Jings, Crivvens, Help ma boab!

Jings, Crivvens, Help ma boab.

Jings, Crivvens, Help ma boab.

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.

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Its Easter, Was up fir a picnic?

Wa Egged?

Wa Egged?

Hello everyone. Its easter time, the sun is out, the perennials are blooming, the birds are singing and its time for a picnic. Today is not exactly a word of the day but more a tradition of the year special. In an earlier post i did threaten to make a foray into the traditions and customs that are enjoyed here in Scotland, with the view to highlighting the way we do things here. A bit of cultural background always sits well to break up the monotony. So without further ado lets get stuck into the first of a new series of posts on traditional things we do here and what they mean to us (well me anyway)

Scottish is easy – Tradition of the year

So. Its just been easter weekend here in scotland, which traditionally falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the March equinox :O

Ye i know that was a brainfull wasn’t it. It usually appears in the yearly calendar or nowadays you can google it to find out when it is (ye i know, how did people manage these things in the past before the internet?). The holiday is traditionally a religious one, being celebrated by christians as the rebirth of Mr J of the C. For the religious of us Easter Sunday is usually one of special church services, personal reflection and usually the associated festivities that go along with. The story goes that Jesus died on X day at the end of a long crucifiction, and was buried in a tomb, which was then marked with a rock. He was resurrected and rose again, which was only discovered because the rock was moved away from the entrance to the tomb, and the tomb was empty. One of the traditions at this time of year to celebrate the ressurection, is the rolling of an easter egg. This was traditionally done to represent the rolling of the stone, away from the entrance to the tomb and symbolise the rebirth of christ.

Many moons ago, during times of hardship, a boiled egg was used, often decorated in various different ways, to represent the rolling stone. Children would often get involved in decorating the egg, by painting or drawing on it for example with felt pens or watercolour paints, to make faces or other catchy designs. The boiled egg was used because it was cheap and easy to get hold of. The aim of the egg rolling was to (in scottish)

“Roll i’ doon a hill n stoa’ i’ aff a dockey sos t brak i’.

That was

“Roll it down a moderate to sharp incline, with the view to purposely hitting it off of a stone or otherwise, in order to break the shell of it”

Quite often, depending on the location of the incline, the retrieval of said egg would be half of the fun, avoiding ankle breaking falls, the sting of various scottish weed varieties, and other general hazards. A concerned parent can often be heard mutterances of the following nature.

“wahtch yersels goin doon there, its awfy steep so dinna be fahin n brakin yer neks”

And just shortly after

“wahtch oot fur they jaggy nettles, eh canna see any dokins so yer fur it if ye get stung”

Now that loosely translates to something like the following

“Be careful descending that incline, its very sharp so be careful not to fall and incapacitate yourselfs”
“Watch out for those stinging nettles, there are no available medicinal leaves that i can see so your on your own if you do get stung.”

Ahh the memories. For those of you that dont know, the Jaggy Nettle (Scientific name – Urtica dioica) is a common weed found growing almost anywhere, where plant life is sustainable. Unplanned contact with one is sure to deliver a painful sting, which swells up to look like a heatrash (red itchy spots). It doesn’t do any real harm to be stung by one but it hurts like F. The germans, apparently have this plant growing in their wilderness too and have even got an idiom to go along with it – Sich in die Nesseln setzen – Which is literally like – To sit ones self in the nettles – which actually means to get yourself into trouble, or in hot water. In scotland we say “get yersel intae bather” which is just like it sounds.

So anyway where were we? oh yeah, eggs are boiled, roll down the hill, you retrieve them, get yourself into hot water (by being stung by nettles) and eggs need hot water to get boiled in the first place. Good.

Anyway in britain most of the religious part of the seasonal holiday has been lost on the general public, and old mr commercialisation, has taken his own rather distorted view of things and turned it into what its now known as today. Thats chocolate eggs, easter bunnies, cards with little chicks on it (for your school teacher?!?!?) and a whole lot of other nonsense. Chocolate goes through an incredible price gain of about 1000% at this time of year and the television and supermarkets cram it down your throat no end. Even mr C of the ad.burys has a ball with their ‘onlyavailableatthistimeofyearcremeeggathon’. In short its just the usual pish, mr commercial and all his mates looking to make a quick buck on the british public and raking in a fortune whilst they do so.

So where does that leave the tradition and what it means to us scots?

Well its a family time of year first off. In all the chaos of the modern day and busy lives we need to lead to pay for gadgets we wont need to shop for stuff to buy and own that we dont need to fill the pockets of those that would let us, its hard to put some time aside for your family and those that mean the most. Easter is one of those times in the year, when everybody can make time to go and meet somewhere, have a picnic and a gas and catch up on all thats been going on.

