Being out in the countryside with my dogs gives me time to think. I’ve learnt the pleasure of solitude without being lonely, and that’s a good feeling for me.

Welcome to "Man with two dogs" - the family website for dog owners and dog walkers.

This is my countryside diary which appears each Saturday in the Dundee Courier newspaper.

Dundee dictionary

October 15th, 2005

LANGUAGE EVOLVES and words fall out of fashion; some even disappear altogether to make way for new ones. Expressions like a  box of spunks' for a box of matches,  fleg' for fright and  queine' to describe a young girl, have certainly dropped from common usage since I was a youngster.

  I suspect that historically these were mostly part of everyday countryside speech. In a city like Dundee there's not only a very distinct accent, but also a very local vocabulary, some of which grew out of the language and conventions which were specific to the many industries which have flourished in the city. The language just fell in step with the times.

This philosophical reverie arose from a conversation I had about bawbees and groats, words that certainly haven't cropped up in day-to-day conversation for a very long time. I can't think now why Ian and I set off down this route, and indeed it doesn't matter, but words are one of my passions, and I enjoy exploring their origins.

Because there are lots of readers out there who correct me when I fail to check my facts, I turned to Dr Jamieson's Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language – and just as well I did.

I was sure a  grote' was a Scottish coin. Not so; it was an English coin, but common in Scotland in the fifteenth century, with a value of about 14 old Scotch pennies.

The good doctor's spelling for the other is  bawbie', and I thought it was an old Scotch penny. Wrong again; it was an old Scotch halfpenny. Like other readers of a certain age I remember when a  ha'penny' bought me a sweetie. And then there's the question of why the row of houses just west of Forfar was called Halfpennyburn?

Two pennies, or twopence, used to be tuppence; three pennies were thruppence. Then along came decimalisation in 1968 and we got  new pence'. It wouldn't have been surprising if the idiom of the day had abbreviated it to  nuppence'. There was such an uproar of disapproval from so many people that it might well have summed up their disenchantment with the changes in coinage.

From grotes the conversation turned to making porridge, and Ian was  blawin' somewhat about his skills as a porridge maker. He described the comparative subtleties of making it with water, and with half-and-half milk and water. And that very morning he'd made it with milk, water and double cream. It seemed to me he was straying into uncharted territory!

Dr Jamieson came to the rescue once more. ” €¦..porridge is made of oat meal, with milk or beer, to breakfast”. When Ian tells me he's made proper porridge the Scotch way, with beer, we can finish the conversation.

Now you'll need to excuse me, I'm off to spend two bawbies.






Written on Saturday, October 15th, 2005 at 8:33 am for Weekly.