“You look bonnie”
“Thank you” I replied with a smile. Orkney Beef is not always hugely forth coming with compliments so I have to grab them when I can. We were having lunch out a couple of years ago and sitting opposite one another.
“You look bonnie” he said again.
“Thank you!” I replied a second time, now slightly mystified as to why he should be so forthcoming with the compliments.
“Do.You.Have.MONEY!” he said now mouthing carefully to me like I was his hard of hearing elderly aunt.
“oh, I thought you were saying I looked bonnie”
“Beuy Beuy” He said with a shake of the head.
This is how our conversations go on a daily basis. Orkney Beef will say something and I will reply on a completely different subject as I struggle to understand his strong Orcadian accent.
When I moved to Orkney I had no idea that Orcadian was a different language, I always assumed it was just a different accent apart from a few odd words here and there. In actual fact the language I have grown to love is full of words and expressions and almost 8 years on I am still learning new ones every week. I remember my first week living in Orkney I was in a shop and two men were standing speaking to each other. For all I knew they could’ve been planning to rob a bank as I hadn’t a clue what each was saying to the other.
Orkney Beef used to set me a challenge saying an Orkney word and I had to go off and find out what it meant and come back to him. I understand many words now but pronouncing them is a different thing as it doesn’t really lend itself to an English accent, especially one that sounds like she’s reading the news. For example ‘Peedie’ is a word used in Orkney on a daily basis and it means small. English people tend to pronounce it peeeeeeeeeeedeeeeeeee but Orcadians would pronounce it more as ‘piddy’.*edit, I’ve just been corrected and told no we don’t say it as piddy but I’m at a loss to how else to write it down, sorry.* It’s equally funny hearing Orkney Beef accidentally speak English (too much time spent with me) I always have a little smile when I hear him say to the dog ‘sit dawun’ instead of ‘sit doon’
I’ve come to learn hundreds of Orkney words have and loads of favourites. I love to hear new words and understand their meaning but you need to be careful you’ve got the right meaning before you speak it. I once heard a story of someone English who worked in care who said it was time to help an elderly man into his goonie. A goonie is a nightie!
I was once talking with friends and one of them spoke about needing ‘haddion knickers’ I hadn’t a clue what on earth haddion knickers were and thought maybe it was a brand like M&S. Eventually after hearing them referenced a few times more I realised she was saying ‘had ye in’ knickers. ‘Ohhh hold.you.in. knickers!!’ I suddenly announced to much laughter.
There are Orkney dictionaries and wordbooks but I usually end up asking for a translation. I once spilt drink down myself and Orkney Beef said ‘whit a slester’ my reply in my best posho accent I could muster was ‘I don’t know what you mean but I don’t think you were paying me a compliment’
I’ll list some of my favourites with hopefully the right translation!
- Stap, stapped- full
- Swadge (pictured)- this is what you do after a big meal. Relax and let your dinner go down!
- Gabblo- crawling insect
- Gansy- Jumper, jersey
- Muckle- much, lots of ‘that’s no muckle use’
- Spear- ask
- Gleckid (not sure how to spell it) ugly *second edit* stupid/simple/thick
I could go on and on but my spell check is close to combustion. The Orcadian language is meant to be spoken not written.
I would love to hear your comments and stories about Orcadian words and language, please share them. I’m sure Orkney Beef and I will continue to misunderstand each other for years to come, but never mind. It seems he can say whatever he likes and I assume he’s paying me a compliment. I may not have money but I sure am bonnie. 😉