In a day and age when you see people more often at funerals or weddings, than you do any other time, its refreshing to have national dates in the calendar, where you are supposed to make time for such things. Everyone brings something to contribute to the picnic, the kids get let off to go to the park (attended of course), the adults stuff their faces with 1 too many egg mayo pieces and maybe a little chocolate in afterwards if they can manage. Its a day when the world gets put to rights, and when everything seems not so bad for a time. From year to year the weather is never the same (same as day to day in scotland actually) and it wouldn’t be the first time we took winter wellies and trod through snow, and it wont be the last time we all had to wear shorts and t-shirt because of the intense heat (about 15Deg in scotland)

Easter sunday, is family sunday and, although we have mostly lost the original meanings of what the day was about, alot of the values that would have been attached to that still shine through today. I mean, wenn else kid ye ging n stuff yer fese, n then dae yer dinger in wee the bairns afore gaun awa back hame n haen a seet n mebbe a sleep n a? Probably xmas time if im not mistaken but thats ages away.

Mind you i wouldn’t be surprised if the shops start selling that one early this year, especially if we have a crummy summer (like we always do)

Anyway that was easter in an eggshell, i hope you at least enjoyed it a wee bit, n if ye didna ye can awa n bile yer heeds (n mebbe yer eggs n a)

Thats kinda how it is here and if ye can be bathered ata yel mebbe tell is how it is n yoor place.

See ye ehfter.

I know it was a reel short ane. eh ran oot o steam half way throo n ah kudna be ehrsed ehfter that.

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Oh deer!


Hello again and welcome to all of you. This week we are going to be talking about a particular favourite word of the scotish language – deer – it can also be spelled dear, which sounds exactly the same but means something else when written in print. This brings about some confusion if you are not from Scotland and are trying to figure out what exactly is being talked about so hopefully i can clear that up in this article for you, amongst the rambling, likely moaning and whatever else happens to cross my mind whilst i am writing the article. This word can function as an adjective, a noun and also has a few other roles which we will discover in due course. So without further ado lets delve into it ‘heidfirst’ and see what we can discover.

Word of the week – Deer/Dear

Like i said before the word has several major uses in the scottish language. So to start off with im going to attempt to list some of the uses (in no particular order) and then afterwards we can go through them one by one and talk about them with supporting examples.

  • Deer – Expensive (costs a lot of money)
  • Dear – Your affectionate name for your wife or description of something valuable to you
  • Deer – The actual animal
  • Dear – The polite form of address for someone
  • deer – Exclamation of compassion

There is probably some other meanings as well but those are the main ones. So while i did not list them in the actual order of popularity of usage, it happens that the first one is the most popular usage, at least to me anyway. So.

Deer Examples

“How much fir a that?”
“Its a fehver!”
“whut? thats awfy deer, um no paeyin that.”

“Can I ask what the total cost is for all these items?”
“Its five pounds exactly sir”
“Excuse me? Thats extremely expensive, i think you will find that i won’t be paying that”

Quite often when we use the expensive deer, we use an intensifier word or phrase along with it to confirm which usage we mean. Ok if you were the attendant serving in the shop and you heard the word “deer” on its own you would still understand, and in some contexts it does get used on its own. Like, for example

“Which ane did ye wahnt?”
(points) “eh the deer ane”

“which one would you like”
(points) “the most expensive one please”

I know real scots wouldn’t really say that, i mean they would always pick the least expensive one, like so

“gees the cheep ane wid ye”
“Can you please just give me the least expensive one please”

But at least that was an example of how it can be used on its own. So anyway mostly it gets used in conjunction with another word or phrase to clarify its usage or expand on the meaning. A few examples of the likely candidates follow. In approximate order of comparative expensiveness, from lowest to highest.

  • no deer ata
  • A wee bu’y deer (remember the glottal notation from last time?)
  • Deer
  • Awfy deer
  • Awfy awfy deer
  • A wee bu’y too deer
  • so deer its no even wurth it

And the translations of them along with the likelyhood of purchase

  • Not in the least bit expensive – Almost a certain sale to be had
  • Slightly expensive – Still a reasonable sales prospect
  • Expensive – Needs consideration, if its a necessity then it will likely be purchased
  • Very Expensive – Usually not but if the wife or the bairn nags enough, it can still happen
  • Super Expensive – You have got to be kidding, i mean i have got the money, but i’m not going to fork out for it
  • Out of price range – This item is out of reach of your price budget, now you CAN’T pay for it instead of WON’T
  • Reserved for absolute rip offs – Even if you DID have the money, you would never pay that much for it, “Nae Danger” as they say in glasgow or gleskae as they like to call it

So, that was by no means an exhaustive list of all the possible uses of deer as a measure of expense in scotland, but it is fairly comprehensive. There are lots more other variations, but that just depends mainly on

A) How much doh (pronounced dough aka money) the speaker has
B) How much the speaker is willing to spend (his gripitness in scotland)
C) How much the speaker values the worth of the item comparatively.

