Scotch Words

Author: Supplied by Ann McKinstry

Date: 2004

Source: Ullans: The Magazine for Ulster-Scots, Nummer 9 and 10 Wunter 2004

Supplied by Ann McKinstry

Lady in bonnet

Editor’s note: This poem was supplied by Ann McKinstry of Greyabbey, from “A Book of Scottish Poems” that had been her grandmother’s.

They speak in riddles north beyond the Tweed.

The plain true English they can deftly read;

Yet when without the book they come to speak,

Their lingo seems half English and half Greek.

Their jaws are chafts; their hands when closed are neives,

Their bread’s not cut in slices but in shieves;

Their armpits are their oxters; palms are luifs;

Their men are chiels; their timid fools are cuiffs;

Their lads are callants, and their women kimmers;

Good lasses denty queans, and bad ones limmers;

They thole when they endure, scart when they scratch;

And when they give a sample it’s a swatch;

Scolding is flytin; and a long palaver

Is nothing but a blether or a haver.

This room they call the butt and that the ben;

And when they do not know they dinna ken.

On keen, cold days they say the wind blaws snell,

And when they wipe their nose they dicht their byke;

And they have words that Johnson could not spell,

As umph’m, which means — anything you like.

While some, though purely English and well known,

Have got a Scottish meaning of their own;

To prig’s to plead, beat down a thing in cost;

To coft’s to purchase, and a cough’s a hoast:

To crack is to converse, the lift’s the sky;

And bairns are said to greet when children cry.

When lost, folk never ask the way they want —

They spier the gate; and when they yawn they gaunt;

Beetle with them is a clock; a flame’s a lowe:

Their straw is strae; chaff, cauff; and hollow bouse.

A pickle means a few; muckle is big:

And a piece of crockery ware is called a pig.

Speaking of pigs, when Lady Delacour

Was on her celebrated Scottish tour,

One night she made her quarters at the “Crown,”

The head inn of a well-known country town.

The chambermaid, in lighting her to bed,

Before withdrawing, curtsied low, and said:

“This nicht is cauld, my leddy, wad ye please

To hae a pig in the bed tae warm yer taes?”

“A pig in the bed to please! What’s that you say?

You are impertinent; away, away!”

“Me impident! No mam — I meant nae harm,

But just the greybeard pig to keep ye warm.”

“Insolent hussy to confront me so!

This very instant shall your mistress know.

The bell — there’s none, of course — go, send her here.”

“My mistress, mam, I dinna need to fear;

In sooth, it was hersel’ that bade me spier.

Nae insult, mam! We thocht ye wad be gled

On this cauld nicht to hae a pig i’ bed.”

“Stay, girl; your words are strangely out of place,

And yet I see no insult in your face.

Is it custom in your country, then,

For ladies to have pigs in bed wi’ them?”

“Oh! Quite a custom wi’ the gentles — mam

Wi’ gentle ladies, ay, and gentlemen;

And, troth, if single they would sairly miss

Their hot pig on a cauldrif nicht like this.”

“I’ve seen strange countries, but this surely beats

Their rudest makeshifts for a warming-pan.

Suppose, my girl, I should adopt your plan,

You would not put the pig between the sheets.”

“Surely, my lady, and nae other where.

Please, mam, ye’ll find it do the maist guid there.”

“Fie, fie, t’would dirty them, and if I keep

In fear of that, you know, I could not sleep.”

“Ye’ll sleep far better, mam. Tak’ my advice;

The nicht blaws snell — the sheets are cauld as ice;

I’ll fetch ye up a fine, warm, cosy pig:

I’ll mak’ sae comfortable and trig,

Wi’ coortains, blankets, every kind o hap,

And warrant ye to sleep as sound’s a tap.

As for the fylin’ o the sheets — dear me,

The pig’s as clean outside as pig can be.

A weel-closed mouth’s eueuch for ither folk,

But if ye like, I’ll put it in a poke.”

“But, Effie — that’s your name, I think you said;

Do you yourself now take a pig to bed?”

“Eh! Na, mam, pigs are only for the great

Wha lie in feather beds, and sit up late;

Feathers and pigs are no for puir riff-raff;

Me and my neibor lassie lie on cauff.”

“What’s that — a calf! If I your sense can gather,

You and the other lassie sleep together,

Two in a bed, and with the calf between?

That, I suppose, my girl, is what you mean?”

“Na, na, my lady — od ye’re jokin’ noo —

We sleep the gither, that is true,

But nocht between us; wi’ oor claes a’ aff,

Except oor sacks, we lie upon the cauff.”

“Well, well, my girl! I am surprised to hear

That we of English habits live so near

Such barbarous customs. Effie, you may go;

As for the pig, I thank you, but — no, no;

Ha! Ha! Good night — excuse me if I laugh,

I’d rather be without both pig and calf.”

On the return of Lady Delacour

She wrote a book about her northern tour,

Wherein the facts are graphically told

That Scottish gentle folks, when nights are cold,

Take into bed fat pigs to keep them warm,

While common folk who share their bed in halves,

Denied the richer comforts of the farms,

Can only warm their sheets with lean, cheap calves.



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