Stick tae cooncil juice ya jakey – and stay off the Salisbury Crag

From shan to schemie, Scottish slang is dictionary-bound

SLANG terms such as “spraff”, “cooncil juice” and “Salisbury Crag” are being included in a Scottish language dictionary for the first time.

Experts are updating the book for the first time in 20 years and have decided other gritty gems such as “numpty”, “chib” and “jakey” have earned their place.

The new edition of the Concise Scots Dictionary – which was first published in 1985 – is currently being researched, backed by £200,000 of Scottish Government money.

Dr Christine Robinson, director at Scottish Language Dictionaries, said an army of volunteers was wading through the entries, each of which has to be verified by at least three sources.

“It is an enormous job and now we are being securely funded we can move through it a lot more effectively,” she said.

Spraff , meaning to talk at length, will be included, along with Salisbury Crag which is Scottish rhyming slang for skag, meaning heroin.

Several terms to be included include the word “cooncil”, a reference to something being free, cheap or useless that will not go down well in the nation’s town halls.

So “cooncil juice” means “water, “cooncil telly” is “Freeview TV”, and “cooncil curtains” is a reference to a boarded up property.

Some of the terms are already very well known, such as Corned beef. The term – which only works as rhyming slang in a Scottish accent – of course means deaf.

A term particularly popular with Scotland’s schoolchildren, and which will make it in to the dictionary, is “shan”, meaning unfair.

Many of the slang terms making the dictionary reflect Scots’ talent for putting each other down.

“Numpty”, an idiot, “minger”, unattractive, “ned”, uncultivated, “schemie”, a housing scheme resident, and “jakey”, meaning an alcoholic, all made the cut.

Dr Maggie Scott, from Salford University, is an expert in Scots and Scottish English, and will attend a conference next year dedicated to slang.

She said: “People say it is just slang as if it is not a proper word.

“Especially in a Scottish context, where slang and dialect are very close together…taking slang more seriously might also be taking the language of those local areas more seriously.”

She added: “It raises the profile and makes people think about those words as the cultural artefacts they are, and not just as trivia or little throwaway bits of language we do not care about.”

Professor Julie Coleman from Leicester University is organising the conference next September.

She said there was often confusion over what was Scottish dialect and slang.

A word that is likely to be used and understood by several generations in one family is likely to be a dialect term, she said.

“If it is a slang word, you will probably use it primarily among your age group or with a particular group of people who have a shared interest with you,” she added.

The academics will discuss whether the internet is likely to erode local slang terms.

Professor Coleman believes it could have the opposite effect, enriching Scottish slang.

“I think the more we rub up against each other the more distinctive we have to make ourselves,” she said.

“I think it is a reaction against globalisation and although people will adopt some American slang words, they will quite proudly hold on to the ones that are distinctively British or Scottish or Australian or whatever.”


  1. I’ve only recently come across many of these words and expressions after watching the Scottish comedy series ‘Still Game’ which was recommended to me by a Scottish pal on Facebook. For example, I’d never heard a fruit machine referred to as a ‘puggy’ before, or the insult ‘get it up youse’ !

    They are such a joy to hear and I feel it’s such a shame we sassenachs (!) don’t have some decent equivalents.

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