Now aside from money the other thing most scots men hold dear to them (did you see it) is their spouse, wife, missus, other half, trouble’n strife, she that must be obeyed or if your annoyed at them then just simply “her”. It’s worth noting that if you use her in the annoyed context it sounds more like “hur”. So imagine a scots couple discussing financial matters and it sounds a bit like this

Wife “Tam”
Husband “eh, what!”
Wife “ehm awa tae the clubby thenite wee ma pals n ahm needin sum doh! Huv yeany?
Husband “nuht, ehve only a few Boab left fur gaen doon fir a pint wee the boys ehfter.
Wife “you must be pulling my pisser, ye were only jist awa lest nite, gies it here.
Husband “yes dear”

Wife “tam”
Husband “yes dear what is it?”
Wife “the girls and I are going to let our hair down tonight, is it possible that you might have some spare cash to give me?
Husband “I’m sorry dearest, I’m all out, that which I have left is sadly earmarked already.
Wife “I don’t believe a word of it, surely you can spare some for me, I mean I am your wife after all.
Husband “yes dear”

And with that last sentence, it pretty much sums up what that word gets used for in Scotland when referring to your spouse. It’s the “I fought the wife and the… Wife won” (who likes clash) submission phrase. We would never use it as a form of address for the missus, at least not that I’ve heard of unless of course you were truly under the thumb. The only time I can imagine it being used like that is if you did something wrong. You know,

Husband “dearest, you know that mortgage you told me not to buy?”

And you can guess what’s coming next. The fact that he even referred to her with a pet name shows him up immediately. He needn’t say anything more and she already has her heckles up. In fact so powerful is this single word as an address that it even works on its own.

Husband “dearest?”
Wife “what have you done now?”

So the moral of the story so far is

If you want to be dear to your dearest, then simply tell her the bills this month were not dear.

Now just before I move on I wanted to examplify the “her” usage to give it it’s own wee story. I always feel like the meaning of the words is better communicated with a little narrative. So, after tams submission to the wife, he is on the phone to his mate, explaining why he can’t come out.

Mate “so how ye no cumin doon thenite?”
Tam “och ye ken whit like, its hur, she teein ma doh aff iz nsawa spendin it.
Mate “that’s nae yis”

Mate “what’s your reasons for a no show tonight then?”
Tam “you know how it is, I blame it on the wife, she has taken what was left of my money away from me and is away out spending it.
Mate “oh dear”

Okay so this time round the ‘Oh deer’ ended up in the translation, which is fine because this particular phrasing/usage call it what you will is understood across all of the United Kingdom and probably for that matter most of the English speaking world. It is not special to scotland.

Another usage of this kind of “dear” is one that comes packaged in the phrasing “Oh deery me” which roughly translated is something like “Oh woe is me” or “Oh goodness gracious me” or other similar phrasings of that ilk. Mostly it gets used reflectively i.e in reference to ones self like –

“(stretches) aaaaaahhhhhh deeeeeeery me! Im so damn tired.”

“(stretches) oh my gooooodnesssss! Forty winks right now would do me the world of good.”

At least that’s how i hear it used most often anyway.

Now the next 2 on the list are kinda self contained/explained. 1 is the actual animal, if you don’t know what one is then you should either consult with mr s.claus or watch bambi.

The second of the 2 is the formal use of the word when writing some official communication, you know

Dear soandso, we regret to inform you that blah blah blah

Neither uses are special to Scotland and so I won’t go into any more detail about them here. That leaves me to swiftly move on to the final deer in the list. I guess that means the article is nearly over. Oh dear! You were probably just starting to enjoy it too.

The last usage is that of soft exclamation. It mostly gets used to replace swear words or harsher phrases when in dialog with a child or similar. The most popular phrase that comes to mind is “oh dear”.

Imagine a young child with its mother

Child – “Mummy i done accidents”
Mummy – “Oh dear, come here wee one n let me see”

The “oh dear” in this sentence replaces lots of other potentially harsher sounding words and simply softens the situation. It also can be heard to be used in a quintessential English phrasing. This is the one you use when as an individual, are presented with an insurmountable task or unavoidable reality.

