Scot's Word of the Week - Archive page 5

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Words found on this page:


meaning to cry

This weeks word of the week it Greet, meaning to cry. It can also mean to complain/moan about something for example:

"She's always greetin about her sore feet", "I watched Titanic and had a good greet", "Don't come greetin to me when...." (that last one was said to me a lot as a kid for example - don't come greetin to me when you fall off your bike - when I had been advised against it in the first place).

Crying itself turns out to be a fascinating subject. I am willing to bet you will learn something new on this page you didn't know read on and the next time you're greetin at least you'll know all about it.

The information on this page was taken from an article by John-Paul Flintoff and can be found here

What is crying?

Ordinary tears lubricate our eyeballs every waking minute and are produced continuously in the lacrimal gland, which rests between the frontal bone (Sinciput) and the eyeball. We produce up to two microlitres a minute, or nearly 10 ounces a day. They flow from the outside, upper edge towards the centre and drain away through puncta, or holes, on the lower eyelid. If the flow is excessive, as the result of yawning, coughing, vomiting or sneezing - or a poke in the eye - the 0.3 mm-wide puncta cannot handle the flow, and tears slosh over the edge of the eyelids. This also happens when we weep.

Biologically crying is the release of a salty, protein-rich fluid from the lacrimal apparatus, accompanied by adjustments in the muscles of facial expression, possibly also with non-specific and incomprehensible vocalisations, with convulsive breathing caused by spasms of the respiratory and truncal muscle groups. It sounds like a pretty serious business, not something the body would waste its energy on if it wasn't necessary. So why do we cry? Read on to find out....

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Why do we cry?

Darwin wrote in "The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals" that man is the only animal which sheds emotional tears. He supposed that crying could be useful to infants for attracting attention from caregivers, but ultimately concluded that tears were more or less useless; like the appendix, an exception to the rule that purposeless behaviour and body structures will not be maintained during the course of evolution.

If there is no good evolutionary reason for our tears, why do we continue to do it? The answer is that tears are a powerful psychological weapon.....

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Crying - A clever PR stunt?

In today's society the media has a massive impact on public opinion. Careers and reputations have been made or destroyed by what is said in the daily papers. Crying publicly has been seen to produce forgiveness, if not from the people involved in the situation then at least from the anonymous millions who read the papers and watch TV - but not always.

Nikolai Ryzhkov, the former Russian PM after crying on camera was forever derided as the "weeping Bolshevik". Bill Clinton on the other hand could famously produce tears on cue and was praised for being such a sensitive caring man. Once, notoriously, Clinton was filmed laughing and joking with colleagues at a funeral when he noticed he was being filmed. He immediately became stopped and started crying.

Women have been thought for years to use crying for manipulation. Women's tears have been described as "the worlds greatest water power". According to one proverb "Every woman is wrong until she cries", is this actually true or just outdated misogyny?

At birth, most babies cry at C or C-sharp. (That is, according to one American study.) As they grow older, they learn to cry at different pitches, and with different intensities, durations and qualities. At around 10 months, they cease to cry primarily when alone, in favour of crying when a caregiver is present: crying becomes manipulative.

Cherie Booth, the British ex-PM's wife, when accused of behaving improperly in a deal relating to her son's university accommodation famously cried during a press conference. Instead of invoking sympathy the newspapers accused her of faking tears to try to earn forgiveness she didn't deserve. So crying as a PR stunt would seem like a risky venture. You are as likely to be ridiculed as forgiven.

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Boys don't cry - or do they?

Women are expected to cry, sometimes at the least provocation, and this is socially acceptable yet for some reason men are supposed to hold it all in. What on earth for?

It would seem that the idea that men shouldn't cry is a relatively recent development. St Francis of Assisi was said to have gone blind from too much crying. In the 12th century epic, Song of Roland, the lords of France weep bitter tears, pull their beards and faint from grief. As Tom Lutz writes in his brilliant and witty book, Crying: The Natural and Cultural History of Tears, only Monty Python could do justice to the idea of 20,000 knights in armour weeping and fainting and falling off their horses.

In a recent study which looked at the frequency of crying in men and women it was found that on average, in a year, women cry 64 times and men just 17. Perhaps this is why men's tears through infrequent can have such power, something that Clinton managed to use to great advantage.

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Celebrity weepers

Some of the most memorable moments in the media are a result of crying. Paul 'Gazza' Gasgoine became a national icon in 1990 after he cried in the world cup - despite the fact that he was crying from self pity. Who can remember which film Gwynneth Paltrow got the Oscar for, but can clearly remember her blubbing through her acceptance speech? Film stars are often expected to tear up for film roles and it has been argued that an actor is more likely to win an award for a film in which they cry.

