Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Place names, pronunciations, the weird, rude and ironic

'In Scotland, we have a special affection fur wer words'.
This extends to our North-East place-names.
Lost in translation ...

'There’s nae lack of insults - ya bawbag, eejit, tumshie, numpty, feartie, fud, galoot, heidbanger, zoomer, nyaff, roaster, and dare to say it, teuchter. We’ve nae problems in expressing our general disgust when something’s boggin, clatty, gantin, hoachin, loupin, maukit, minging, boufin, howlin, honkin, or if it quite simply, geez ye the dry boak. Similarly our contemplations on the post-dram experience is impressive, whether we’re steamin, fleein, pished, hammered, blootered, blottoed, goosed, guttered, rubber, para, or mad wae it.'

{I got an email from a proof-reader recently telling me that their wonderful app had detected several typos on this blog: most of the words above were listed as examples. Ed.}

'Mind your language: Scottish Government to step up promotion of Scots' - David Jamieson

Anne Donovan: Mingin, mawkit, smeddum, uncos, garbs and some magic words fur weather

 Our North-East of Scotland place-names and pronunciations can cause confusion, with no shortage to offer as examples. The Romans invaded Britain in 43AD. Forty years later they marched on ancient Caledonian granaries, full from the harvest. This action led to the first recorded battle of Scotland's colourful past - with Iron Age Picts at Mons Graupius. The battle may have taken place on the slopes of Bennachie. 

As names often are, the entire region of Grampian is the result of a mistake. In 1476 a typesetter was producing a printed edition of Tacitus's biography of his father-in-law, the Roman Governor Agricola, whereby he misspelt Graupians as Grampians. The region has kept the 'Grampian' spelling ever since. The Grampians is also the name of the main belt of mountains across Scotland, ending at its most westerly point with Ben Nevis.

Places have been established worldwide by colonists naming new settlements after a picturesque corner of home. Take the Canadian metropolis of Calgary - the original consists of a small village on the island of Mull off the west of Scotland. Moscow is a hamlet in East Ayrshire.

On to North-East place-names. Cairnbulg becomes Belger and Premnay is Auchleven, Gardenstown and neighbour Crovie on the Moray Firth are called Gamrie and Crivie.

Not to be confused with Crichie (Stuartfield on SatNavs and Ordnance Survey), Geerie (Gairioch), Finechty (Findochty), Fing in or Finan (Finzean), Fishie (Fetterangus) and Fittie (Footdee in Aberdeen).

Fraserburgh and Peterhead are known as the Broch and the Bloo Toon respectively. Some good folk of Garthdee delight in upsetting their posh neighbours by referring to their own suburb as East Cults. Going west up the Dee, you'll find the abandoned, well-named Shakkin’ Briggie which crosses the river to Ardoe from Cults.

It's no easier for strangers and tourists when the locals pronounce Culter as Cooter, while Cults is never called Coots; then there's Bankry (Banchory), Abine (Aboyne), Stran (Strachan), Creemin (Crimond) and Finnyfaul (Whinnyfold). The Turra cow is famous but don't go looking for anything other than Turriff on a map. Both Loch and Glen Muick are pronounced Mick, so that's easy enough. Rosehearty becomes Rizzarty, Banff sounds like a muffled, unwanted explosion (Bumpf), and if you think Maggieknockater (a village near Craigellachie in Banffshire) getting abbreviated to Mathgan is a blessing, check out the Gaelic -  try saying Magh an Fhucadair phonetically, then wait for muffled laughter from those with the Gaelic nearby. By the way, Avoch shortens to 'och'.

Place names bear witness to perverse memories. A remote house near Alford, where swingers' parties were held, as disclosed at the famous Garvie murder trial of 1968, is still known as Kinky Cottage. To this day folk yell 'Dinnae shop there!' outside the Union Street building in Aberdeen that in 1964 housed William Low's supermarket, where the contaminated corned beef from Argentina which sparked a typhoid epidemic was sold. I thought that my pal Shoogie had been indulging in mindbendng substances when he said he'd bought a sarnie from 'Typhoid' and pointed at the building, until it transpired that he had pet names for many landmarks in the city. For example, he called a nearby pub Banished, because Siouxsie and the Banshees split up there in September 1979, when it was The Other Record Shop. The band was appearing for fans at the record store, their last gig together, as it happened. "At the Capitol Theatre that night, Siouxsie sang 'Lord's Prayer' with the Cure," Shoogie remembers fondly.

Street names in Aberdeen reflect past trading - commodities, artisans and countries:- Candlemakers' Lane, Wrights' and Coopers' Place, Cotton Street, Flourmill Lane, Virginia Street, Baltic Place, Jamaica Street and Patagonia Court spring to mind.

I'll end with some examples of intriguing place-names, so look out for signposts to Knock and Glass. There's at least two Twatts in Scotland, one on Orkney and the other on Shetland. The Perthshire village of Dull is twinned with Boring in Oregon. Many places disappoint, not fulfilling the promise that their names suggest. It was easy to find and leave Lost, for example, and I didn't go missing in the mist when I went to what is written as Aberchirder on maps of the Grampian area, but it is for some reason called Foggieloan by all and sundry. I once spent a fruitless few hours in Tarty. I can't even begin to describe what happened when I visited Backside and Brokenwind.

Additions, corrections and explanations are welcome.

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