Eh? I said "language". Oh. Yes, tricky Johnny, the old lingo. Crikey, that's a very English way of putting it. I can tell already that this column is going to have issues.
But still we persevere. Persevere: interesting word. From the old French, of course, perseverer, itself from Latin, perseverare. It's not known where the Romans got the word, but it's thought they just made it up.
I witter thus in the wake of a sad occasion. To me, it seemed unspeakably sad that a dialect should die with one grand old man's passing. Bobby Hogg took the tongue of Cromarty with him and is even now regaling them with it in Heaven, particularly if fish is on the menu. His was the argot of Black Isle fisherfolk, with both Doric and Gaelic in it.
A plashack was a big, flat fish and a padlucks a small saithe. A very, very small saithe was a spooger. Lest you think I'm just taking the piscatorial, here are some other gems: belligut (greedy person), bleems (potato plant) creenie (little finger) droog-droogle (be engaged in heavy, wet work).
You say: "That's all very well. But do they have no 'f' words? I'm particularly fond of those." They do, madam, and here's one coming at ya now: foodge (to play truant). Wonderful words, and each worth saving.
According to one school of thought, the Black Isle fisherfolk were made up of 15th-16th century incomers from the Firth of Forth area, speaking Scots or "Scottis", which subsequently mingled with the more Gaelic-inflected dialect of the native toon's fowk.
I can detect pedants circling, and so will tiptoe back into the shallows for now. But you can find more information on Am Baile, the Highland Council's history and culture website.
To whet your appetite for that, here's a little amuse bouche frae it: "Ah'm fair sconfished wi hayreen. Gie's fur brakwast lashins o am and heggs." Translation: I'm so fed up with herring. Give me plenty of ham and eggs for breakfast.
If you come across the expression "baldie boats" incidentally, put from your mind intriguing images of glistening pates at sea. These were types of vessel that Cromarty men took to the lochs.
We're talking about words suited to place, occupation and culture. As we become less local and more universal, they're being lost. The yin and yang of yon relationship is out of kilter. Local and universal require realigning, just as in Scotland's case national and international now needs a more natural harmony.
The lack of confidence often shown by our footballers, children and vox pop passers-by in television interviews is caused by this disharmony. Our way of speaking is not the official way, nor even the tongue of 99% of our television. There's the way we speak, the way they speak, and the way one ought to speak.
Scots generally occasions comment only when folk – often Americans, they of the mumbling dramas that you have to keep rewinding – claim they can't understand it. And that's before we get on to Doric and whatnot.
But there's no right and wrong way to speak. Variety is the spice of lingo. In my youth, I spent time with posher boys and so de-Leithed my tongue. It's something I've always regretted. My new voice still doesn't sound right to me. It still sounds like I'm trying to be somebody else. Yet I can't speak any other way now.
It's a different matter in writing, where I can be whae I want – ken? – and can adapt style to subject-matter, don't you know? That said, it's difficult for Scots of my generation, brought up on Blyton, to avoid writing in a kind of posh or formal English. Its grandeur is inspiring, its comic potential prodigious.
But Scots, and the country's numerous dialects, have an earthy majesty – and humour – of their own. Ideally, we would master them all.
Some folk rejoice at the death of languages, believing all must become one. I cannot think this correct. Every single word has a backstory and a soul. As we bob about in our baldie boats, may all leids, languages and lingos flourish.
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