Another famous weeper is the 'Crying Indian' Iron Eyes Cody, perhaps most familiar to people in the US. The crying Indian advert was the first environmental TV campaign in the US to raise awareness about pollution issues. In the advert Iron Eyes Cody paddles up a polluted river, past belching smokestacks and comes ashore on a litter strewn river bank. He walks to the edge of the highway and cries as he sees some rubbish thrown thoughtlessly out of the window of a passing car. The camera moves in for a close-up of the crying man while the narrator says solemnly " People start pollution; people can stop it". Interestingly the crying Indian, despite his claims to be of Cherokee/Cree extraction was 2nd generation Italian-American.

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meaning stubborn(pronounced contra-MA-shus)

This week's word of the week was suggested by Mrs R from Tullynessle Aberdeenshire.

This weeks Scots word is a Northeast Scots word for stubborn, intransigent or obstinate. A similar Scots word is 'thrawn'. A thrawn person takes delight in being obstructive and stubborn.

Contermacious is actually a Scots spelling and pronunciation of the little used English word contumacious.

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Calcutta Cup

This week, in honor of Scotland's excellent played victory over England in the Six Nations Rugby Tournament, the word of the week is 'Calcutta Cup'.

The Calcutta cup is the name of the trophy that is awarded to the winning team in the annual match between the national teams of Scotland and England. Last Saturday Scotland beat England 18-12 to reclaim the cup for the first time since 2000. The first Calcutta Cup match was played in Edinburgh in 1879, and Saturday's victory at Murrayfield was the 113th match.

Why is it called the Calcutta Cup?

In 1872 a rugby match was played in Calcutta between an English team, and another team representing Scotland, Ireland and Wales. The match was so successful and popular that it caused the local gentlemen to form the Calcutta Football Club in January 1873. A year later the Calcutta Football Club joined the Rugby Football Union and did very well for their first year. After this time the free bar at the club had to be discontinued and the number of members took a sharp nosedive. When the club finally had to close they took their remaining bank balance in silver rupees and had it melted down and crafted into the Calcutta Cup. It was given to the RFU in 1878 to be presented to the winning team in an annual England-Scotland match.

For more information visit...

The official Six Nations Tournament website.
The English rugby visit the RFU website
The Scottish rugby visit the SRU website

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meaning a clue/slightest idea

Not content to let the cockneys have all the fun the Weegies (that's Glaswegians or Glasgow folk to all you politically correct folks out there) have had a go at rhyming slang too. 

Scooby Doo was (and is) a popular children's cartoon about a dog (called Scooby Doo) who was part of a team of teenage detectives. While the teens solved the dastardly crimes from their VW van the 'Mystery Machine' Scooby spent most of his time in pursuit of Scooby Snacks. Which was basically any food he could get his paws on. This cartoon was first aired in the UK in the 1960's.

Since then the word 'Scooby' has been used to mean clue in the sense of ' the slightest idea' as in:

"She's not got a scooby what we're talking about has she?" - She has no idea what we are talking about does she?
"I haven't got a scooby" - I don't know (I don't have a clue).

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meaning tired/breathless

This weeks word is a lovely sounding word and it means to be very tired/out of breath, as in:

"Ah'm ferr puggled efter climbin' yon stairs"
Translation "I am very tired after climbing those stairs".

Apparently it is also yet another word for being drunk! It seems that the Scots have as many words for drunkenness as the Inuit have for snow! Perhaps one week we will have a general drunken theme to list them all.

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Traditional dish of Scotland

In honour of Burns' night (25th January) this weeks word is the bard's favourite dish; Haggis. Not just confined to consumption at the yearly Burns' Suppers (celebrating Robert Burns', Scotland's national poet, birthday) Scots people will eat haggis all year round. While a Scotsman will only wear his kilt on special occasions, some people eat the national dish on a weekly basis.

What's in a Haggis?

Haggis is traditionally the pluck (heart, liver, windpipe and lungs) of a sheep minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock and traditionally boiled in the animal's stomach for several hours. In today's post BSE society this has been toned down and is more usually mutton instead of pluck and all packaged in an artificial skin like the ones used for sausages. It does vary however and flavour varies from brand to brand. There are even meat-free versions for Veggies.

It is also popular as a 'Haggis Supper', deep-fried with chips. See the section below on Scottish cuisine for more info!

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Burns' Night Traditions

Haggis is traditionally served at Burns' Suppers with 'Neeps and Tatties' (turnip and potato mashed together) [Scots tend to call Swede (Swedish Turnip) neeps instead of swede]. Before the Haggis is eaten it is first brought into the dining hall accompanied by a Piper. There then follows a recitation of Burns' famous "Address to a Haggis" (excerpt below) before the haggis is ceremonially cut and then served to the guests. During Burns' lifetime haggis was a popular dish for the poor, since it made use of parts of a sheep that would otherwise have been wasted.

