Saturday, September 19, 2009

Stuggy and Wee

As I've posted here before, I was fortunate enough to grow up in a family, in a community, in an area, where Ulster Scots words and phrases were part of everyday life, and even though it was more diluted than the Ulster-Scots of my parents, who in turn used a form more diluted than their parents, Ulster-Scots still leavened and coloured our daily speech. Not in the classroom, or even in the closest town (Newtownards), but certainly at hame wi oor ain yins.

Well, fast forward 30 odd years - Hilary took our two boys to get their hair cut yesterday. When they came back, Charlie's looked very uneven, so I brushed my hand through it and said "Charlie, your hair's all stuggy". It was a word often used in our house when I was wee, as my ma used to cut our hair for us - and despite her best efforts, with us as moving targets, stuggy was a regular aftermath!

The definition of stuggy from Chambers Concise Scots Dictionary is "a jagged or uneven cut, anything left coarse by uneven cutting". (Interestingly, stuggy isn't in The Hamely Tongue )

There was a discussion on Radio Ulster's Good Morning Ulster a few weeks back about the use of the word "wee", as in "put in your wee PIN number", or "what about a wee biscuit" etc. "Wee" is part of everybody's speech in Northern Ireland, and whilst I'll admit it's over-used to a ridiculous degree, it's another example of cultural markers of Scottish origin which permeate everybody's life here. The presenters seemed to be doing all sorts of contortions to NOT describe "wee" as Ulster-Scots though. The closest they got was when one of them said "isn't that a Northern Irish and Scottish word". But maybe even that small acknowledgement of a cultural continuity that stretches across the water is another wee step forward...