Tuesday, May 19, 2009


A random kitten picture taken nearly two years ago.
Who knew? - well, lots of you, clearly, but not me - that "invigilator" wasn't the word used by English speakers worldwide for "grumpy person employed by educational establishments to sit glaring at students while they sit a national exam"? Various commenters have declared themselves unfamiliar with this expression. It has a verb form too: "to invigilate".

What do the rest of you call such a person?

It’s a standard English word, I think; not particularly Scottish. But we do have lots of Scots words, so I thought I'd make up a little Scots-flavoured story for a change. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin.

It was a dreich evening. A snell wind blew a few leaves around. Mary had a bit of a hoast and so decided to stay in the house and do some knitting. She made a cup of tea and settled down. However, she’d been gardening the previous day and had a skelf in her finger, which made it difficult. After a while, her wool got into a bit of a fankle. “Ach!” she cried, getting into a stooshie, “I canna be fashed with this!” And she went off to bed, cooried down under the covers and went off to sleep. In the morning, things seemed less scunnersome and she was able to keep a calm sooch.

Need a translation?

It was a dreary, damp evening. A bitter wind blew a few leaves around. Mary had a bit of a cough and so decided to stay in the house and do some knitting. She made a cup of tea and settled down. However, she’d been gardening the previous day and had a splinter in her finger, which made it difficult. After a while, her wool got into a bit of a tangle. “Oh!” she cried, getting worked up, “I can’t be bothered with this!” And she went off to bed, cuddled down under the covers and went off to sleep. In the morning, things seemed less trying and she was able to keep a calm demeanour.
Like to tell me some words local to your neck of the woods?
(Edited to add: these are all traditional Scottish words, as used by my granny's generation and, to a lesser extent, my mother's and mine. Scots dialect isn't used nearly so much by the young. Which is a pity, I feel. Another word for "splinter" is "spail", now I come to think of it. Wood must have been rough in the past, I suppose, since they needed two words for this.)


  1. Proctor would be the more common term around here, but I've certainly heard the word Invigilate.

    I love those words, especially scunnersome. And the Catyingyang.

  2. Dude! Like, whatever. Totally Fierce. (all of these are now outdated, I know not of the current lingo, just that I am now declaring things AWESOME! far too frequently)

    There's a Pennsylvanian breakfast delicacy known as "Scrapple", made out of... scraps of meat fried in lard. Sounds rather Scottish to me.

  3. Anonymous1:06 am

    We have proctors and administrators for our exams. The admin has all the responsibility, and the proctor is there to help and keep the admin honest. And we take exams, rather than "sit them". Not sure where we take them to, lol.

    Some local words/current slang I hear frequently: scarfed up - as in "he scarfed up his dinner" - ate it really fast; "EOC's" - end of course exams (just 2 weeks away now, but who is counting); He's got "skilz" - slang for doing something really well.

    And an oldie but a goodie my students love when I use: skeedaddle.... means get out of here.

  4. When we moved from Sussex to Derbyshire we discovered that an alleyway was a jitty, a lunch (box) a snap, and a bread roll a cob.

    Though as a child I remember that people 'got a cob on' when they were grumpy. I'm sure that had nothing to do with bread!

    I love dialect words. And slang, and inventions. There are a lot of inventions with computing, aren't there? A little flowering of language - nothing like the Elizabethan age, but often very jolly (flash drives, memory sticks, fatal errors, qwerty keyboards - there's so much part of the everyday now I can't think of many off the top of my head!)

  5. Definitely a proctor. I was once a test proctor -- when we first moved to Germany -- for six months, before I found a job in software, I babysat students taking GED (high school completion) and CLEP (college credit) tests. It was very boring, but I got a lot of knitting in. ;-)

    As for slang here, I can't really think of any off the top of my head. Plus, sometimes, it's hard to know what isn't common outside of your area. One phrase I hear in our part of the country that has become VERY UN-politically correct in other parts of the country is "that's so gay" -- meaning so dumb, or lame and having nothing to do with the subject's sexual preference.

  6. Glaikit is one of my favourites, as is numpty. Both frequently used in connection with the Scottish Parliament, or "The Numptorium" as it is known in our house!

  7. What a hoot! Dialect and accents, always a joy. My French mother struggled when she first moved to Edinburgh, but once she'd got a grip of the accent, she loved it. Her favourite, overheard on a bus from Newington - one woman to another: "See me? See ma man? See mince? We hate it." (but don't pronounce the t in 'hate' or 'it' of course.

