Lead Review

  • Book: Cauld Blasts and Clishmaclavers
  • Location: Scotland
  • Author: Robin A Crawford

Review Author: tripfiction



Scotland is a nation of peoples woven together like a tartan or a tweed“. There are more than 150 languages spoken throughout Scotland, and the Scots language has in fact Germanic roots.

As the book opens there is a brief overview of the history of the language and how there is still an evocative vocabulary, which Scottish writer and bookseller, Robin Crawford has brought together in this single book. It is also beautifully illustrated with images created by Scottish printmaker, Liz Myhill.

So, as a sassenach (lowlander or saxon, ie non-Scot) I found the range and diversity of these collected words interesting. You can certainly see the Germanic roots in a word like fecht (in German to fight is fechten) and interesting how several words are recognisable and in colloquial parlance throughout the UK, like gumption and dram (of whisky – otherwise known as usquebaugh…no idea how you pronounce that) – and never with an “e” as in whiskey, because that denotes the ‘inferior’ drink quaffed in the USA).

Who knew that “The Clockwork Orange” is the affectionate nickname for Glasgow’s diminutive underground railway and I will give you one heads up, that a clishamaclaver of the title is ‘the passing of idea gossip, sometimes in a book”. But in order to become totally au fait (that’s not a Scottish term) with local Scottish terms, geographical areas and slang, you will have to buy the book! It is a useful adjunct to exploring Scotland and immersing yourself in Scottish culture.

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