Sunday, February 28, 2010

Striffin and Stave

(NB: If you're reading this on Facebook, the original post is from my blog) I was talking to a man in County Antrim yesterday morning, at the launch of the Alexander Peden book at Kellswater Reformed Presbyterian Church. He asked me if I knew what "striffin" was. I hadn't a clue, so he told me - it's the word for the thin skin or membrane inside a boiled egg. How specific is that!*

Earlier in the week one of my nieces had a bash falling down a few stairs at home, and staved her finger. My English wife had never heard of "stave" before - and I must admit I had difficulty explaining it to her. So I dug out my copy of The Hamely Tongue and there it was - the definition is "to injure the joints of a finger or thumb by stubbing". Chambers English Dictionary confirms that "stave" is Scots in origin.

Folk might huff and puff about language and status but there is no doubt whatsoever about the large amount of Scots-origin vocabulary in daily use in Ulster today.

(* Long before the Kelloggs invasion and the era of croissants, boiled eggs were a vital part of the daily diet. In the early 1900s, an old ancestor of mine got married and moved into a cottage at Butterlump between Ballyhalbert and Portavogie. He was a big gruff character but his new wife was a wee timid woman. A few days into the marriage, she asked him what way he'd like his boiled egg in the morning. His abrupt reply was... "Alangside anither yin")


Colin Maxwell said...

Hi Mark,

My stock reply for "How do you like your eggs done?" is "In a pavlova."

Fair Fa' ye!

Mark Thompson said...

That's brilliant Colin!