Excerpt from Address to a Haggis by Robert Burns

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the puddin'-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak yer place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o' a grace
As lang's my airm.


Fair is your honest happy face
Great chieftain of the pudding race
Above them all you take your place
Stomach, tripe or guts
Well are you worthy of a grace
As long as my arm

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Haggis in the Wild - more elusive than the Yeti?

Along with the Yeti, the beast of Bodmin, the Loch Ness Monster and other such creatures of myth and legend the Wild Haggis is perhaps the most elusive. Living in the Scottish Highlands the natural habitat of the Haggis is high up in the mountains where they sleep on beds of heather. A strange looking wee beastie the haggis has 4 legs, 2 of which are significantly shorter than the others. This allows the haggis to run around the mountains at great speeds without the risk of tumbling down the mountainside. The male and female of the species have opposing shorter legs therefore the male runs in a clockwise and the female in an anticlockwise direction about the mountain top. In this way the male and female are able to meet during the mating season. Haggis catchers are trained to run in the opposite direction to the haggis and thus cornered the beasts may be caught and eaten. The Haggis catchers are very crafty and are able to find plentiful supplies of the creatures which are very shy and hard to find.

This is the tale that any Scots person will delight in telling tourists. It wouldn't be half as funny if so many of them didn't believe it. According to a survey released on 26 November 2003, one-third of U.S. visitors to Scotland believed the haggis to be a real creature.

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Sporting Haggis - hurling Haggis!

Haggis is also used in a sport called haggis hurling, involving throwing a haggis as far as possible. The present World Record for Haggis Hurling has been held by Alan Pettigrew for over 21 years. He threw a 1.5 lb Haggis an astonishing 180 feet, 10 inches on the island of Inchmurrin on Loch Lomond in August 1984.

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The Deep Fried Mars Bar - debunking the myths of Scottish cuisine

While haggis might be the official national dish that most people have heard of, there are plenty of jokes about what it should be changed to to reflect modern tastes. According to BBC reports parts of Scotland have the highest incidence of heart disease, cancer and strokes, the worst teeth and the lowest life expectancy in the developed world. This is blamed mainly on their diets. The chip shop (also called the Chippie, or Chipper) is where you can buy just about anything you can imagine, deep fried, and served with chips. This includes haggis, black pudding, fish, pies, pizza (yes whole pizzas deep fried - as if they weren't bad enough for you already!), Chicken legs, smoked sausages... the list goes on but these are the most popular at least.

Its about time we mentioned the infamous deep fried mars bar....

Legend has it that the practice originates from Brian MacDonald who lives in Stonehaven. One day a conversation with friends led to deep frying certain foods. Brian thought the idea of deep fried chocolate was interesting and he decided to ask the local Fish and Chip shop 'The Haven' to cook him up the dish. They initially refused but after enough haggling they eventually gave in and cooked it up. After one bite Brian realised that it was actually quite nice and thus, a legend was born.

With the decline of the fad, and the waning of media attention on it, actual frying of Mars bars has become less common. It can however still be found in some chip shops around the country, and in England and Northern Ireland. A number of chip shops catering to tourists (particularly the legions of backpackers who visit Edinburgh's Royal Mile) still proudly declare they sell deep-fried Mars bars, along with other treats such as deep-fried pizzas and haggis pakoras. Irn-Bru is a common drink accompanying Scottish fish suppers and their kin. The deep-fried Mars bar has also given rise to the frying of other confections, such as the Snickers bar and (especially at Easter) the Creme Egg. According to a recent study 22% of the 500 chippie's studied still sell the deep fried mars bar, and a further 17% claimed to have sold them in the past. The chippie that began the craze (now called Carron fish and chip bar) reportedly still sells up to 300 a week (Morrison and Petticrew, The Lancet, Dec 2004).

While on the subject of legendary food products from Scotland we must mention Irn-Bru (pronounced, and originally named, Iron Brew which for legal reasons changed its name to Irn Bru after WWII since it does not contain Iron and is not brewed) the most popular soft drink in the country which enjoys cult like status and its sometimes just referred to as 'The Bru'. It is so popular that in fact Scotland is one of only a few countries in the world in which Coca Cola is not the best selling soft drink. (the other places are Peru, where Inca Kola, the "national beverage" (independently produced until 1999, when Coca-Cola acquired Corporación Inca Kola del Perú S.A., the Peruvian company that formerly produced it) is more popular; and Quebec, Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Prince Edward Island in Canada, where Pepsi is the market leader. In Sweden, despite Coca-Cola's strong holiday-oriented marketing efforts, Julmust outsells Coca-Cola during the Christmas season.)

