Tales from the salmon netting on the River Spey in the north east of Scotland


May 10th, 2008 by John Bennett

The dialect of Scots spoken in the north east of Scotland, from roughly Aberdeen to Elgin, is know as Doric; the Oxford Companion to English Literature explains the link with Ancient Greece:

Since the Dorians were regarded as uncivilised by the Athenians, ‘Doric’ came to mean ‘rustic’ in English, and was applied particularly to the language of Northumbria and…Scotland

There are several distinct sub-dialects within Doric, with the characters in the Summer Crew speaking Morayshire Doric rather than the more commonly known Buchan or Aberdeen Doric.

In these stories I’ve tried to stick to what passes for standardised usage throughout (such as it exists). However, Morayshire Doric has several notable features which just aren’t represented in the more common Buchan- and Aberdeen-based orthographies. Therefore, in an attempt to represent the language more accurately, I’ve gone for phonetic spellings.

py= pay (pronounce pie)

wy= way (pronounced why)

If you want to know more about Doric, then The Elphinstone Kist site is an excellent resource and The Dictionary of the Scots Language contains more on both Doric and Scots. Otherwise, here’s a short glossary to be going on with:

ahind – behind

brasher – forester who strips the branches from trees when they’ve been felled

brae – generally a hill or, in the context of the salmon fishing, the shallow water running over the drop between pools in the river

bide – to live, to reside, e.g. I bide in London = I live in London.

ca canny – take it easy, calm down, proceed with caution

cheil – a lad

cloot – cloth

Clochan dichter – a Dock leaf

cowpit yow – literally, a female sheep which has fallen over – often used in the figurative sense to mean someone who is extremely drunk (fallen sheep can find it difficult to get back to their feet).

dike – wall, generally referring to dry stane dikes

een – one

fa – who

fae – from

faur – where

feart – scared

fecht – fight

feil – stupid, crazy

fit – what

fowk – folk, people

glaikit – stupid

gless ee – glass eye

gnepp – to talk ‘properly’, i.e. in standard RP English, often to an authority figure

gow – gull

gowk – literally cuckoo, figuratively idiot

gey – very

hack – endure

hairst – harvest

havering – talking rubbish, telling tall tales

hurl – to move quickly, to give a lift (in a car or on a bike)

loon – boy, lad

loup – jump

muckle – many, much

neap – literally a swede (turnip), figuratively an idiot

park – field

priest – the short stick, sometimes weighted with lead, used to kill the salmon. Presumably so-called because it administers the last rights.

puddock – frog

quine – girl, lass

rammy – a fight

roch – rough

roup – a farm clearance sale

redd up – tidy up

sark – shirt

scap – the shingle banks of the river

shilt – Horse

teuch – tough

yaldie – a brown trout

Finally, I feel that I should apologise for my accent, which isn’t quite as authentic as it might be, but, in my own defence, I left Morayshire to go to University when I was 18 and I’ve been gnepping full-time ever since, so hopefully you’ll excuse me.