Doric History

A Little Doric History

Great Britain – the Scots language was reclassified. Until the 18th century it was commonly taken for granted that Scots was a language. Now, if Scotland was no longer a kingdom but a ‘province’ of the UK, then Scots was downgraded too as a ‘provincial dialect’. Because Scots was demoted from “national” to “provincial” status, people became focused on their local dialects and so alternative and regional names began to emerge. It was a process of fragmentation. Slowly people forgot that Scots had had a single, national identity. Perhaps the most outstanding alternative name to emerge was ‘Doric’. The first Scot to apply the name Doric – as an alternative name for the Scots language in general – was the poet Allan Ramsay (1686-1758), writing in 1721.

When Ramsay described Scots as Doric he meant that it was associated with the countryside, peasantry and working class: it was therefore another way of saying rural or rustic language. Ramsay used the term with affection, and it was often understood to mean simple, ‘pure’, plain-speaking, but people coming after him often used it in derogatory or dismissive senses such as conservative or unsophisticated. Doric was first used to describe the dialect of North East Scots in 1792 when it was used by the Banffshire-born academic named Alexander Geddes. However, not one of the ministers describing the language of North East parishes in the Old and New Statistical Accounts, in the 1790’s and 1830’s, used the term Doric, but preferred names such as Scotch, Scots, Buchan or Aberdeenshire.

Examples of Doric words and their meaning.

Black Affrontit – Embarrassed

Clappit thegither – Thrown together

Far Hiv Ye Bin? – Where have you been

Hale-jingbang – The whole lot

Ill Tricket – Up to tricks

Nae Mowse – No laughing matter

Riggit oot – Equipped