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!

Why 'Run' Is The Most Complex Word in the English Language

iStock.com/VectorStory
iStock.com/VectorStory

English can be hard for other language speakers to learn. To use just one example, there are at least eight different ways of expressing events in the future, and conditional tenses are another matter entirely. For evidence of the many nuances and inconsistencies of the English tongue, look no further than this tricky poem penned in 1920. (For a sample: “Hiccough has the sound of cup. My advice is to give up!”)

As author Simon Winchester wrote for The New York Times, there’s one English word in particular that’s deceptively simple: run. As a verb, it boasts a record-setting 645 definitions. Peter Gilliver, a lexicographer and associate editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, spent nine months sussing out its many shades of meaning.

“You might think this word simply means ‘to go with quick steps on alternate feet, never having both or (in the case of many animals) all feet on the ground at the same time,’” Winchester writes. “But no such luck: that is merely sense I.1a, and there are miles to go before the reader of this particular entry may sleep.”

This wasn’t always the case, though. When the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary was published in 1928, the word with the most definitions was set. However, the word put later outpaced it, and run eventually overtook them both as the English language's most complex word. Winchester thinks this evolution is partly due to advancements in technology (for instance, “a train runs on tracks” and “an iPad runs apps”).

He believes the widespread use of run—and its intricate web of meanings—is also a reflection of our times. “It is a feature of our more sort of energetic and frantic times that set and put seem, in a peculiar way, sort of rather stodgy, rather conservative,” Gilliver told NPR in an interview.

So the next time you tell your boss you "want to run an idea" by them, know that you’re unconsciously expressing your enthusiasm—as well as all the other subtleties wrapped up in run that previous words like set failed to capture.

[h/t The New York Times]

Scholar Claims the Voynich Manuscript Is Written in a 'Proto-Romance' Language

Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University, Wikimedia Commons
Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University, Wikimedia Commons

Various theories have attributed the Voynich manuscript to cryptographers, aliens, and pranksters. The book, written in an unknown text and dating back to the 15th century, has stumped codebreakers since it was rediscovered by a rare book dealer named Wilfred Voynich in 1912. Now, a scholar from the UK claims that the Voynich code isn't a code at all, but one of the only surviving examples of a proto-romance language, Artnet News reports. If true, it would have huge implications on the study of linguistics as a whole, but experts are hesitant to endorse the findings.

Gerard Cheshire, a research associate at the University of Bristol in England, describes his alleged breakthrough in a study published in the journal Romance Studies. He claims that the Voynich manuscript was written in a fully formed language Europeans spoke centuries ago. Proto-romance laid the foundation for modern languages like French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. Hardly any known examples of it survived in writing because it was mainly a spoken language. Most important texts from the time were written in Latin, the official language of royalty, the church, and the government.

After identifying the Voynich script, Cheshire claims it took him just to weeks to translate the text. One passage next to an illustration of women struggling to give children a bath lists adjectives like noisy, slippery, and well-behaved, according to Cheshire. Another section, written beside pictures of volcanoes, describes islands being born out of volcanic eruptions. The scholar believes that Dominican nuns compiled the manuscript as a reference book for Maria of Castile, Queen of Aragon—Catherine of Aragon's great-aunt.

Many people have claimed to have cracked the Voynich code in the past, and experts are hesitant believe that this time is any different. After academics expressed concerns over the study, Bristol University where Cheshire works released a statement distancing itself from the research. It reads: "We take such concerns very seriously and have therefore removed the story regarding this research from our website to seek further validation and allow further discussions both internally and with the journal concerned."

If Cheshire's research does prove to be valid, that means he's accomplished something the greatest code-breaking minds in modern history could not. Not even cryptographer Alan Turing could crack the cipher.

[h/t Artnet News]

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