Whipper is Scots for “a hasty or tart manner of doing something,” and tooties is from the word tout or toot, as in “toot your horn.” Log whipper-tooties in your memory so you can spring it on any complaining procrastinators in your life! The Scottish language offers such colorful words and phrases in abundance!
Be happy while you’re livin’, for you’re a long time deid. – Scottish Proverb
Perhaps one of the most familiar Scottish sayings is “Auld Lang Syne” (times long past) after the famous song penned by Robert Burns and sung throughout the world at New Year festivities. When you say “Speak o’ the devil,” you’re expressing another Scottish aphorism!
Black as the Earl of Hell’s Waistcoat! – Pitch black.
Failin’ means yer playin! – When you fail at something at least you’re trying.
Is the cat deid? – Has the cat died? Means your trousers are like a flag flying at half-mast — too short.
We’re a’ Jock Tamson’s bairns! – We’re all God’s children.
Listening to Scots
I’ve collected a variety of videos that explain the history of the Scots as a people, their language, and the centuries-long push for sovereignty — socially, linguistically, and politically.
The first video is short (4 minutes) but expresses the common experience of many English speakers when first encountering Scots and Scots English. Stationed in both Scotland and Ireland, this soldier takes great delight in the rhythms of the dialects and gives his best try at replicating the accents.
Canadian Youtube channel, LangFocus, offers a wealth of academic videos on linguistics and language histories. This 16-minute lecture delves into the history of the Scottish people, the geographical influences on their language, and translates the Robert Burns poem, “Tam O’Shanter,” to reveal its provincial beauty.
They speak of my drinking, but they never think of my thirst. – Old Scottish Proverb
This 15-minute TEDx talk with auditory neuroscientist and Scot, Michael Dempster, will immerse you in the Scots language. He delivers a gripping presentation on how the brain reacts when a person hears the language one grew up with.
We look to Scotland for all of our ideas on civilization. – Voltaire
Finally, here is an interview with Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland. Ms. Sturgeon talks about the referendums for an independent Scotland and the result of Brexit on the Scottish people’s ability to govern their own lives.
Did not strong connections draw me elsewhere, I believe Scotland would be the country I would choose to end my days in. -Benjamin Franklin
The English language is rich with many dialects. You might be interested in learning more about American dialects, the amazing history of Gullah, the creole language of the American South, or why the British became non-rhotic while Americans still pronounce the /r/ sound!
See the previous or next Fun Facts About English.
Stories For Young Readers lesson packs are available as pdf downloads or paperless resources for distant learning. Stories for Young Readers is a graded textbook series for students studying ESL/EFL. The lesson packs also include pages from Dialogues for Young Speakers, easy dialogues that will get students up and talking!