As I was telling my coworkers yesterday about the highlights of our first trip to Scotland, it was tough to choose between the astoundingly beautiful scenery, with its spring-green grass, sheep- dotted hillsides, and Highlands covered with autumn heather, and the people, who rank as the friendliest we have ever met.
But much as I love sheep and Mike visualized “Brigadoon” in each photo, people trump landscape every time. Scotland may be a cool, wet country but the welcome was warm and the helpfulness genuine. Whether we were looking for a tourist attraction in the south or one of the rare petrol stations up north, we were treated courteously and with animated enthusiasm wherever we stopped. What is it about the Scots? No wonder, I thought, that we are so fond of our American friends whose names are preceded by prefixes like “Mac” or “Mc”!
We purchased few items on our trip due to the weakness of the dollar in the global economy, but all I really wanted to return with was a Scottish accent anyway. How we loved listening to the melody of their speech. Try as I might, I can’t duplicate the wonderful way they roll their R’s, but we did add some richness to our English vocabulary while there.
Many Scottish expressions are well known to Americans. A baby is a wee bairn and boys and girls of course are lads and lassies. (The latter names when applied to Scottish collies? You almost never see them there. Too high maintenance, a local told us.) And many of their highway terms are identical to those of their neighbors to the South. You open the bonnet of your car to service the engine and the boot to stow your gear. You drive your motorcar on a carriageway and hope the lumbering lorry in front of you will use a layby to allow you to overtake him before you get to the next roundabout.
But it’s the cheerful Scottish way of identifying silly people that tickled us the most. You might hear in a pub, “I’ve beaten ye tonight, ya big eejit!” Or while waiting for the bus, “Hey ya numpty you just missed yer bus.” Or the person talking too much on that bus? “What’s she yattering on about now?”
I now have a new expression for my current jetlagged state: I’m feeling wabbit, which means tired or run down.
But best of all was the sign posted over the terminal as we reached Edinburgh (pronounced Edin-burra) Airport in the wee dawn hours Sunday morning: “Haste ye back!”
Aye, isnae likely, but we will hold the Scots in our heart. And we’ll remember them whenever we bid farewell to departing guests by saying “Haste ye back!”
“Ye’ll take the high road, and I’ll take the low road;
And I’ll be in Scotland afore ye –
For me and my true love will never meet again,
On the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond!”