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Scottish phrases

Can anyone guide me to a list or send me a few helpful phrases in Scottish? I know they speak English there but I've always found it appreciated if I try to use even a small bit the local language even if, as I typically do, mangle the pronunciation.
cheers,
Paul

Posted by
8293 posts

Gaelic is taught in several universities in Nova Scotia, Canada. Do a little research and maybe contact a teacher there for help.

Posted by
1009 posts

Certain people may speak a little Gaelic outside the big cities but most everyone's local language is English.

Posted by
940 posts

Hi, drpaul,

Get a copy of Collins Pocket Scots Dictionary, available used on Amazon for as little as $4.99, study it, and never ever use any of the local or slang terms used in it. (Some of the geographical terms are helpful.) You don't want to come across as pretentious or condescending, especially to the Scots, who are among the most down-to-earth people on the planet.

If you get to know someone during your travels in Scotland, you can break the ice by asking what a specific phrase or word means. Say that you saw the word or phrase in a newspaper/book/magazine. You and your new friend can have a good laugh!

As the Scots speak English just as well as you or I do, only with a slightly different accent, they would feel insulted if you tried to copy their accent. Now if you were in a different country, where English is not the primary language, then you could try out your foreign language skills. And yes, people in those countries will appreciate your effort to converse in their language.

Having said that, if you get up to the Aberdeen area, and hear some of the older folk conversing in the local Doric dialect, you may feel that you are, indeed, in a foreign country. Many Scots don't understand Doric.

Good luck in your travels!

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
4666 posts

I agree that an American tourist trying to speak Scottish dialect will come across as patronising or worse to the locals. Don't know where in the US you come from, but imagine someone from elsewhere in the States trying to copy what the local working-class accent is...

Posted by
1402 posts

Seriously?
Scotland is part of the UK; and the Scots will tell you that they, indeed, speak the purer form of the English language.
"Learning Scottish" would be like speaking with a Southern "y'all" accent when you don't come from that area of the U.S.
Just speak normally and you'll be fine.

Posted by
4528 posts

That's "Parliamo Glasgow."

Yes perils of the phone keyboard.

There are plenty more editions around, but I linked to that website because of the information it contains on Scots. Not that any tourist should try to learn it ...

Posted by
1782 posts

Just got done with 12 days in Scotland.
I expected all the locals to use the word “wee” a lot. Nope! Heard it a few times, but nothing stood out as typical scottish slang. However, my girls and I had lots of fun speaking some scottish phrases to each other. “Hairy coo” was our favorite!

Posted by
8293 posts

I have never heard of “hairy coo” even with Scottish mother and grandparents. What does it mean? Inquiring minds and all that ....

Posted by
940 posts

Hi, Emma and Norma,

A "hairy coo" is a Highland cow, known for its long hair. You'll often find them blocking the road around Duirinish.

However, the "Hairy Coo" referred to most often on this forum is a small travel company out of Edinburgh, which specializes in personalized minibus tours of Scotland. They have a website for more information.

Hope that clears things up!

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
8293 posts

Thank you, it makes sense now when I think of the pronunciation. As when "now" is pronounced as "noo".

There isn’t even one Scottish language that you could learn a few words from. There is Gaelic and there is Scots, and they are two very different languages (some might say Scots is a dialect of English although apparently it grew out of Middle English).

So even if the majority of Scots spoke one or the other, how would you know which to speak?

However luckily for you the official language of Scotland, and the one that the vast majority of people will speak to you in, is English.

Posted by
38 posts

That all said, and I'm in agreement with other's thoughts on the matter -- I have said a "Slainte mhaith" most of my adult life, whether in the States or in Scotland. It comes in handy at the pub.

Posted by
4368 posts

You'll be fine speaking American English. However, if someone offers a Glasgow kiss, say "No thanks!"

I think if you've reached the stage of being offered a Glasgow Kiss you're going to receive one whether you've declined or not.