For example. You are planning on going out for an evening with your friends. Its not too extravagant (that is, its no too deer) but it does involve a cost. You open up your laptop and turn it on, wait for it to load up (how can it be takin so lang? this wuz a deer ane!) and finally log into your digital banking to check your funding. Oh dear! Computer says no. But you could have equally just got notice of your redundancy (get your books in scotland), news of an illness, change of personal circumstances, broken down car and so on and so on. All of those situations would warrant an “Oh deer” said to yourself, softly or aloud if others were there to hear it. We do have in Scotland, a multitude of other phrasings/cusswords/exclamations to describe those situations but i think i’m going to save them for a later article.

If there is one thing we know how to do in scotland, its how to add richness and colour to our language when it comes to complaining about things. None of this “oh deer” nonsense. We do it right.

Anyway thats enough of me n my pish for the meantime. Im sure you all would dearly love to… do whatever it was that you were doing before you ended up on here wasting your time reading about deer. So that was deer, wasna too deer, n y a lernt a wee bu’y aboot how t yase deer. Wether it was fir yer wife, yer doh (no the animal ane), yer bairn or any o the ither anes waur abdee else yaisis it anyway.

One final thing as a wee sidenote. A little feedback would be appreciated, i’m needing some direction for my posts but i need your help to guide me. Dinna be shy noo!

Cheery o fir noo n mebbe ull c yis efter.

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How kinni no?

Kinneh dae it? Nuht, ye kanna!

Typical Scottish Couple 😉

Hello everyone and welcome back to another edition of
The Word Of The Week

This week i will be talking about the word kin and exploring some of the possibilities around its use, the possible meanings and also some other similar sounding or meaning words that are close to it. On the face of it “Kin” is a simple word. It looks like the english word “Kin”, which means family or relatives and indeed it does get used like this as in “Next of Kin”

Its main purpose however is the Scottish verb kin, which means “to be able to” or “can”. Last week i talked about “ken” which has a similar meaning but there is some subtle differences between them, which i will try to explain.

So lets get to it and see what we kin dae wee it.

Kin – “To be able to” or “Can”
Pronunciation – Is pronounced exactly like the English word kin as in “next of kin”
Origin – General Scottish word. Used and understood by all Scottish dialects.

i can – i will be able to – i could

    Conjugation Table

Grammatical Person Simple Past Simple Present Simple Future
Eh (I) Kid Kin Kooda
Yoo (You) Kid Kin Kooda
Ee,shee,it (He,she,it) Kud Kin Kooda
We Kud Kin Kooda
Yoos (you all) Kud Kin Yoos kuda ‘a
Thay (They) Kud Kin Thay kuda ‘a
Bonus Negation

Anyone Kudna Kanna Kudnao

So as the table shows, for the most part there is no differences of the word, when used for different grammatical persons, within the same grammatical tense. This grammatical simplification facilitates the ease of recall. My goodness that did sound complicated,

… what is it?
Not even lunchtime yet and i’m already bringing out the big guns. Grammatical this and facilitation of simplicity that. Its faaar too late in the week for that kind of caper.

Lets just put it simply shall we?

The words r amost the same for wha’evers speakin so it maks it eesier fur abdy tae ken them, then efter thay kin a use them the rite way y’ken?

How was that?


Anyway, kin is a basic scottish verb conjugated as so in the table above. It has a similar meaning to ken, which i talked about last time, but the 2 are not really interchangeable, for reasons i can’t be bothered thinking about. Heres an idea, lets look at some examples and see if we kin get some ken on the matter. Did i just accidentally explain the difference of the 2 of them there?

Setting – Two kids deciding who knows best

Yno1 – “Ehkin dae it!”
Yno2 – “Kinye?”
Yno1 – “Mebbe, but yoo kanna”
Yno2 – “howkin ah no?”

Yno1 – “I can do that!”
Yno2 – “Can you?”
Yno1 – “Perhaps, but you wont be able to”
Yno2 – “Why not?”

So that was a fairly normal and mundane transcript of 2 children arguing about each others abilities. In Scotland we call that “bickering”. Lets assume that the 2 youngsters in question are siblings. Now usually when a parent discovers the 2 rowing factions, and catches them in the act, there are apparent consequences to be had. Lets look at the rest of the conversation to see what happens

Yno1 – “Jist cuz, jist cuz yekanna”
Adult – “zat u too bickerin again? Eh’ll bang yer heids thegether”
Yno2 – “sno fair, he said he kud n eh kanna”
Yno1 – “ah nevur”
Yno2 – “Eh ye did”
Adult – “Right! Thats enuf the pair o yis, eh kudna gie a monkeys. Naneo the twa o yis Kuda done it.

