“Never draw your dirk when a blow will do it.” – Scottish Proverb

As all of you know, I am living with a Scottish woman.  Most of the time, I can understand what she says just fine.  After all, she is speaking English and so am I.  However, other times I can only guess what her words mean or in extreme cases I have to ask.  So I thought I’d share some of the new words I’ve learned.  I can’t quite bring myself to use them though because they sound so odd coming off my tongue.

I have picked up some of the basic words, where you know what they mean but don’t consider saying in North America.  You know like flat, lift, chips, and crisps and probably a few others.  The next level of words are the ones you can figure out but don’t really pick up as quickly.

Mince is ground beef.  The first night I was at the flat Beth said she’d make mince and potatoes.  Obviously I knew what potatoes were, but mince? Then I saw the finished dish which was ground beef in gravy with carrots.  But the raw meat is also known as mince.

 The first day I was in Edinburgh and Suzanne explained that closes were the tiny streets off of the main street.  Which is pretty cool in a “I don’t want to walk down there at night by myself because no one will here me if I scream” kinda way.  But I’ve learned recently that close also refers to the hallways in between flats.

Steamin refers to someone who is really drunk.  Beth always says how steamin the people outside on the street are when they are making noise late at night. Which brings me to the downside of living in the city center surrounded by bars, luckily Halifax has adequately prepared me for sleeping through partying sounds late at night on every night of the week.

One of the common terms used as a term of endearment between adults and babies is cheeky.  I don’t think I ever really thought about what it meant before; maybe I considered it as sarcastic in a witty sort of way.  But that seemed to be odd when I considered it used towards a baby that way.  So I finally asked Beth and she said it meant mischievous.  That made sense, mostly, except for the times it is used with bum, like cheeky bum.  I know it’s baby talk, but it seems like a strange combination, but in an interesting way.

 Mingin is a word I struggled with for a long time.  Beth used it in phrases like this cloth is mingin or that lift is mingin.  I had no idea what she was talking about.  I just smiled and nodded to pretend I knew what was going on.  After a time I figured out it means smelling strongly or unpleasantly.  Apparently my smiling wasn’t the appropriate response.

I was having a conversation about pronunciation on Friday night (yes before going out dancing; small talk is cool).  Apparently here they actually do say aboot for about.  They thought we did too but I quickly set them straight that it was more like “a boat”.


March 4, 2008. Random.


  1. transpacificism replied:

    My family says “cheeky” in that sense too, although not as often – my dad uses it a lot to talk about kids and animals.

  2. mantecanaut replied:

    Yes ‘minging’ refers to something disgusting,but it doesnt have to be odour based.A person can also be minging or a ‘minger’…ie an ugly person.Those words are all pretty much in use all over the UK. esp.cheeky…you can use that as ‘how dare you’ too,eg.”cheeky swine!”when someone steals an m&m.

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