Scottish Daily Mail

Don’t claich, you’ll make a splorroch!

New dictionary reveals forgotten Scottish words

- By Dean Herbert

THEY were once colourful terms used to describe everyday life in the Highlands, but fell out of use more than a century ago.

Now words such as barghist, clawscrunt and claich have been rediscover­ed and compiled in a new dictionary.

Glasgow School of Art lecturer Amanda Thomson was carrying out research in the Cairngorms for a PhD on landscape when she stumbled on long-forgotten words such as splorroch, meaning the sound of walking in wet mud, and huam, which describes the moan of an owl on a warm summer day.

She said: ‘These words reveal so much about our history, natural history and our changing ways of life. They are indicative of the depth, richness and variety of the Scots language.’

Miss Thomson came upon the idea of the dictionary after speaking to foresters and ecologists working in the Abernethy Forest and began to notice all the unfamiliar words they were using.

At the same time she found a 19th-century Scots dictionary in an Edinburgh bookshop, containing further examples of lost phrases and words.

‘I came across the word timmer breeks,’ she said. ‘Timmer is timber and breeks is an old Scots word for trousers – and timmer breeks together means coffin.

‘The more I started to look at these dictionari­es I was coming across these really interestin­g definition­s, phrases I had never used.’

She said words linked to landscape and nature were ‘a connection that had been lost’ between people and the natural world: ‘A lot of the words had a real poetry to them and that’s what made me collect them.’

Miss Thomson, from Kilsyth, Stirlingsh­ire, said: ‘Different words will have resonance with different people depending on who they are, where they are from and how old they are.

‘It harks back to connection­s to place and history; how you relate to previous generation­s. There is a word for a sparrow – speug – which I always remember my grandfathe­r using.

‘Some of the words are really matter-of-fact but I think there is something lovely about it, and they are sometimes specific.

‘A bar-ghist is a ghost that frequents stiles – there is something lovely that you have to be careful when crossing a stile because a ghost might be waiting for you.’

A Scots Dictionary of Nature by Amanda Thomson is published by Saraband at £12.99.

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