things I never knew were scottish

Turnip. T.u.r.n.i.p.

Turnip. T.u.r.n.i.p.

Obviously I knew about the accent,  oatcakes and shortbread, the general chippiness and snobbery, oxters and the procurator fiscal.

But some things turn out to be Scottish and I would never have known:

  • empire biscuits
  • those pineapple tarts with a blob of cream and yellow icing, a highly sought after delicacy among some southerners apparently
  • the word sook
  • nice water. Even after growing up cringing at that advert for a particular brand of tea leaves ‘specially blended for soft Scottish wottir,’ it comes as a surprise that this far south, English woatah is hard and chalky and does actually do funny things to the taste of your brew
  • the heel of a loaf, meaning the end bits
  • turnips, which down here they call swedes, while perversely they call swedes turnips.

Oh, and I also knew about saying ‘stay’ instead of ‘live,’ but in the heat of the moment in actual conversation I can never remember which is which, so I just always look slightly foolish for getting all tongue tied over such a straightforward factual matter.

In fairness I should probably also compile a list of things I thought were just myths about the English but are in fact true, except the only one I can think of off the top of my head is such a flagrant breach of the norms of civilised society that I’m almost too embarrassed for them to mention it in public, but:

  • the English can actually turn up half an hour early when you’ve asked them round to the house. #mortified

9 thoughts on “things I never knew were scottish

  1. Hmm… I’ve been in Scotland for most of my life and I still don’t know about the Empire biscuits or the pineapple tarts. Of course being married to an American I now know about “biscuits” (savoury scones), and pineapple-upside-down cake.

    In England when you go to “stay” somewhere you don’t stay there for long, whereas when you go to “live” there you do stay. It was very confusing for me when I first moved to Scotland in the 1970s, as were the peculiar names of vegetables in Scotland. Do you really call the turnips that are white inside “swedes” in Scotland? I was aware that you called the ones that were yellow inside “turnips”.

    In some places where we’ve been on holiday in the north of England, my start-the-day cup of by Twinings Echinacea and Raspberry Tea, which is a deep but clear pinkish colour here in Scotland, has had a dirty undefined and cloudy colour and not particularly nice taste either.


  2. There must be a hint of Scots-English in New Jersey, where I grew up, because we also called the end of the bread the heel. Also, it wasn’t until I moved to Canada that I heard what was a turnip (yellow-orange flesh with a purplish rind) referred to as a rutabaga. Language is interesting!


  3. My Scottish husband, still joyfully staying in Scotland, loves those alarmingly artificial-looking pineapple tarts. Scottish water is indeed quite nice. But you forgot to mention banter and differing codes of hospitality. So paranoid am I about Edinburgh’s reputation for the latter that I overdo my own, and when asking a Polish guest if he would like more tea, he said, “If I have any more tea, I will drown.”


  4. By the way, heels of bread in my parents’ Canadian household, but we’re Scots Canadians, so that could be a factor. (And my great-grandfather WAS a factor back in Scotland, ha ha, see what I did there.)


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