17 Utterly Charming Articles on Scots Wikipedia

istock / wikipedia
istock / wikipedia

Wikipedia is not just an English encyclopedia. It has versions in many different languages, and not just the big ones. There are active Wikipedias in everything from Abkhaz to Zulu, more than 250 of them. There are even dead languages with living Wikipedias (see Latin and Old English). There are also Wikipedias for languages commonly considered to be dialects of larger languages such as Venetian or Pennsylvania Dutch, though they often differ enough from the larger languages to be evaluated as separate systems by linguists.

One of those dialects is Scots, not to be confused with Scottish Gaelic or Scottish English. Scots is close to Standard English in the way Norwegian is close to Danish, which is to say, they are pretty much mutually intelligible. It’s possible to read the Scots Wikipedia and understand nearly everything, but there’s just enough unfamiliar vocabulary and syntax to make the experience linguistically interesting and also utterly charming. Here are selections from 17 Scots Wikipedia articles that illustrate the effect perfectly. 

1. WATHER (WEATHER)

"Wather tells us whit's gaun on in the lift abuin us."

We borrowed the word air from French, and atmosphere from Greek, but Scots kept the older form lift—compare German Luft.

2. FILOSOFIE (PHILOSOPHY)

"Filosofie is a Greek wird for 'luv o wit.' It can be uised ti mean monie things."

In Scots, knowledge is wit and many is monie.

3. GLESGA (GLASGOW)

"Glesga, an aften spelt Glesgae or Glesca, is Scotland's maist muckle ceity, on the River Clyde in west-central Scotland."

Muckle or mickle means large. It goes back to Old Norse and is the source of the English word much.

4. BAIRN (CHILD)

"A bairn, wee 'un, child or littlin is a youthie body, a lad or lass."

Bairn is one of the few articles that has its own separate entry on Scots Wikipedia, but not on English Wikipedia.

5. YIRD (EARTH) 

"The Yird is the thrid planet oot frae the Sun. It is the mukkilest o the solar seetem's fower stanie planets, an the ae bodie that modren syense kens ti haud lyf." 

Thrid preserves the "three" better than English third, which moved the r to come after the vowel. Here, the four terrestrial planets are called stanie, or stony, and to know is to ken.

6. SHAKESPEARE

"William Shakespeare wis an Inglish makar an playwricht, nou cried the brawest writer in the Inglis leid an the warld's maist kenspeckle dramatist."

A makar is a poet, a “maker,” and braw, the Scots version of brave, carries more the sense of "mighty fine." Kenspeckle means recognized.

7. COFFEE

"Coffee is a brewed drink makkit fae roostit seeds, eften cried coffee beans, o the coffee plant. Caffeinatit coffee haes a stimulatin effect in fowk." 

Fowk is folk, an older word than people, which was borrowed from French.

8. BEUK (BOOK)

"A beuk (spelt buik anaw) is a set o prentit sheets o papers hauden thegither atwein twa kivers."

Where English has "held together," Scots has hauden thegither.

9. MUISIC (MUSIC)

"Muisic is soun that is makkit by humans for tae be haurd deleeberate by ither humans."

Scots adverbs often take the same form as adjectives, especially when they follow the verb. So "deliberately heard" is haurd deleeberate. This article also includes a wee list o pure deadly tuins.

10. THE APOLOGETIC APOSTROPHE

"The apologetic apostrophe is the name gien tae a wey o writin Scots for tae mak the seimilarities atween Scots an Inglis gey appearent. It is the uiss o an apostrophe (') for tae shaw letters wantin frae Scots wirds but's aye tae the fore in Inglis, for tae gie the impression that Scots is nocht but orra Inglis.

"Aften thae wirds haes nivver haed thir letters 'wantin.' Ae exemplar in this seestem, is the wird taen it wad be spelt ta'en (frae Inglis taken); but the wird wis spelt tane in the 14t century, sae the apostrophe here coud be caa'd specious."

The apologetic apostrophe is a way of writing Scots that makes it look more like broken English. Read the English article about it here.

11. MATHEMATICS

"Mathematics is the studie o feck, structur, room, an chynge. Historically, Mathematics developed frae coontin, calculation, meisurement, an the studie o the shapes an muivins o pheesical objects, throu the uise o abstraction an deductive raesonin." 

Scots feck is effect or quantity. We know it in English only in the word feckless.

12. AULD LANG SYNE

"'Auld Lang Syne' is a Scots poem written by Robert Burns in 1788 an set tae the tuin o a tradeetional fowk sang. It is weel kent in mony a Inglis-speakin kintra an is aften sang for tae celebrate the stairt o the new year at the straik o midnicht on Ne'er Day."

Auld lang syne itself translates to “old long since” or “old times.”

13. BREID (BREAD)

"Breid is a staple fuid prepared by bakin a daich o floor an watter."

Why do we spell dough with a gh? Because it once had a fricative sound on the end, which is still there in Scots daich.

14. GOWF (GOLF)

"Fowk haes lang raxt their harns ower hou gowf cam aboot, at the hinderend naebody will richt ken." 

Brains is a strange Old English word with no modern cognates. Harns, on the other hand, is much closer to existing German and Scandinavian languages.

15. COMPUTER

"A computer is a machine for tae mak manipulatin data mair eith. A body taks data inpits an maks ootpits in uissefu forms."

