A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon an old, Scottish thesaurus in a bookshop and against my better judgement which advised me not to sacrifice a week of groceries for a book of phrases nobody uses anymore, I took the item home with me. (Legally. I bought it. This is not a confession.) Since then, I have alienated potential suitors and friends by reading the thesaurus on the subway, long plane rides, and overpriced coach buses. Anyone who casually reads a thesaurus for leisure deserves to have their sanity questioned, a rule I’m not excluded from. In my research, I’ve realized that the Scottish are quite fond of insults and witty jabs, many of which are worthy of sharing with your friends, family, or cantankerous gym teacher (perhaps under your breath to avoid detention). While these words can be used to attack your peers, I’d strongly suggest reserving them for more innocent endeavors, like sarcastic text conversations or prank letters to Scottish government officials. Even if you did want to use these words maliciously, some of them are so silly and outdated, they might end up sounding more like poorly constructed word jokes than insults.
1) Squeeb (n.): a mean, insignificant person
A squeeb forms when a dweeb becomes embittered after being picked on too many times. Like a Pokemon, a dweeb absorbs the negative energy until he or she has enough power to evolve to this final stage. This theory is just that: a theory, but considering Scotland’s main attraction involves a mythical sea monster and the country’s official animal is a unicorn, I wouldn’t be surprised if their government is hiding a secret society of squeebs somewhere in the highlands.
2) Willie Goo (n.): a lost or stupid-looking person
According to my handy dandy thesaurus, a willie goo is someone who looks dazed and dull. While the term itself is entertaining, I’m now forced to cross “willie goo” off my list of potential British baby pet names. Henry-Poo will have to do.
3) Snottery (adj.): snooty
Snottery is like flattery but the exact opposite. It can be used as a noun or adjective to describe someone who sticks up their nose at everything. If you ask me, though, it sounds like the name of an English dive bar or a shelter for snotty teenagers. It could be called “The Snottery” and there could be a snot theme. (I reserve the right to trademark this idea starting now.)
4) Smerghless (adj.): lacking in spirit or energy
Smerghless refers to something that is boring, like checkers or all of high school. The construction of the word suggests that “smergh” on its own means “full of energy” which is not what I would expect from a word that sounds so similar to Liz Lemon’s “blerg.”
5) Jakfellow Lyk (v.): behaving like his master’s equal
In other words, “not staying in one’s proper place.” This could technically be considered insulting if you’re an overly controlling boss or Lucius Malfoy and your house elf is secretly vying for his freedom. In the hypothetical words of Lucius: “Dobby wants to be free? Well too bad. Dobby is inferior to pureblood wizards and if his behavior reflects anything other than that fact, he can call himself a Jackfellow Lyk.”
6) Keelie (n.): a rough male city-dweller
Though this term was listed under “negative character types,” I can think of plenty of rugged city men that don’t deserve that title, like Jerry Seinfeld, and, um, Chandler? The word itself sounds like Kili, who was a rough male city-dweller in his own way, if you consider the “dwarf caves” a city and “rough” a synonym for “mythical hearthrob.”
7) Black Gate (n.): road to ruin
Telling someone they’re headed towards the Black Gate is equivalent to saying they’re making terrible decisions and are self-destructing, which seems insulting to me. The only difference is this term allows you to channel Gandalf or any other Lord of the Rings character that has the ability to say this ominously into the camera.
8) Thieveless (adj.): cold, forbidding in manner
This word confuses me due to the implications that it holds. I mean, if thieveless means “cold” or “forbidding,” wouldn’t that suggest that someone who is “thieve” is warm and welcoming? Last I checked, thieves in my neighborhood weren’t inviting everyone to dinner parties and passing out gifts.
9) Cat-wittet (adj.): savage
If cats could speak, I’d imagine they would be very offended by the association being made here. That is, if they weren’t too busy vying for attention and complimenting you on the warmth of the computer keyboard while you’re still using it. Cat-wittet is an adjective used to describe something that is savage or wild, proving the Scots are, unfortunately, dog people.
10) Niffnaff (n.): A small, insignificant person
A niffnaff is someone who is physically little and unimportant. It is an all-purpose term, capable of describing a number of different people, including little brothers, the kids from Honey I Shrunk the Kids, fairies that don’t grant wishes, and babies who cry too much.
While the Scottish people nowadays may be friendly and fun, their vocabulary suggests that they have a dark side. What was your favorite word on this list? Least favorite? Most likely to be used in a fake texting argument with a friend to demonstrate your intellectual superiority?
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