It is also a fact that 99% of foreigners or people over the age of 5 who try Irn Bru for the first time will think you are trying to poison them (I made this fact up but in my experience its true!). But for those that like it their love of the Bru is a lifelong passion. I have been told that it is a miracle hangover cure and personally I love it as a mixer with Southern Comfort.

Irn Bru is branching out to foreign markets and is popular in Russia and Norway. It can be bought world wide at specialist import stores and ex-pats will go to great lengths (and cost) to buy it. Irn Bru is still banned by the FDA in America as it contains carcinogenic food colourings, but we true Scots think that just adds to the tasty flavour.

What does it taste like? Well, apparently it's meant to taste of mixed fruits, but really there is no other flavour like it in existence.

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The Viking Fire festival!

This weeks word of the week is perhaps not actually Scots, but has a lot to do with the culture of the Scots isle of Shetland. Shetland is in fact closer to Norway than Aberdeen, and proved an easy stopover for marauding Vikings who invaded and settled the island in the eight century. Shetland and Orkney were ruled by the Norse for about 500 years until they became part of Scotland in 1468. It is little wonder that the Norse culture left such an impression on the traditions and psyche of the people. Even today, local men take more pleasure from dressing in the Viking kirtle than the Scottish kilt. Many Norse traditions and festivals became absorbed into Shetland culture and one day of celebration has now become the largest fire festival in the world.

When is Up-Helly-Aa?

Up-Helly-Aa is celebrated on the last Tuesday of January every year, by the largest fire festival in the world. It is a relatively modern festival. There is some evidence that people in rural Shetland celebrated the 24th day after Christmas as "Antonsmas" or "Up Helly Night", but there is no evidence that their cousins in Lerwick did the same. The emergence of Yuletide and New Year festivities in the town seems to post-date the Napoleonic Wars, when soldiers and sailors came home with rowdy habits and a taste for firearms.

On Christmas eve in 1824 a visiting Methodist missionary wrote in his diary that "the whole town was in an uproar: from twelve o clock last night until late this night blowing of horns, beating of drums, tinkling of old tin kettles, firing of guns, shouting, bawling, fiddling, fifeing, drinking, fighting. This was the state of the town all the night - the street was as thronged with people as any fair I ever saw in England."

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Traditions of Up-Helly-Aa

The traditions of this festival have evolved over the years, but have always involved fire, drinking and dancing through the night! In 1840 'tar barreling' was introduced as one of the main events of the festival is involved the men of Lerwick rolling flaming barrels through the streets. The narrow streets often resulted in collisions that made this a very dangerous and dirty custom! It died out in the 1870's and was replaced by the torch lit procession, which most people who have heard of the festival will be familiar with. 'Guizing' was introduced, that is dressing up for the event to take part in the parade, and in the modern day version a Jarl (Viking earl) is in charge of a troop of guizers who parade through the streets during the day of the festival displaying their full size replica long ship. They are also apparently obliged to dance with every young lady in the town, and to take a wee dram of whisky with each dance!

At night the townspeople walk in a procession with the long ship, carrying fire-lit torches and singing Viking songs. At the end of the parade the torches are thrown into the long ship, setting it alight to mirror the traditional Viking funeral where the dead Viking is pushed out to sea in his burning boat to reach Valhalla ('the hall of the slain'), the Viking heaven. It is in Valhalla that the Valkeyries (messengers and spirits of war) prepare the dead warriors for the great battle Ragnorok (also called Gotterdammerung, meaning 'Doom of the Gods'), an apocalyptic war which will bring the end of the cosmos.

The ship is the painstaking work of 4 months and is entirely consumed in the blaze. A new one is built, and burned, each year. As the townspeople burn the boat they sing 'The Norseman's Home'.

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The Norseman's Home

Originally "The Hardy Norseman", words of obscure origin, traditional Norwegian melody.

The Norseman's home in days gone by
Was on the rolling sea,
And there his pennon did defy
The foe of Normandy.
Then let us ne'er forget the race,
Who bravely fought and died,
Who never filled a craven's grave,
But ruled the foaming tide.

The noble spirits, bold and free
Too narrow was their land,
They roved the wide expansive sea,
And quelled the Norman band.
Then let us all in harmony,
Give honour to the brave
The noble, hardy, northern men,
Who ruled the stormy wave.

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Just for fun

A little peek into the lighter side of life within the Heriot-Watt Waves & Fields group.

Word of the Week: