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Scottish Proverbs
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(A Thousand Proverbs)

Scottish Proverbs

Scottish Proverbs

Scottish Proverbs and Sayings

It is not easy to prove that any proverb or saying belongs to one particular district, unless of course it contains a place-name or some distinctive feature. Nevertheless, a proverb can often reveal the character of a countryside and its people.

“Fareweel, Bonny Scotland, I’m awa’ tae Fife!”

Proverbs form a vital part of Lowland Scots, and will no doubt last as long as the language itself. At their best they are not only true and witty, they also carry a “punch.” They have the flavour of antiquity, yet retain their freshness.

Incidentally, Fife (proverbially known as The Kingdom, though it never had a king) can claim the first collection of Scottish proverbs. It was made by David Ferguson, minister of Dunfermline, in the latter half of the 16th century.

Proverbs and sayings from my home Kingdom of Fife are often comic and pungent. Here are a few samples:

Wha will tae Cupar maun tae Cupar
A aye, better gang than be ta’en.
(Or, sae gang tae Cupar an’ be damned!)

If you’re Heelant you’re next door to the Fifer.

Some say the Deil’s deid an’ buried in Kirkcaldy.

Like salt to Dysart (coals to Newcastle).

Shak yer ain mats at yer ain back door.

Ilka doorstep has its ain slippery stane.

Wealth gars wit waver.

Dirt aye flees high.

A deaf man will hear the clink o’ money.

Choose yer wife wi’ her nichtcap on.

I have a heid an’ so has a stair.

Whaur there’s a Jock there’s a Jenny.

Like an auld horse tae a feal dyke.

Dinna open yer mooth tae fill ither fowks.

Them that herd swine aye hear them gruntin’.

Keep yer am fish-guts for yer air sea-maws.

As the auld cock craws, the young ane learns.

Some of these do not belong exclusively to Fife. In the matter of proverbs, as with the flora and fauna of the Tayside region, county boundaries mean very little. The dialects of Perthshire, Angus and the Mearns are equally productive, and in these parts, too, a phrase passed from generation to generation by word of mouth can often express more than its words convey, as does a song or a ballad with its beauty, humour or pathos.

A bonny bride is sune buskit (dressed).

Auld men are twice bairns.

I can dae fat I dou; the men o’ Mearns can dac nae mae.

Ac scabbit sheep will smit the hale hirsel.

As auld as the Moss o’ Meigle.

A guid tale is no’ the waur o’ bein’ twice tauld.

A houndless hunter and a gunless gunner
see aye routh o’ game.

As guid may haud the stirrup as he that loups on.

A hantle cries murder and aye arc uppermaist.

Auld sparrows are ill tae tame.

Bitin’ and scartin’ are Scots fowk’s wooin.

Royet lads mak sober men.

Everything has an end and a pudden has twa.

There’s nane sae blindas them that winna see.

A’ that’s said inthe kitchen
shudna be said in the ha’.

There are also many rhymes, mainly about places.
Here is one from the Glamis district:
The dowie Dean
It rins its lane
And ilka seven year
It taks ane.

Scotscraig has a rhyme that must have started many a treasure hunt:

Here I sit and here I see
Broughty, St. Andrews and Dundee;
And neath me as much as buy a’ three
In a kist !

Airdit Farm (near Logie) is connected with this verse:

Here I am and there I am;
Sometimes. I dinna ken whaur I am;
But they that catch me
Pray lat me gang,
For the Lalrd o’ Airdit’s hare I am.

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