Scotland and the U.S. are two countries divided by a common language.

Dunrobin Castle w fountain

Even in the U.S., Texans stand apart in the language department with their “y’alls” and “fixintos.” If you plan to travel to Scotland from a U.S. destination, there are a few things you need to know: you don’t get your bangs trimmed. Here, it’s a fringe.

You need to know that sidewalks are pavements. Bus drivers get cranky if you continue standing on the pavement in front of the bus after you are directed to move to the pavement. Or, as they would say here in Scotland, they get crabbit. You can cause a stushie if you continue to blether with a friend while a crabbit bus driver waits for you to take a dauner on the pavement so he can skyte away with the bus. I have met one woman bus driver; she was a quean, a wee cheerful, braw, bonnie lass. But most of the bus drivers seem to be male and dour.

If it’s a grey, rainy day—which some part of every day usually is—it’s dreich and your breeks may get wet. Folks here wear trousers, not pants. Pants are considered whatever is under the breeks and not a topic of conversation.

stone pen

If something vanishes quickly in Scotland, it doesn’t go “poof.” I’ve been warned that using that word can make a homosexual crabbit because it’s a derogatory term. It can cause a muckle stramash. Only an eejit would be glaecit enough to act like a wee nyaff and open up the possibility of a skelping. Gives me sweaty oxyters just thinking about scunnering someone, because I’m a sook.

When you come over to visit, do your shopping early. Stores, and even some restaurants, close by 5 p.m., and “late” hours for Christmas are 6 to 7 p.m. If the stores are hoachin, och! You’ll just have to get used to standing in a long queue, or look for the “Way Out” sign. Don’t girn. Practice being thrawn if it’s something you really need.

Most folks from the U.S. know about the spelling differences: colour, tyre, realise, programme, harbour…the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) idea hasn’t caught on here. Dish soap is “washing up liquid.” Toilet paper is “loo roll” or “toilet tissue.” Trash bags are “bin liners” and there are no trash cans—they’re bins.

Spaghetti sauce is “Bolognese.” Bread is white or brown—not whole wheat, but you can’t get whole wheat flour—that’s whole meal. When it comes to a beef roast, it’s called “silver side,” and ground meat for hamburgers is mince. You can’t get ham either—it’s gammon. Don’t forget that KISS doesn’t operate on this side of the pond.


Most folks from the U.S. know that cars in the UK drive on the wrong side of the road, the hood is a bonnet, and the trunk is a boot. But did you know that the windshield is a windscreen?

Yards are gardens, even if there are no flowers or vegetables. You won’t find okra, and zucchini squash is called something I can’t pronounce. You may not recognize the pronunciation of garage and aluminum. Even words like schedule and Isaiah have a different sound to them and folks here don’t submit resumes. They submit curriculum vitae (CVs).

As for dill pickles? Bring them with you.

Three of my books, “Killer Conversations,” “Bridge to Brigadoon,” and “Bridge Back” are set in Scotland, so I’ve tried to introduce Scottish words and phrases to add color and place. I have to admit it; I’m spoiled. Every book I’ve written has all 5-star or 4-star reviews, with an average of 5-stars…except “Killer Conversations,” which rated a 1-star review from someone who said that even though I was from America, I should know that there are no sidewalks in the UK, they are pavements, and there are no street vendors.

Well, I went back to the street vendor who inspired one of the characters in “Killer Conversations” and cringed when I found out his name was Kem. I had named him “Kurt.” Too close for comfort! Same with Miz Mike #6, “Bridge Back,” where the character I spun in my imagination and named “Blair” has a counterpart named “Blaine”! That’s spooky! Perhaps I should start numbering my characters.

ruins field

I don’t mind the 1-star review, but I hope the reviewer realizes that if Americans read that Sandy “ran down the pavement” instead of the “sidewalk,” they will quit reading. Who wants to read a book about a kid who doesn’t have enough sense to get out of the street?

Scotland is a lovely country with unmarred scenic views in all directions. As I am writing this blog in the middle of July, we haven’t had summer yet. At least we haven’t had to light a fire in the fireplace today. I think we are all hoping that “global warming” will at least bring a couple of days of summer to Scotland!

spring green waterfall

The folks in Scotland are rich, varied, kind, and friendly in character. I won’t offend them by saying that they are a lot like Texans in some ways, because they like the notion of being different. In other words—great folks! They take offense to the 1950s Hollywood musical “Brigadoon,” and things here that are overly Scottish are labeled “brigadoonery.” Hope this blog doesn’t fall into that category. I’d hate to lose my all 5-star rating for “Bridge to Brigadoon!”


7 thoughts on “Wordplay

  1. Ah Steph, this is brilliant! I have no clue what half those Scottish words mean, but in your books, you’ve made the ones you use very clear from the context. I didn’t know the Scots had so many different words for things….it isn’t gaelic, but it’s not English either…their own dialect for sure.

    • Thanks, Val! And thanks for re-blogging. Yes, there are more I left out: they don’t buy groceries, they go for messages; tea is the evening meal, or tea is tea you drink. Now that one can be very confusing and we ate three meals in one evening one time because we thought we were invited over for tea to drink and got there to find our places set and food on the table! So to be polite…we ate three “teas” that day!

  2. After reading that, I do believe that Donald Duck’s uncle is in fact from Scotland and that’s why I’ve never understood anything Donald quacked.
    A nice, fun post.

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