Friday, 4 March 2016

Divided by a common language

I had to blink and look again, but no it wasn't a two-tailed jackdaw.

Having just come back from town laden with heavy bags I took a taxi, this time, one of the former Black Cabs.

I say former, because most if not all of the ones in this town have done their service elsewhere and are living out their last years in towns across the UK. far from where they started.

On the glass dividing the driver from me was  the printed legend "Fares outwith Ayr Town must be paid for in advance".

Now how's that for a mind-boggler?

Not only is Ayr many hundreds of miles from Aylesbury but is actually in another country.

But that was not what caught my eye, it was the word (is it a word?) outwith.

It is so odd, so un-English and will not be found in either the Oxford or any other dictionary yet is in fairly common use among our Scottish bretheren (and sisteren).

Most people are aware that Wales has its own language, but fewer are familiar  with the 'almost' English spoken in various parts of the British Isles.

My taxi driver this morning was Asian and our rector at St M's is American and neither of these I am sure would have known what to make of this strange variation of our language.

Personally I love the rich embellishment of basic English by the addition of local dialect words and as a lover of language anyway find it fascinating that there are so many ways to say something,

If language is solely a means of communication then perhaps there  is less room for such words and phrases but if we see its wider uses for example poetry, it is perhaps time we threw away standard dictionaries and began to include English as it is spoken.

Just a thought.


  1. Outwith is a word I've become familiar with because of spending so much time in Scotland in recent years, but I still can't bring myself to use it in speech. I think it has to be said with a Scottish accent. I did actually manage to find it in my Chambers dictionary, though not listed where I expected it to be. :)

  2. Ah, interesting. I don't have a Chambers but haven't found it elsewhere.
    It does sound completely correct in a Scottish accent, but then that is true of many other odd words too.

  3. Outwith is a word I'm familiar with - from my Scottish parents and grandparents.

  4. Perhaps you could compile a list or even a dictionary of words in common use in Scotland but not used elsewhere in the UK.
    I know Geordies and Scousers also have some interesting vocabulary but the Scots have almost a separate language.