Yno1 – “Just because, because you can’t”
Adult – “Is that you two arguing again? I shall give you a ruddy good telling off”
Yno2 – “It isn’t fair, He said that we was able to, and that i wasn’t”
Yno1 – “No i didn’t”
Yno2 – “Did too”
Adult – “I’ve had it up to here with you two. In fact i couldn’t care less. Neither of you could have been capable of doing so.

Okay so i think we covered all the tenses there, but not all the grammatical persons. Hope you were able to read that properly. There was a lot of dialog there and some of it was pretty heavy. Whats that? Oh you need a breather. Ok.


Lets move on.

So whats the difference between ken and kin? well…
Hey! I heard you up at the back, 1 letter indeed, oh wait it is just 1 letter.

Anyway as said before they are pretty similar but not interchageable. They both express a similar idea of being able to do something, or knowing how to do something, but the phrasing around them is different. For instance,

“Eh kin dae that” – “I am able to do that” or “I could do that”

But to change the word over and say

“Eh ken dae that” – Wrong wrong wrong

If you wanted to express ability with ken you would have to say it something like

“Eh ken how t dae that”, which basically has the same meaning as “Eh kin dae that”

But they are still slightly different. In the original sentence using “kin” it implies that the speaker is able to do the task being proposed AND that he is willing to do it, if he was given the go ahead. In the second similar sentence using “Ken” in the phrasing “ken how t”, the speaker is saying, I have the appropriate knowledge/ability to do that task, or said another way “I COULD do it”, But there is an implied meaning of lack of enthusiasm for actually doing the task. A lack of willingness to actually do something. Like 2 guys in a factory “doing” a job. The boss asks them to do x,y,z one says he can do it (kin) and the other says he knows how (ken). Which one actually does the job? Lets find out.

boss – (gings ower tae the twa boays hidin fae a joab) “kin ane o yoos dae this joab fur iz?”
Man1 – “Eh’Eh kud dae that”
Man2 – “so kin eh, eh ken how t dae that”
boss – “maks nae oads, just any o the twa o yiz, ‘slang as it gets done”

Efter, ane o them actually starts daein summin

Man1 – “Spose eh’ll get on wee it. Whut r yoo gonna dae then?
Man2 – “Eh wiz gonna dae that joab your daein”
Man1 – “Na ye wurna”
Man2 – “How? You sed y kud, n eh sed eh kent how n a?
Man1 – “Eh, but thurs a diffrence atween kinnen n kennen”
Man2 – “Eh rightyho then, yoo kin away n piss up a rope, eh ken whut you are!”

Whew that was a monster, how does that look in plain english?

boss – (Targets two men that look like they need something to do) “Can one of you two please do this job for me?”
Man1 – “Yes of course, i can do that”
Man2 – “Me as well, i know how to do it”
boss – “I’m not bothered either way, just whoever wants to do it, the main thing is, that the job gets completed”

Afterwards one of the men actually starts to do the job

Man1 – “I suppose i will get on with it. What are you going to do in the meantime?
Man2 – “Excuse me? I was going to do that job, not you”
Man1 – “I don’t believe you”
Man2 – “Why not? I was just after saying that i knew how do it, and you said you could too.
Man1 – “Yes, but there is distinct difference between knowing and doing”
Man2 – “Oh okay then, you snake in the grass, stealing everyone elses jobs”

Now I know what your thinking, that last sentence translation was nothing like what the second scottish guy actually said. Sometimes there just are no real other words to explain the things we say in scotland. We say it just because we kin, ken? But anyway, in that looooong example i was trying to cement the idea of ‘can do attitude’ – “kin” and ‘know it all do nothing’ – “ken”. Just like
2 guys at a job, one doing it and the other just watching him (that happens a lot here)

guy1 – (is daen it) “r u jist gonna stand there a day?”
guy2 – “nuht, eh ken how t dae that n a”
guy1 – “goan then”
guy2 – “nuht”
guy1 – “eh ‘zactly”

guy1 – (is doing it) “Are you just going to stand there all day?”
guy2 – “No, i am equally as able to do that job as you are”
guy1 – “Then show me” i.e actually do something
guy2 – “No”
guy1 – “Just what i thought”

Right so. Hopefully i’ve explained the difference n noo ye a ken, n naebdy’ll mak na mistakes n yase the wrang wurds. Gottit? Braw.