  8. dreiche I knew and occasionally use, and fashed. We used to use the word gnashed or nashed or knashed (no idea of the spelling) to mean hurried as in I nashed to Teviot for a pint. Maybe we made it up though

  9. Oh my. I haven't heard the word "skelf" in years...but that is exactly what my parents used to call it when any one of us had a splinter in a finger. In fact, at times my Mum speaks English as a second language (Scottish being her first!)

  10. I used to hear my mother and father come out with words that weren't kiwi ones. None of those ones though! Trying to think of some they used, but at the moment none come to mind.

  11. There are so many priceless words in use in Australia & New Zealand, that have probably had their roots in the British Isles.
    One I use frequently- to my mother's disgust- is wee, as in wee girl, wee one, cute wee thing.
    My brother has a much better memory of words used by our parents, & he always makes us laugh, with his memories.
    A couple from here:
    "Don't come the raw prawn with me" Meaning don't pretend to be innocent or ignorant.
    "Fair suck of the sav" meaning to give someone a 'fair go'.
    There are many colourful phrases that make us laugh... or cringe!

  12. I should perhaps add, that a 'sav' is a saveloy, or a type of poloney, or continental sausage, coloured red, & used for deep fried, battered 'Hot Dogs'. Which is probably just as confusing?
    Smaller, pinker versions are referred to at parties as "Little Boys". These were known as "Cheerios" in New Zealand, but seem to be called "Cocktail Sausages" here in Aus. Enough said.

  13. I like the Yorks/Lincs/Notts word "nesh" which can be used is several ways - A person is nesh if they feel the cold more than most or the weather itself can be nesh meaning cold and wet, or dreich in fact..

    Or the Irish use of "queer" or "quare" as very. ie. "I was was quare hungry/tired/angry etc".

    My husband brings some good scottishisms back from the rig, numpty being one of my favs but I also like "coupon" (no idea how it's spelt) for face.

    Oooh, you've got me going now. I love the south yorkshire dialect which still uses lot of thee's and tha's. My favourite was my mate at a footbal match, incensed at one of our players (a Belgian international) who had given an interview in a Belgian mag slagging off his English team mates for not being able to get the ball to him and was then, in the next home game, playing like a donkey! Tatts stood up in the relative quiet and yelled "Oy, De Bilde, learn to pass thee sen before tha f**king spouts off...t**t!!" while not in anyway endorsing the bad language (and I did tell him off about it) the phraseology he used was so rhythmic, pithy and to the point...perfect!

    Great post, really got me thinking!

    Lesley x

  14. I'm going to incorporate 'I cannae be fashed' into my everyday conversation from hereon. Starting tonight actually.

    Oh, and invigilators are known as invigilators here in Australia too.

    Some words and sayings from over here? Um ... if you're very very busy you might say you are 'flat out like a lizard drinking'. A vomit is sometimes called a technicolour yawn. We 'barrack' for our football teams unlike Americans who root for them. An Australian root is quite another matter and not for the likes of a gentle blog like this one. The other one I like is 'cactus' which means something (or someone) is totally stuffed/broken/drunk/wasted/useless. As in,' I had two wines and I was cactus'.

    I'll come back if I think of more.

  15. Wot, no email? How can I answer your questions or swop silly Scottish rhymes with you?

  16. Dozens if not hundreds, of books have been written about the Australian Slanguage, so I'm not going to bore you by quoting from Crocodile Dundee! Our language is said to be based on English, as is the American language, but each is unique, isn't it.
    What I love about the English language in England (and Scotland, Wales and Ireland) is that you have so many varieties within such a relatively small space of the planet!
    Isabelle, I'm sure you would be familiar with the 1986 BBC publication "The Story of English"? Having seen the entire t.v. series, I just love having the book to dip into!

  17. Forgot to say thanks for your encouraging words on my blog about my woes...I'm taking time off to have some fun now. You can have fun without money - you just need like-minded friends, and I'm lucky to have many of those!
    Oh - and I love the kitty photo as usual.

  18. Proctor? Monitor?

    Enjoyed the taste of dialect. I think I'm so unconscious of my own dialect that I couldn't give examples.

  19. A grumpy person employed by educational establishments to glare at students while they sit for exams is called a proctor in this country. Not related, as far as I know, to a proctologist........

  20. Lovely. 'Can't be fashed' I know, I wonder if it comes form 'je m'en fache'? I like 'numpty' very much and use it whenever I remember to, though I didn't know it was especially Scottish.

    Hope you get the pusscats sorted out...

  21. My previous partner was from Seaham in Co. Durham - he always called a splinter 'a spelk' - not so far removed geographically (well not from down here in Somerset anyway) and obviously a vaguely similar word