” to understand us (just kidding) :), and well, just because, okay?
Anyway I digress, the short form of the phrase is “ffsake”, Ye i know. Its hard to pronounce, trying to roll an s sound off the back of the f sound WITHOUT a vowel. But it IS doable (is that even a word) lets check
Doable (do able) – the word of choice to express somethings potential to be done, its, shall we say doability e.g
English – “What is the possibility of that being able to be done?”
Scottish – Zat doable?” – Much more efficient.
Why waste time constructing proper grammatical english sentences, when you could have it over and done with in 2 words? We wouldn’t want to waste beer drinking time now would we!
Anyway “doable” is probably not a real word, but we use it in scotland anyway, because we don’t care what anybody else thinks. We “kudnae gee a toss” or “kudnae gee a monkeys”, which both equate to something like “We could not care less” or in unidiomatic terms “We are indifferent to the outcome”. Now where were we, oh yes the title phrase.
So Jings on its own is a fairly neutral expression of surprise or dissapointment. It is fairly close in meaning to another scottish word “jeez”. I would say both of them could be used almost interchangeably, the only difference being “jings” sounds a bit more old fashioned, and to that would probably be used only for comic effect, and “jeez” is more used in a neutral construct, for instance a parent speaking to a child, as a replacement word instead of using something slightly harsher or more adult. Lets look at another example.
Bairn – “Muuummmyy, I felled over”
Mummy – “Awww jeeezzz, are you okay?”
I suppose I could see jings getting used there, but far less often. Another good choice of word for those situations is “deer”, as in “Ohh deer”. The word deer is a very popular word in scotland and it has a fair amount of usage. I wont go into it in too much depth today because i have already written about it in another article, but in short it means Expensive, an affectionate nickname, the actual animal, a polite form of address and as we just used it, an exclamation of compassion. You can read more about it Here.
So anyway jings is a bit like jeez but not as popular. Crivvens is an old old word and as far as i know has no uses in todays active scottish language. The only place I know of it to exist is within the oor wullie comic book. Its meaning is like I already said, like an expression of bewonderment or surprise. Its said exactly like it looks.
It used to be used in combination with by or holy, which only served to accentuate the meaning of it. As an example consider the following sentences.
“Crivvens! His boabs lang past helpin noo”
“By crivvens! Waur did a that cum frae?”
“Holy Crivvens! If i didna see it masel, id a ne’er bleeved i'”
and the translations
“Its no wonder! theres no saving him now”
“What on earth! Wherever did all that come from?”
“God almighty! That has to be seen to be believed”
Each of them expresses the notion of amazement or bewonderment but, with the addition of By or Holy, it multiplies the severity of the emotion felt by the speaker, holy being the greater of the 2.
In modern day scots we still use the “holy” intensifier in our everyday language. A phrase like “Holy Crivvens” would now be more likely to be expressed as “Holy Christ” or even just simply “Jeesus” (A phrase particularly favoured by the irish community). In fact a lot of everday cussing revolves around blasphemous phrases. This however i will not go into today though, because I want to save it for another post.
Interestingly enough you can replace crivvens with jings in almost any sentence, and it basically has no impact on the meaning of it. The only sentence above where it does not go is “holy jings”. That does NOT work at all.
Help ma boab on the other hand, does have a use in modern scottish. At least round my parts anyway. The actual phrase translates to something like “god help me” or “woe is me” and rather than being a cry for actual help, it is a self criticism used by speakers to highlight their own failures (We dont do that in scotland do we?) For an example imagine workers in a factory, having had nothing to do for weeks on end, the morning cup of tea at 10 o’clock is finished and all the speculation of what the days work will bring is over because the foreman has already been around and confirmed that which they all already knew – Theres nothing doing today. Two men are standing around talking between themselves.
Bored man no1 – “well thats torn it”
Bored man no2 – “how?”
Bored man no1 – “Well the gaffers jist ehfter been roon n telt is that wiv nowt t dae the day”
Bored man no2 – “aye, ken, spose wull jist hiv t dae the same as yestirday”
Bored man no1 – “(sighs) Help mA BOAB!”
The capitals at the end of the last sentence are to emphasize that the speakers voice and tone raises towards the end of the saying, thereby stressing the usage of it. The translation is something like this.
Bored man no1 – “ah for goodness sake”
Bored man no2 – “what do you mean?”
Bored man no1 – “Well, the boss has just spoken to me and confirmed that we dont have any work to do today again”
Bored man no2 – “I guess there’s nothing better to do than just carry on like we have been already this week”
Bored man no1 – “(sighs) I am so fed up of all this waiting”
I just had a pause and a re-read there, i’m rambling a bit. Lets get on with it shall we?
In the comic picture at the top of this post, it features a dialog between wee eck and oor wullie. In it wee eck says “that’ll teach ye to give me a dud tanner”.
The tanner was a unit of old money that google assures me was worth about 6 pence back in the day when 1 pound consisted of 240 pennys. Now i’m far too young to know anything about old money so i guess you can just google it like I did if you feel like you need to know more. An equivalent dialog in todays dundonian would be something like “Thats whit ye get fir geein iz a dodgy fehver”, which would be delivered right after the speaker had given the other person a “dooin” for handing over fake money.
What is a “dooin”, well, its a bit of a beating up, a kicking, an engagement of one way fisticuffs, a raw transfer of energy from person to another with the intention of inflicting harm. In dundee when I was a kid at school, if another kid wanted to “put the fear in you” by way of threat for something you had done or were going to do, they would say “Meh mate/big brother/cousin/dad ‘ll batter you”. There was nothing worse than the threat of a battering hanging over you in a dundee primary school.
And so there it was, an explanation of the title of the post with a wee insight into each of the words used and several real life usages of them and a “tiny” bit of rambling in between. I think i covered everything i wanted to in this post and i hope you enjoyed it as much as i did writing it. If you think theres anything missing,mistakes or wanted me to talk about something else specific then leave me a comment at the bottom
cheerio for noo, and see ye efter.
Make sure you tune in next time for part 2… at some point this decade.