Now i just wanted to stop there and point out a new notation i started using today. I’m not sure what the linguists amongst us would call it but, i call it the ‘Glottal stop’ – (‘)

When it appears in words it can act like a traditional apostrophe, where we make contractions in english like “It’s” – “It is” OR it’s (did you see it) second purpose that i will also use it for here is to indicate a very special sound of the scottish language. The glottal stop ™

As an example we will use the scottish classic butter, to illustrate the sound and notation of this symbol. Consider the traditional way to say butter. You start by filling your cheeks with air and pursing your lips together, you open them and simultaneously push the air out to start a “b” sound, you let the built up air release and dont add to the flow and let it die away naturally, which brings the “u” sound of the word. Now here comes the differences, In standard english you are expected to t your tongue off the back of your teeth to make the “t” noise and then roll your tongue for the R. In scottish sometimes we dont make teeth t’s, we close our glottis to stop making any sound, and then open it and finish off the rest of the word. Now when i write that in print it looks something like this “bu’er”, which is supposed to signify the glottal stop. Now where the ‘ represents a contraction, or glottal stop, is down to your perception of the english language. In general if it looks like it makes sense as a contraction it is, and if that doesn’t work then its probably the other way. Good luck.

Before i go any further i have an interesting realisation of our local dialect. In standard english we say

Past Present Future
I Could I Can I will be able to

This is pucker grammer by all accounts, but in scotland we don’t do things the correct way most of the time. For sure when we talk about the present We say “Eh kin” – Which is direct with “I can”, And when we talk about the past we say “Eh kud” – Which is direct with “I Could”,


when we talk about the future in scotland we have a slight variation. When we talk about future events we use a mixture of the past and the future to make a grammatical mish-mash that we understand. We say “Eh kudda” – which literally translated is “I could have”, Now a quick search-engine search will tell you that “could have” as a word pair IS a real phrasing, but it is just that.

“Could have” talks about unfulfilled capability, critiscism of past actions, incapability in sense of oneself, future events, speculative forecasting and present situations that have not happened yet. In scotland we use it for all those things but we also borrow it for the future tense of the verb can. I mean it’s not that big of a stretch to imagine that, If you could have done something, You are talking about a future condition, that has not happened yet, but could. You could, then you can, and then you could have.

In scotland we love this use because it forms the crux if you like of all the things that we talk about. We like to speculate on future events, how bad they might be, how terrible it all could have been and so on. We like our doom mongering here. We say things like.

“That kooda been wurse” – “That could have been worse”
“If eh kooda done summin, ah wuda” – “Had I the opportunity to change what happened, I would have taken it”
“That kuda been a sair een” – “That had the possibility of having severe repercussions”
“how? what koodeea dun” – “I dont understand, what course of action are you suggesting he could have taken”
“yoo kooda hid meh ehs oot wee that” – “Carefull, you could have poked my eyes out”

Yep, all speculative, all negative, but without the actual use of the negative counterpart of the verb “kin”. That brings me neatly to the question, what is the negation of kin for and how does it sound. Surely if the “kooda” form of kin predominantly makes a negative assumption about the future, what does the negative part do? Lets find out shall we.

As far as i can think right now, the negated forms of the verb kin (kudna, kanna, kudnao) are the same for each grammatical person but, sometimes the letters or sounds might change on them depending on where they appear in a sentence, and how that affects the speakers pronounciation when they are “blethring awfy fest”. So just bear with me incase the spelling changes a bit, this could be a bumpy ride.

Consider the following examples

“Eh kudnao dun it” – “I could not have done it”
“He kudnao been ower thayr” – “He could not have been over there”
“yoo kudnao dun that na be’er if ye trehd” – “What a splendid job you have made of that (extreme sarcasm intended)”
“wha kudnao dun it?” – “Tell me, who was lacking in abilities specifically?”

So mostly a negative to neutral tone there again, which might leave you asking, when do the scottish people have positive things to say about anything? I do wonder that myself sometimes. We moan about the weather, it kuda been be’er, we moan about oor joabs, thay kuda been be’er n a, and even when we are sitting in a pub on holiday at the start of two week long stretch with a pint in hand and supposedly not a care in the world, still we are unsatisfied, how kudweano hud 3 weeks aff instead, that wida been braw if wid tho’ aboot i’.

Really though i am genuinely struggling to find some positive uses of the language, because every thing, even if it sounds nice in print can be tainted with sarcasm. Consider this example.

“Well Done”

Sounds nice on its own doesn’t it. But what if you heard the rest of the conversation. Listen.

“Aww nooo, ahve only gone n skelt ma beer ahways”
“Well done” (huge sarcastic overtone)

And it works like that for everything. Oh no wait, i just thought of a nice saying. As a toast to someone at a wedding or similar doo (thats scottish talk for an event), we can often be heard to say

“lang may yer lum reek” – which translated is something like “may the smoke continue to rise from your chimney evermore” which is a compliment because why? I guess its because if your chimney is smoking, then your fire is burning, and that means you must have means with which to do so, be that money,good health, the actual house etc.

