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Black and white picture of a street in Aberdeen on a rainy, overcast day

A dreich day in Aberdeen

Having a good fudgel? Need a cwtch?

Words are extremely powerful: expressing and shaping our beliefs, feelings and opinions. They help us develop a sense of belonging, build a strong identity, and influence how we act and behave.

As a copywriter, it’ll come as no surprise that words, their meaning and their origin, are something I’m particularly interested in.

And if you noticed, and objected, that I ended my sentence with a preposition there, you may be interested in this.

Enter my less-than-scientific and not quite representative study.

In current media parlance, I ‘took to’ social media, asking friends and followers to contribute their favourite words or phrases.

While I wouldn’t say the results led to a deeper understanding of the human condition, they were genuinely interesting.

What’s more, the heart emoji, the Global Language Monitor’s international word for 2014, wasn’t mentioned once.

Let’s start close to home.

Most of the suggestions came from specific parts of the UK, perhaps emphasising that the words we use are often a means to articulate an affiliation with, or sense of belonging to, where we come from, and places we hold dear.

England:

  • ‘Stood there like cheese at fourpence’ (waiting idly/timewasting) comes from the Lancashire mill towns where, at one time, fourpence was expensive for cheese and pricing it as such would mean a lot was left unsold
  • Also from the north-west: ‘Stood there like piffy on a rock bun’ (hanging around unnecessarily)
  • Nesh: Someone susceptible to feeling cold

Wales:

  • Cwtch (pronounced cootch, to rhyme with butch). Recently, Welsh rugby referee Nigel Owens suggested to two fighting players that if they wanted a cwtch (a cuddle, hug) they should do it off the field

Scotland:

  • Dreich (dreary, bleak – eg this post’s featured image), outwith (outside/beyond) and stramash (uproar/tumult) were all suggested, as well as scunnert (fed-up): “I’m fair scunnert the day.”

Northern Ireland:

  • Thaveless (someone who’s pathetic/useless); ‘Catch yourself on’ (get a grip of yourself, wise up) and ‘stickin’ out’ (brilliant) eg: “That dinner last night was stickin’ out.”

And suggestions from the European mainland included:

Germany:

  • Lichtgrenze (literally means ‘border of light’): It’s the name given to the lit balloon installation where the Berlin Wall once stood, marking 25 years since its fall
  • Weltschmerz translates as ‘world pain’ and describes a weariness because of a perceived mismatch between the ideal world and how things really are

And finally….

Anyone who’s had an argument will have experienced Denis Diderot’s l’esprit de l’escalier (literally staircase wit): the predicament of thinking of the perfect retort or comment too late.

So whether you like a Chic Murray-esque paraprosdokian turn of phrase: “My girlfriend’s a redhead. No hair, just a red head,” or are having a fudgel (pretending to work), join in and suggest your favourite words.

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