This is a tiny (“wee”) dictionary of just a few Scottish English (or more generally British English) words, terms, and concepts that I was exposed to during the four and a half months I lived there. I chose the ones I chose based on a few factors: a) their representation of Scottish (or more generally British) culture from my American lens; b) their interesting parallel—or lack thereof—to American English; c) their particular interest to myself; or d) their funniness.
Em… — Um…
Tea — Dinner; one must say “cup of tea” to indicate actual tea.
Juice & biscuits — Soda & cookies.
Neeps & tatties — Mashed turnips & potatoes, usually served with haggis.
Coffee, filter coffee, real coffee — Respectively: instant coffee, coffee, espresso.
Irn-bru — Apparently, in every country in the world except Scotland, Coca-Cola is the most popular soft drink; in Scotland, it’s their own Irn-bru, which is bright orange and tastes a bit like bubble gum-flavored cough syrup. In a good way.
Cider — Hard (alcoholic) cider. They don’t really have our apple cider, which, on the rare occasions it’s found, is cleverly referred to as American cider. Those Scots who have actually heard of it tend to dismiss it as a rip-off of their cider.
Ginger — A noun or adjective indicating a redhead. Then there’s ginger minger: Minge being pubic hair.
Cunt, twat — Disturbingly common phrases, usually referring to a man who is stupid or an asshole or both.
Getting on my tit — Getting on my nerves.
Cow hanging over a dike — I was leaning on the bar and someone said I looked like this.
Asian — The largest ethnic populations in Britain are Indian and Pakistani, for which this is the PC umbrella term.
Paki — Derogatory term for a Pakistani person, a group that has a similar racist stereotype as Jewish people have here in the US: of being stingy and sketchy with money, i.e. someone with whom you’ve never want to do any type of business.
Red Indian — I actually heard someone use this to refer to an American Indian.
Suspenders, braces — Suspenders refer to garter belts, while braces are what we know as suspenders. I found that out the hard way, by saying to a guy, “I love your suspenders!”
Trousers, pants, knickers — Another fun faux pax to make, which I was thankfully aware of before I went there: Trousers are what we call pants, while pants are underwear (knickers are women’s underwear).
Rubber, durex — Respectively: pencil eraser, condom.
Sheep shagger — A term I knew before I went there as a derogatory term for a Welshman, which can also refer to someone from the Highlands of Scotland.
Taking the piss, taking the mick — Joking, making fun of.
Fitlike? — Particular to the Aberdeen region of the Highlands, it means “Hello, how are you?” A common response is “Nay bad, who’s yourself?” To which many the perplexed non-Aberdeenian respond, “I’m me!”
Filthy McNasty’s — A pub in Aberdeen, amusingly adjacent to the very bourgeois Braided Fig Bar & Bistro. The Indian take-away restaurant next door makes this block a microcosm of Scotland.
Weird phone numbers — Scottish phone numbers are weird: sometimes the exchange (area code) is five numbers, and sometimes it’s four, and sometimes the numbers themselves have six digits, and sometimes they have seven, and sometimes the six-digit ones are written 12 34 56, and sometimes they’re written 123 456, and sometimes they’re written 123456, and the seven-digit ones are written either 123 4567 or 1234567, and sometimes the exchange is separated and sometimes it’s not: 01234567890 or 01234 567890, and I heard someone on two occasions say his phone number: one time he said 0123 456 7890 and another time he said 01234 5678 90.