So that was kin, which isna ken, disna replace ken, kin sumtimes mean the same as ken bu’ only with the phrasin, and if efter a that ye dinna ken, then thurs nowt ah kin dae fur ye noo.

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Dae ye ken whit a mean?

English vs Scottish

Hello everyone and welcome to my blog. As this is my first post I think a little introduction and explanation is in order.

I’m from Scotland, born and brought up in Dundee. Over the years I have done a fair amount of travelling due to work commitments and through this have gained an appreciation and enthusiasm for languages, particularly my own.

Whilst speaking with foreigners who have a command of English I realised how far removed my native tongue was from the “standard” dictionary English. I always knew intuitively that we speak different flavours of Scottish in different regions and without really trying have always been able to distinguish between the different varieties and understand them as well as place them.

In this blog I’m going to delve into the richness that is the Scottish language, explain to you, the avid reader, what the differences are between regions, if any and try to explain what the various phrases/words etc mean in plain English, supposing of course that such a thing exists 😉

The goal of this blog is to make the Scottish language more accessible to the non Scottish English speaker, wherever they may come from.

So without further ado let’s dive right in and introduce one of the intended features of this blog –

The Word Of The Week

Ken – To know or understand
Pronunciation – Sounds like pen but with a K instead of a P
Origin – General Scottish word, most favoured by the Dundonian dialect (Dundee and east coast area of Scotland)

    Conjugation Table

Grammatical Person Simple Past Simple Present Simple Future
Eh (I) Kent Ken Eh’ll Ken
Yoo (You) Kent Ken Yoo’ll Ken
Ee,shee,it (He,she,it) Kent Kens Ee’ll Ken
We Kent Ken we’ll Ken
Yoos (you all) Kent Ken yous’ll ah Ken
Thay (They) Kent Ken Thay’ll Ken

The word “Ken” is a broad reaching versatile word of the Scottish language. To simply write its translation as “to know or understand” is a slight understatement. You can,
Ken Someone (acquaintance),
Ken Something (knowledge),
do something Ken? (Confirmation),
Ken How (be able to, or have the ability),
dinna Ken (Lack of knowledge or understanding) or even
Ken On its own as a reply to a speaker when you can’t think of any other more meaningful words to say at that exact instant.

The sound of ken comes bundled up with the distinct east coast of central scotland twang of “eh”, which, as a sound on its own is used frequently within the dialect to modify the sound of many vowels and words. For a few examples quickly we have

  • eh – just used on its own means yes
  • peh – a simple pie (a pastry round with a spicy meat filling and a disproportionate greeze content. Greeze is the scottish word for fat or lipids content by the way) e.g geez a greezy peh wid ye? – Can i have a health risk imposing pie if you wouldn’t mind?
  • heh – high, the description of somethings height property e.g it wuz this heh
  • ehrmchayre – Armchair, the working mans priviledge of an evening – ullaway n hae a seet in meh ehrmchayre – I’m going to have myself a seat in this here armchair
  • fehver – a fiver, which is a local unit of currency, a five pound sterling note to be exact – How much fur this? A fehver. – How much does this item cost? Five pounds exactly
  • deh – the act of ceasing to exist or embarrasment – If eh hud t dae that eh wud deh – If I had been chosen to do that, i would have literally died of embarrasment
  • Now a couple of those examples were interesting because they highlighted to me another use of the word “eh”, as
    a personal pronoun when you want to talk about yourself, as in “I”.

    eh wud dae it but eh dinna ken how” – “Had I the benefit of prior knowledge, i would have completed that task myself

    The sound also appears in the case of ownership “meh” meaning “my” like so –

    “that wus meh ain ye ken?” – “I just wanted to bring to your attention, that the item you are holding actually belongs to me

    Here the emphatic ken is used at the end of the statement to bring attention to the fact that there is in fact a contradiction of belief. Left out of the sentence it justs points out a fact, that the item used to belong to the speaker, and now no longer does “that wus meh ain”. Adding the “ye ken?” on the end of the statement says “That item belonged to me before, and it still does”

    The basic “eh” sound is a prominent feature of the scottish dundonian dialect. As you have already seen, you can use it build a number of different sounding words, just purely by modifying the pronounciation. One such word that we can add the sound to is Kehn, which as i explained at the start of the post, has a range of different meanings. Lets have a look at a sample dialog, and try to get a cross section of the words usage.

    I will attempt to explain some of the other words that get used in conjunction with ken as and when they come across but please do feel free to leave a comment if I miss any explanations out.

    Scene – A boss and his employee are in a workshop, arguing about the lack of progress on a job.

