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Scottish - English English - Scottish Book Review

I was sent this small, pocket sized book as an early Christmas gift, and would recommend it for people interested in learning some of the common words Scots may use. Please note the word “may” as some of the words in the book are terms I have been aware of but have not heard in day to day speech. There is a note on the last page saying that the attractive red tartan cover is a “work of fiction”, with any similarity to existing tartans being “purely coincidental”.

The book is short (45 pages), containing a mini Scottish-English English-Scottish dictionary. There is also a Notes section at the back covering Highland Dress, Money, Church, Law & Education and Public Holidays.

It was first published in 1972 and some of the content reflects the age of the book, for instance, reference to the term “clerkess” (definition offered “female clerk/typist”). I have yet to come across a Scottish clerkess and wonder whether the term was one that withered with the advent of the computer age.

There are several references to food in the book including bannock, black bun, neep (I always hear of this in the plural, usually when people are talking about neeps and tatties) and clapshot.

I found the Law & Education section particularly useful, though I have to confess it seems to me to be about law rather than education. One of the things I found most puzzling when moving to Scotland from England was the different legal system. Had I come across this book then I would have found it a useful introduction to a few basic Scottish legal terms. I had not appreciated the differences between Scottish and English law, some around fundamental principles such as euthanasia. There were a forest of terms I had never come across before including sheriff (OK I admit I had heard of this one, but had thought it belonged in the US not the UK), Procurator Fiscal, sheriff court etc. I now happily use a far wider set of terms than mentioned in the book including sequestration (the Scottish term for bankruptcy).

Some terms in the book I hear regularly. These include wee, ken and ceilidh – I have enjoyed the ceilidhs I have attended in Scotland which have mixed song, dance, music and poetry. I think this book would be an ideal gift for someone wanting to learn more about Scotland - it is small, unthreatening and easily digestible.


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