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Brushing Up on Older Scots

May 4, 2016

Scholars discuss the language of medieval and early modern Scotland

Feeling like a cummerwarld, or even a dowbart, because your Older Scots vocabulary is a bit rusty? Fear not: you needn’t be looking glaikit for long.

In May, the University is hosting the Rochester–St Andrews Conference on Older Scots Literature and Culture. The gathering draws specialists from the U.S., Canada, and Europe to share papers on 14th- to 16th-century literature in Older Scots, the descendent of Old English that was used in medieval and early modern Scotland.

Rhiannon Purdie of the University of St Andrews in Fife, Scotland, who is visiting the University’s Robbins Library as a Fulbright Scottish Studies Scholar, and Thomas Hahn, professor of English, co-organized the event. Papers examine early literary and political texts, historiography, and language and ethnicity, among other subjects.

The Robbins Library is home to the Middle English Texts Series, sponsored by the Consortium for the Teaching of the Middle Ages. Among the nearly 100 volumes published, the series has made available, in digital and hard copy, a number of Older Scots writings and more are in production, helping to make Older Scots literature more accessible to teachers and students around the world.

More information about the conference is on its webpage:

Meet a few terms from Older Scots . . .

cummerwarld: n. useless person (i.e., “encumber-world”)

dowbart: n. dimwit

dreich: adj. tedious, dreary; (of weather) grey and miserable. Still common in modern usage.

glaik: n. fool; glaikit: adj. idiotic

lidder: adj. slow, sluggish, indecisive

maggil, maggle: v. to spoil; maggilit: adj. mangled, ruined

nipcaik: n. miser

quean: n. wench

skaldit skaitbird: n. scabby scavenger

skamelar: n. parasite

slawsy: n. fellow, guy

walidrag: n. wastrel

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Category: Society & Culture