Wir Ain Leed — Aspects of Colloquial Speech

© 1996 - 2024


Tags are added to questions in order to prompt the person spoken to, to agree with the speaker's statement. In requests, tags ask the person spoken to, to agree with and act on the speaker's request.

Tag questions.

Is Shona hame, is she?
Is Shona at home, is she?
Did ye stert tae jouk the schuil, did ye?
Did you start to play truant, did you?
Are ye aye at the scaffie's yaird, are ye?
Are you still working at the rubbish dump, are you?
Ye hivna juist haed yer teeth oot, hiv ye?
Have you just had your teeth removed, have you?

The negative tag usually contains no. It indicates that the person speaking expects a positive response.

Jimmie haes gane, haes he no?
Jimmy has gone, hasn't he?
Fiona can soum, can she no?
Fiona can swim, can't she?
Jock will gie't ye, will he no?
Jock will give you it, won't he?

The tag eh is often added to questions and requests.

Lat me pit ma coat on, eh?
Let me put my coat on, won't you?
It's no ower muckle, eh?
It's not too big, is it?
We ken him gey and weel nou, eh?
We know him quite well now, don't we?
Pit the kist doun thare, eh?
Put the chest down there, won't you?
Ye are takkin her til the picturs, eh no?
You are taking her to the cinema, aren't you?
Be guid tae ma dochter, eh?
Be good to my daughter, won't you?

Other frequently used tags are:

Ye dinna gang for that kin o lassie, na?
You don't go for that sort of girl, no?
Ye telt her anent it, ay?
You told her about it, yes?
He's no ettlin tae tak aw o't, no really?
He's not trying to take all of it, not really?
A'll be wi ye Monanday, richt?
I shall be with you on Monday, right?
Ye'r no mint tae win hame in this wather, shuirly?
You aren't intending to reach home in this weather, surely?

Great confidence is expressed by speakers who use the tags eh or shuir at the beginning of a statement. This invites the person spoken to, to confirm the speaker's expectation, producing in effect a tag question.

Shuir the Pape's Catholic?
Of course the Pope is a Catholic?
Eh Kairien's bairn's a laddie?
Of course Kairien's baby is a boy?

In some dialects, particularly in the west of Scotland, a sentence final but with no referential meaning may occur.

Like the ither fermers, we war howpin it wis gaun tae rain, but.
Like the other farmers, we were hoping it was going to rain.
A'v heard aboot that and aw, A think, but.
I've heard about that too, I think.
Weel, kin o, ma mither aye wirries, but.
Well, kind of, my mother always worries.
A'v juist been in thare twa-three times, but.
I've only been in there a few times.

Focusing devices

Focusing devices are used to introduce items into the conversation or to give prominence to items which the person speaking wishes to introduce into the conversation. The most frequently used words for these purposes are see, ken and like.

See thae auld hooses. Ma faither bug ane.
See those old houses. My father built one.
See you, pal. Gin ye dae that again, A'll dunt ye!
See you, chum. If you do that again, I'll thump you!
Ken Morag. She juist wadna dae't.
.Know Morag. She just wouldn't do it.
She's in the infirmary, ken, tae hae a neer transplantit.
She's in the hospital, you know, to have a kidney transplanted.
A gaed doun the toun like, and the polis wis thare.
I went down town, and the police were there.
It wis, weel, like fower year sin A seen him.
It was, well, four years since I saw him.
He haes his dug, like, gies him company.
He has his dog that gives him company.


The summoning interjection is hey or haw.

Hey, you wi the reid heid!
Hey, you with the red hair!
Haw, whaur d'ye think ye're gaun?
Hey, where do you think you are going?

Some of the common assertive interjections are:

ma certes
my, certainly
by fegs
by faith, truly
mind ye
mind you
God (euphemistic)
weel A wat
well I know
haud on

Some of the commonest interjections of surprise and astonishment are:

Christ defend us
Lord save us
megstie me
mighty God

Some of the interjections used to express disgust are:

confound it.
feech, feuch.

Impatience is often expressed using the interjection och or ach.

Troubles or worry are often expressed by using the interjections och, hoot and s'truith, s'trowth = God's truth.

Resignation or submission to something that can't be avoided may be expressed with aweel = Oh well!

Assent is often expressed using weel-a-weel = Well oh well.

Sympathy and sorrow are often expressed by using the following interjections.

woe is me!
nounae! nounae!
now then!