A body is how a body says “one” in Scots. Easy comes from French, but eith is from Old English.

16. SNAWBUIRDIN (SNOWBOARDING)

"Snawbuirdin is a winter sport. A body staunds on a snawbuird an gaes scrievin doun a brae happit wi snaw. It's sib tae skiin but baith feet is strappit tae the ae buird insteid o haein a buird (ski) on ilka fit."

Scrievin is gliding, brae is a hill-side or slope, and ilka is each.

17. SKIIN (SKIING)

"Skiin is a winter sport needin a muntain."

Exact and to the point. Well said!

The Ohio State University Is Trying to Trademark the ‘The’ in Its Name

As any good Ohioan knows, there’s a big difference between an Ohio state university and The Ohio State University. But with countless other public colleges across the state, including the similarly named Ohio University, it’s not hard for out-of-towners or prospective students to get confused. To further distinguish themselves from other institutions (and to capitalize on merchandise opportunities, no doubt), The Ohio State University is pursuing a trademark for the The in its name.

According to Smithsonian.com, trademark lawyer Josh Gerben first broke the news on Twitter, where he shared a short video that included the trademark application itself, as well as examples of how the university plans to use the word on apparel. One is a white hat emblazoned with a red THE, and the other is a red scoop-necked T-shirt with a white THE and the Ohio State logo beneath it. Gerben predicts that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will initially deny the trademark request on the basis that those examples aren’t sufficient trademark use, but the university would have an opportunity to try again.

The Columbus Dispatch reports that university spokesperson Chris Davey confirmed the trademark application, saying that “Ohio State works to vigorously protect the university’s brand and trademarks.” He’s not exaggerating; the university has secured trademarks for legendary coaches Urban Meyer and Woody Hayes, plus more than 150 trademarks and pending applications across an impressive 17 countries.

The school's 2017 request to trademark the initials "OSU" provoked an objection from Oklahoma State University, which is also known as OSU, but the two schools eventually decided that they could both use it, as long as each refrained from producing clothing or content that could cause confusion about which school was being referenced.

The Ohio State University, perhaps most famous for its marching band, public research endeavors, and legendary athletic teams, is not impervious to social media mockery, however.

Ohio University responded with this:

And the University of Michigan, OSU’s longtime sports rival, suggested that it should trademark of:

However bizarre this trademark may seem, it's far from the weirdest request th Patent and Trademark Office has ever received. Check out these colors and scents that are also trademarked.

[h/t Smithsonian.com]

Where Did the Term Brownie Points Come From?

bhofack2/iStock via Getty Images
bhofack2/iStock via Getty Images

In a Los Angeles Times column published on March 15, 1951, writer Marvin Miles observed a peculiar phrase spreading throughout his circle of friends and the social scene at large. While standing in an elevator, he overheard the man next to him lamenting “lost brownie points.” Later, in a bar, a friend of Miles's who had stayed out too late said he would never “catch up” on his brownie points.

Miles was perplexed. “What esoteric cult was this that immersed men in pixie mathematics?” he wrote. It was, his colleagues explained, a way of keeping “score” with their spouses, of tallying the goodwill they had accrued with the “little woman.”

Over the decades, the phrase brownie points has become synonymous with currying favor, often with authority figures such as teachers or employers. So where exactly did the term come from, and what happens when you “earn” them?

The most pervasive explanation is that the phrase originated with the Brownies, a subsect of the Girl Scouts who were encouraged to perform good deeds in their communities. The Brownies were often too young to be official Girl Scouts and were sometimes the siblings of older members. Originally called Rosebuds in the UK, they were renamed Brownies when the first troops were being organized in 1916. Sir Robert Baden-Powell, who had formed the Boy Scouts and was asked to name this new Girl Scout division, dubbed them Brownies after the magical creatures of Scottish folklore that materialized to selflessly help with household chores.

But the Brownies are not the only potential source. In the 1930s, kids who signed up to deliver magazines like The Saturday Evening Post and Ladies' Home Journal from Curtis Publishing were eligible for vouchers labeled greenies and brownies that they could redeem for merchandise. They were not explicitly dubbed brownie points, but it’s not hard to imagine kids applying a points system to the brownies they earned.

The term could also have been the result of wartime rationing in the 1940s, where red and brown ration points could be redeemed for meats.

The phrase didn’t really seem to pick up steam until Miles's column was published. In this context, the married men speaking to Miles believed brownie points could be collected by husbands who remembered birthdays and anniversaries, stopped to pick up the dry cleaning, mailed letters, and didn’t spend long nights in pubs speaking to newspaper columnists. The goal, these husbands explained, was never to get ahead; they merely wanted to be considered somewhat respectable in the eyes of their wives.

Later, possibly as a result of its usage in print, grade school students took the phrase to mean an unnecessary devotion to teachers in order to win them over. At a family and faculty meeting at Leon High in Tallahassee, Florida, in 1956, earning brownie points was said to be a serious problem. Also called apple polishing, it prompted other students in class to shame their peers for being friendly to teachers. As a result, some were “reluctant to be civil” for fear they would be harassed for sucking up.

In the decades since that time, the idiom has become attached to any act where goodwill can be expected in return, particularly if it’s from someone in a position to reward the act with good grades or a promotion. As for Miles: the columnist declared his understanding of brownie points came only after a long night of investigation. Arriving home late, he said, rendered him “pointless.”

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