If you come through Scotland you can easily meet people saying words like “bonnie” (pretty), “wee” (small), “laddie/lassie” (boy/girl), and also many other idiomatic sentences that you probably would not understand, but Scottish people use regularly. 

A Scots expression which basically refers to the idea of “tall poppy syndrome” is “A kent yer faither” which can be translated as “I know your father”: it is basically saying that you come from the same place as I do, so do not act better than me. “Ken” means “know” and “yer” is “your”. 

One of the favourite topics Scottish people love to talk about is the weather. A phrase which is really useful for describing Scottish weather is: “It's a dreich day ootside” which means “it's a miserable day outside”. Many people use this sentence to speak about weather and the word “dreich” is used quite a lot in Scots.

If you like books you will probably know that Trainspotting is written mostly in Scots and it has some really common terms such as “what kin ye dae?” which means “what can you do?” and “listen tae whit ah've goat tae say here” which means “listen to what I have got to say”.

Everybody knows the English motto “Keep calm and carry on” and Scottish people also have their own corresponding sentence: “Keep the heid an' cairry oan” where “heid” means “head”. It is quite hilarious if you think about it - when we are troubled we often put our head in our hands! 

Another very nice phrase in Scots would be “Yaldi! We’re aw gettin the day aff the morra!”. “Yaldi” means “really happy” and you can probably guess that the rest of the expression is “We are getting the day off tomorrow”. But Scottish people also love to celebrate the past. Auld Lange Syne is a very popular song which is sang during the Military Tattoo. The translation can be “old long since” or “old long ago”. These days we might use expressions such as “in times long gone”, “in times long past” or “in the good old days”.

Anyway, not all Scottish people use the same slang. An Edinburgh slang word which would not be considered necessarily Scots is “shan” which means “that's a shame” or “that’s not kind”. You hear people in Edinburgh saying it quite a lot but if you go through to Glasgow nobody seems to understand what it means.

If you are interested in knowing more about Scottish slang, visit: www.scotslanguage.com

Also, have you ever noticed that you can navigate Wikipedia in Scottish? sco.wikipedia.org

Once you learn Scottish slang you cannot do without it. Scottish people are always delighted to teach you their own slang and you can easily see how welcoming they are. In fact if you drive over the border from England you can see many huge signs warning you “Haste ye back” or rather “Hurry up and come back”.

So come to Scotland and speak Scots!


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Some interesting vocabulary:

We use lots of different expressions to describe informal language, such as slang, idiomatic expressions, lingo, street talk, vernacular and colloquialisms. Trainspotting (the book/film) was written in the vernacular. Can you understand it?

Common and popular are commonly confused! Common is connected with something frequently occurring or existing. Popular suggests that something is common AND it is well-liked by the people. Rain is common in Scotland, but it isn’t popular.

Hilarious means very funny. Hysterical is another great word that you can use instead of saying very funny. If something is hilarious/hysterical, you will be laughing a lot!

Troubled. An alternative way to say worried or concerned but it can also imply more serious problems with emotions and behaviour, such as teenagers who have difficult family lives.

English speakers sometimes use the phrase go through to (a city), when talking about visiting another city next to their own. We might also say go down to London (in the south) or Portobello (at the sea) or go up to Aberdeen (in the north). But is not always so straight forward. We might say we are going up to London even though it is to the south and is at a lower altitude, because we see it as a richer, bigger or more important place!