    Boss – Whits the dae wee ye, how huv ye no done that joab eh telt ye t dae?
    Employee – cuz eh didna Ken how t dae it, naebdy telt iz how.
    Boss – How? Wuh d y no Ken?
    Employee – eh dinna Ken, just no shair.
    Boss – Ken whut, al dae it masel.
    Employee – Ken.

    Boss – What’s wrong? Why hasn’t that task you were given been completed yet!
    Employee – Because I didn’t know how it was supposed to be done. No one has passed the appropriate information on to me.
    Boss – Could you please explain to me more clearly what the problem is exactly?
    Employee – I’m not exactly sure, I’m needing a bit of guidance in general.
    Boss – Your wasting my time, I’d be as well doing it myself.
    Employee – Yes, your right.

    So that was a pretty typical example of what a common conversation in the dundonian speaking area of scotland, would sound like. There we had Ken as knowledge,Understanding,Reservation or Doubt and the confirmation ken as well. For anyone having trouble reading the scottish examples, they have been written as phonetically as possible in an attempt to look the same as it sounds (at least to me).

    So here we see its usage first in a question, “wuh d y no ken?”, here the speaker is aware of a problem of progress and is using this “ken” to gain an understanding of the situation, by asking the other conversant to spell out what he does not know.

    When prompted in this way the speaker reacts slightly defensively, because he is slightly unsure as to what exactly is the real problem, he has no idea so he says “eh dinna ken” – The literal translation of this statement is “I do not know”. He adds to that uncertainity by including the statement “Just no shair”

    Now obviously the boss isn’t impressed by this so he retorts “ken whut, al dae it masel”. The “ken whut” part of this phrase is a modified version of the original phrase do you know what, which, although sounding initially like a question, is actually used in scotland as an idiomatic way of conveying annoyance or dissaproval. I’m not sure if this phrase carries the same weight or meaning in Englandshire – perhaps the southern english speaking crowd can verify that one for me in the comments 🙂

    It is generally a one direction phrase and by that i mean. It goes from parent to sibling, or boss to employee, teacher to student (maybe in some dundee hehscales). Saying it to your elder or superior is considered cheeky, which is not to say it doesn’t happen, just that i would say its not the done thing. Take this slightly contrived example for instance

    Parent “nooow, mak shair ye dinna put them n thair”
    Child “aw look wut ye done now, ken whut? eh shuda done it masel”
    Parent “eh telt yoo no ta be cheeky to me ye wee shite, eh’ll skelp yer ehrse”
    Child “nuht”
    Parent “right, thats enough! jist daes yer telt”

    Parent “Be careful to make sure that you put them in the correct place”
    [clatter] onomatopoeic sound of something breaking or falling
    Child “you are very clumsy you know? We wouldn’t of had this problem if i had just done it myself”
    Parent “I am less than impressed with your mannerisms young man. Please stop it”
    Child “No”
    Parent “I told you before, just behave”

    Okay so that last example didnt really explain the “ken whut” usage much more, but it did illustrate a typical dialog, that at least i thought was humorous. If a child said that to his mother in dundee, there would be “skelped ehrses ahwhys” – That means literally “smacked bottoms everywhere” which means something like “The child would have been thoroughly chastised” and if that is still too complicated then it means “The child would have recieved a telling off”

    So by now we have seen ken used emphatically, in remorse, as a marker of knowledge or ability, as a standalone “nothing” word when nothing else pops into mind. It’s been used in a question to get information about someone else’s knowledge or lack thereof and it’s also suitable for use as a persons name. Okay that last one wasn’t part of what has been discussed already, but it is true.

    So what else can we do with ken? Ken is in most uses essentially a verb. In English verbs can get an -ing on them for various grammatical purposes. I will assume you have this knowledge already and won’t go into it here. Ken also has an -ing form but I can only really think of 1 real usage for it. Here it is.

    “There’s a party on the nite, meh twa laddies are goin”
    “Kenn’n thay twa, it,ll be bedlum.

    “Tonight there is a party I know of that is being held, my two boys are going along to it.
    “Knowing those two, there will be a riot”

    Now the knowing part of ken extends to any other usage of knowing that you can legally construct in the English language so feel free to think of other examples for that one. Meh brehns r hurtn fae a this riten.

    Lastly before I sign off I wanted to explain the caption alongside my site title.

    It says “Dishin oot a the ken, so yooz kin a ken ken?”, and means something like “handing out all the knowledge, so that everybody can understand okay?” It includes the use of a great Scottish verb dishin – tae dish oot. Which means to hand out or distribute. Where does it come from? I’ve no idea. Maybe I can look it up later on and dish it oot tae a o yez ehfter.

    Right I’m definitely going now, meh ehs r aboot glood shut.

    Write me in the comments about what you think that last outburst says.

    Bye for now and I hope you enjoyed the post.

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