playground patois

(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson, of Glasgow – February 2021)

Didn’t we talk funny at school?

The expressions above have a modern / urban ring about them, but fifty years ago in the West of Scotland, we had our own ‘cool’ patois. Our parents would try to coax this phraseology from our lexicon, but had we succumbed, we’d have been regarded by our peers as ‘uncool. Or if you like, ‘square’ to coin a term from our folks’ schooldays.

As with our own parents, I’m sure every generation will have their own school slang, but here’s some I recall from the 1970 intake:

DOGGING IT: as in, ‘dogging class; dogging lunch.’ – MEANING: skipping class / spending your lunch money on crisps, sweets and listening to the latest Donny/ David / Marc/ Bowie song on Dial-a Disc from the telephone box on the corner.

SWAPSIES: as in, ‘doublers.’ – MEANING: bubblegum cards you have duplicates of and are willing to trade with other collectors. When displayed ‘swapsies’ generally induced the quickfire response of “got; got; not got; want; got; NEED! That one! NEED!”

TAP: as in, ‘borrow.’ – MEANING: erm … to borrow. Usually used with reference to fags, or Rizla rolling papers. ‘Tapping’ a fag / paper constituted a verbal contract, and failure to honour would often lead to physical retribution.

THE SMOKERS’ UNION: as in ‘see you in The Smokers’ Union’ at lunchtime.’ MEANING: let’s congregate with other smokers in the alcove beneath the Science block after lunch for a fly fag. (Rather cunningly, ‘The Smokers’ Union’ was shortened to The S.U. – which coincidentally was the same abbreviation used for The Scripture Union. Our ever-so-enthusiastic Religious Education teacher was extremely excited to hear of the students’ commitment to Jesus, but did wonder why they all had simultaneously chesty coughs.)

“YOU’RE CLAIMED!” as in ‘you’re getting it!’ – MEANING: you’ve upset someone, perhaps by not repaying your tobacco debt on time, and you have been invited to be pounded to a pulp at 4pm, by the school gate.

THE MALKY: as in ‘it’ in the above scenario. – MEANING: you better be quick off you your mark at 4pm!

HONNERS: as in ‘cry honners.’- MEANING: if you’ve been ‘claimed’ and are about to get ‘The Malky,’ and you’re unable to run away fast enough, you could always shout for help from your friends to fend off the aggressor.

FUD: as in ‘ignore him, he’s a complete fud!’ – MEANING: that chap is not worth worrying about. He’s an ill-mannered idiot.

DEAD: as in ‘dead good / bad.’ – MEANING: ‘very.’

PURE: as in ‘pure brilliant.’ – MEANING: ‘really.’ Can be used as an accentuation of ‘very.’ So, for instance: ‘Mrs Welch is pure dead gorgeous.’ 😉

GALLUS: as in ‘he thinks he’s dead gallus in his sta press and Harrington bomber.’ – MEANING: that fashion conscious lad thinks he’s the bees’ knees.

EL D: as in “Gies a swig of yer EL D.” – MEANING: “could I possibly have a taste of your fortified wine, please?” This would often be overheard in Wessy Woods; Hungry Hill and round Kilmardinny Loch prior to a school / Ski Club Disco between the years of 1970 & 1976.

EMPTY: as in, “Who’s got an empty this weekend?” – MEANING: whose parents have been daft enough to head off for a cheeky wee weekend away, leaving their ‘mature’ sixteen year old offspring to look after the house? Cue the wild party! (See Paul’s recent excellent blog post.)

BEAMER: as in ‘Ha Ha! She gave you a knock back – check your beamer!’ – MEANING: “She declined your offer of a fun filled evening at Kilmardinny Loch. I can tell you’re embarrassed by the obvious blushing of your face.”

DIZZY: as in, you were given a ‘dizzy.’ – MEANING: you got all dressed up and emptied half a bottle of Denim aftershave all over your chin and chest (because you didn’t have to try too hard) only for your intended date not to turn up. And if you’d met anywhere other than school, she’d probably also given you a fake phone number.

LUMBER: as in, “You jammy sod! I saw you got a lumber last night.” – MEANING: you were perceived as being very lucky in that the girl you were conversing with at the dance last night acceded your request to meet up again.

GET OFF WITH: as in, you’d want to ‘get off with’ a particular person at the school dance. – MEANING: you looked to that casual snog from last night being converted into some kind of longer term arrangement.

AYE PEAKY / SURE PEAKY / PEAKY OSPREY / PEEK AN OSPREY: as in, “Your dad’s taking you to New York this weekend to see The Rolling Stones? Aye Peaky!” The summation of the assertion would be uttered at the same time as you pulled down an eyelid with your index finger. – MEANING: “Your arse! I don’t believe a word of that, you lying git!”

(This last one, I’m sure is just a localised expression. Legend has it that some kid in school called Peaky, told his pals he saw an osprey sitting on the roof of his house in suburban Glasgow. Of course, nobody was going to believe him. And the eyelid pull-down? I’m assuming it’s just an accentuation of a wink.)

Actually, having written all that down – don’t we talk funny as adults?

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