Tuesday 18 August 2020

BLOG TOUR: Cauld Blasts and Clishmaclavers - Robin A. Crawford

The evocative vocabulary, wit and wisdom of the Scots language – from Robert Burns to Twitter.

Scottish writer and bookseller, Robin Crawford, has gathered 1,000 Scots words – old and new, classical and colloquial, rural and urban – in a joyful celebration of their continuing usage. His amusing, erudite definitions put each of these words in context, revealing their evocative origins and essential character. Delightful line drawings by Scottish printmaker Liz Myhill contribute to this treasury of linguistic gems for language lovers everywhere.

The Scots language is intricately bound up in the nation’s history, identity, land and culture. It is also a living and vital vernacular, used daily. With references to Robert Burns mingling with contemporary examples from Billy Connolly and even Monty Python, Cauld Blasts and Clishmaclavers revels in the richness of one of our oldest languages, and acts as a precious 
reminder of words that are also beginning to fade away, their meaning and value disappearing.

Clishmaclaver: the passing on of idle gossip, sometimes in a book.

Inkie-pinkie: weak beer.

Sodie-heid: literally, ‘head full of soda bubbles’, airhead.

Smowt: youngster, technically a young trout or salmon but also affectionately applied to a child.

Simmer dim: Shetland term for long summer evenings where due to the northern latitude it never really gets dark.

Dreich: grey, miserable, tedious; usually applied to weather but indicative of the Scots temperament, hence it being voted Scotland’s favourite word in a recent poll (or perhaps indicative of the temperaments of Scots who feel the need to participate in online polls): ‘It’s gey dreich the day.’

What did I think?

I absolutely love books that explore the meaning of words, usually in the English language, so I was very intrigued by Cauld Blasts and Clishmaclavers: a treasury of 1,000 Scottish words.  It is well named as a treasury as this book is a little gem; I read it cover to cover for review purposes but it's the perfect book to dip in and out of and be entertained and delighted every single time.

ailsa cock (puffin)

Appearance wise, the book is beautiful with shiny gold lettering and a lovely purple thistle on the front.  After the fabulous introduction (which includes regional translations of a line from Julia Donaldson's The Gruffalo), the format is that of a dictionary but with stunning line drawings setting the theme of each section.  Each word is listed along with its meaning and often it's origin or an example of its usage.  I really enjoyed reading the excerpts of poems, novels and traditional rhymes and the sources are listed at the end of the book for any readers interested in further reading. 

I was surprised how many Scottish words we actually use in the North East of England and reading them in Cauld Blasts and Clishmaclavers brought to mind fond reminiscences of my childhood: playing dooky apples at Nanna's and giggling when my Uncles tickled me under the oxters.  I recall Nanna putting the sneck on to pop out for some messages and getting all the patter from the nebby women - this sentence might sound like a foreign language to some people but it makes complete sense to me.

The beauty of this book is that every reader will find something different that fascinates, intrigues or amuses them.  I started to make notes of my favourite words but there were just too many of them.  From the moment I picked up Cauld Blasts and Clishmaclavers and flicked through a few pages I knew that I was going to love it; it's a book that I will pick up over and over again and find something different every single time.  

Cauld Blasts and Clishmaclavers is a delightful addition to any bookcase and I expect my copy will be well thumbed and constantly recommended as these fabulous words are too good to keep to myself.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

About the author:

kellas cat
kellas cat (wildcat)
Born in Glasgow, writer and Scottish bookseller Robin A. Crawford has a particular interest in the culture and natural heritage of his native land. He is the critically acclaimed author of Into The Peatlands: A Journey Through the Moorland Year, longlisted for the Highland Book Prize 2019. He lives in Fife, Scotland, with his wife. He is available for interview.

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