Scots not English

Many visitors to Powdermills Bed and Breakfast in Argyll, Scotland, particularly from overseas, struggle to understand the English that we speak! 

Of course, we speak English but its more Scottish standard English.  What you will hear however, is many words interspersed with English that you have never heard of before. These words and phrases come from the ‘Scots’. Its spoken and understood widely throughout Scotland.

Scots is the name for the language of lowland Scotland. It is a Germanic language, closely related to English. It developed from the northern Old English (or Old Northumbrian) that was introduced into south-east Scotland (south of the Forth) from the 7th century AD onwards, as the kingdom of Northumbria expanded northwards. It was reinforced later by northern English that had been exposed to strong Norse influence after the Norse (Danes and Norwegians) occupied what is now Yorkshire and Cumbria. It started to be more widely spoken in eastern Scotland, north of the Forth, in the 12th century; by the early 15th century it was well established as the language of the Scottish court and parliament; and by the end of the middle ages (that is by about 1500) it had superseded Gaelic in almost all the southern and eastern lowlands. It was introduced into the Northern Isles (Orkney and Shetland) in the later middle ages, and by the 18th century it had superseded the local Norse language (Norn), which, however, has left its strong mark on the Scots spoken in those islands.  When it was first introduced into Scotland north of the Forth the language now known as Scots was described as ‘Inglis’, and it did not start being described as ‘Scottis’ until the late middle ages.

So how is it different?  Below is some examples.

Hello (General greeting)Hullo
How are you?Whit like?
Whit like are ye?
Hoo are ye?
Hou’r ye?
Hoo’s it gaun?
How ye daein?
Reply to ‘How are you?’No bad, hou’s yersel?
Nae baud, yersel?
A’m daein fine, whit aboot yersel?
Long time no seeLang time nae see
It’s been dunky’s since a last saw ye
What’s your name?Whit’s yer name?
Whit ye cawit?
Whit dae they cry ye?
My name is …Ma name’s …
Where are you from?Whaur ye fae?
Whaur ar ye fae?
Whaur dae ye come fae?
I’m from …A’m fae …
Pleased to meet youGled tae meet ye
A’m gled tae meet ye
Good morning
(Morning greeting)
Guid mornin
Good afternoon
(Afternoon greeting)
Guid efternuin
Good evening
(Evening greeting)
Guid evenin
Good nightGuid nicht
(Parting phrases)
Bye for noo
See ye efter
Good luck!Guid luck!
Cheers! Good Health!
(Toasts used when drinking)
Here’s tae ye!
Here’s tae us, wha’s like us? Gey few, an’ they’re a’ deid
Have a nice dayHae a guid day
Bon voyage /
Have a good journey
Hae a guid journey
I understandA unnerstaun
A forstaw
I don’t understandA dinnae unnerstaun
A dinnae forstaw
I don’t knowA dinnae ken
Please speak more slowlyCan ye talk mair slow?
Please write it downE, want tae write it doon fur iz
Do you speak English?Dae ye talk English?
Do you speak Scots?Dae ye talk Scots?
Yes, a little
(reply to ‘Do you speak …?’)
Ay, a wee bit
Do you speak a language
other than
Dar ye knapp ony leid ither than Scots Leid?
Dar ye knapp ony leid ither than yer ain?
Speak to me in Scots?Talk tae me in Scots
How do you say … in Scots?Hoo dae ye say … in Scots?
Excuse meExcuise me
How much is this?Hoo/hou muckle is this?
Thank youThank ye
Reply to thank youNae problem
Where’s the toilet / bathroom?Whaur’s the toilet?
Whaur’s the lavvy?
Whaur’s the wattrie?
This gentleman will pay for everythingThis gentleman will pey for awthing
This lady will pay for everythingThis leddy will pey for awthing
Would you like to dance with me?Will ye dance wi me?
I miss youA miss ye
I love youA love ye
Get well soonGet weel soon
Leave me alone!Lea iz alane!
Lea me alane!
Call the police!Phone the polis!
Get the polis!
Christmas greetingsBlythe yuil
New Year greetingsA Blythe Hogmanay (tae ye)
Birthday greetingsHappy birthday
One language is never enoughAne leid is neer/ne’er eneuch
My hovercraft is full of eels
Why this phrase?
Ma hovercraft’s full o eels
Ma hovercraft’s lippin-fou wi eels
Ma hovercraft’s lippit wi eels
Ma hovercraft’s breemin’ ower wi eels
See ma hovercraft? See eels? Hit’s pure hoachin wi them. (Glaswegian)

Of course, it is through our famous Scottish bard Robert Burns that many become acquainted with the Scots language. Understanding his poetry often requires an English translation for us Scots!

In the first verse of ‘To a Mouse’ you have to imagine a famer, perhaps Burns himself, ploughing his field with horses when he spies a little mouse disturbed by the plough. 

To a Mouse

Wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie,
Small, crafty, cowering, timorous little beast,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Oh, what a panic is in your breast!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty
You need not start away so hasty
Wi bickering brattle!
With your hurrying scamper
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,
I would be loath to run and chase you,
Wi’ murd’ring pattle!
With murdering plough-staff.

So some advice to visitors – if you don’t understand – just ask us to slow down and speak in English!