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Scottish Slang

May 10, 2017

During my time in Scotland, I encountered an English that I had a very difficult time understanding. It really was like a different language, except I felt bad because I speak English but I just can't understand theirs. I got some weird looks and tried not to give any during my time there. By the second week, I could understand people much easier. The accent and slang switch was a bit difficult from Ayrshire to Edinburgh but I survived.

language learning

I tried my luck at interviewing during this trip. Several weeks after my return I am still unsure if it was a success. I only asked them after they had already been friendly so I was consciously trying to not be strange. I told them I am studying linguistics in school and wanted to know some of their colloquialisms. I got some laughs and smiles and no one seemed particularly annoyed but...well, these are the responses I got: 

Yer aff yer heid

Literally: You're off your head

Meaning: You're crazy

I’ll gie ye a skelpit lug! 

I give you a slap on the ear

Ah dinnae ken 

I don't know (this may have been an actual response, or they just really didn't know. Still unsure.)

Yer bum’s oot the windae 

Literally: your bum is out of the window 

Meaning: You're talking gibberish

Awa' an bile yer heid 

Literally: go boil your head

Meaning: Forget it! 

You're a wee scunner!

Hits at impatience, kind of like saying you're a nuisance.

At this point I really started to think they weren't being helpful just annoyed

Gonny naw dae that?

Meaning: Will you stop that? 

Okay, maybe they aren't just providing me information

scottish gaelic

Okay so the more I read these... They were probably annoyed. I don't blame them but hey, it's their fault for being friendly and engaging with me, right?! Oh dear, I'm that weirdo, huh. *sigh* In effort to preserve some of my dignity, I created my own list of my favorite things I heard, things I had to translate, and just some general slang used in Scotland

Skinny Malinky Longlegs! 

 A tall and thin person

Haud yer wheesht

hold your tongue, be quiet


a big round face (honestly, they may have just been referring to me)

Och aye! 

oh yes!

The noo 

right now

wits oan the box

what is on the tv

Awright ya wee bawbag?

How are you doing my friend? 

Haw you, ya bawbag

hey you, excuse me, you dick (apparently, be careful with the word bawbag)

am goin a donner

I am going for a walk

windae licker 

 literally means window licker but it is a person who is very special? Not quite sure. 

I'm getting the messages 

I'm getting the groceries

Whaur dae ye bide? 

where do you live? 

A'm black-affronted 

I am very embarrassed

Want some more on Scotland? 

-10 Hours in Glasgow

-Crossraguel Abbey

-Carry On: Scotland Edition

-Why Scotland Made Me Want to Shave My Head

-10 Things I Learned in Scotland

Siggi Einarson

My name is Siggi-dubbed by my American friends because of the Icelandic yogurt-I am a writer, polyglot, and aspiring expat, not a cup of yogurt (unfortunately).

My love for travelling began with a trip to Iceland and Sweden to visit my family when I was just 15 years old. I spent so long dreaming of the possibilities of life abroad but I always figured these dreams were too far reached. Flash forward almost 10 years, here I am again, both cursing and thanking this damn travel bug.

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