Friday, October 30, 2009

Gressgaw, floormot, thaveless, haverel and attercap

Talking to my mother a while ago, I grabbed a pen and a bit of paper - because in the course of about 15 minutes she used these five words. She doesn't use dense Ulster-Scots, but English that's heavily peppered with a flow of words that aren't in the English dictionary. Why? Because they're not English words! Her definitions were:

Gressgaw: cut on or between the fingers
Floormot: garden
Thaveless: useless
Haverel: a thran big woman or man
Attercap: cheeky / smart alec

The foundation of any language is of course individual words. Nearly everyone in Northern Ireland (apart from the self-conscious-and-upwardly-mobile) says "aye" instead of "yes" and "wee" instead of "little". That's evidence of just how big the impact of Scots has been here over the centuries.

Hardly anybody in Northern Ireland nowadays knows who James Orr, the Bard of Ballycarry, is - never mind go to the linguistic depths of memorising his poetry. Outside of east Londonderry, Antrim and Down, maybe not many folk even use the obscure words that my mother uses. But it would be great if more people, young and old, came to recognise just how many Scots / Ulster-Scots words they naturally use every day.

(NB: This blog now feeds over to my Facebook page, where Robin has quite rightly posted about Ulster-Scots words being used in Donegal. East Donegal is of course another important language location given the early lowland Scots migrations there too. The post above was about NI, so apologies for leaving Donegal out!)