Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Supermarket Says 'Come Awa' In'

Some years ago the supermarket giant Asda decided to attract extra customers to its new store in Peterhead in Scotland by using the same language as the customers. Shoppers were greeted with Come Awa' In  and as they left they were exhorted to Haste ye back. Meanwhile any shoppers who had to 'spend a penny' in the store found the gents and ladies facilities marked loons and quines. The company has used a similar strategy in Wales and Cornwall. Of course, by recruiting check-out and other staff from the local community in Peterhead, they also had staff who spoke Scots.

The translations were provided by the Buchan Heritage Society and store manager Craig Paterson said, 'Whether it's our products or our services to customers, we want to work hard to reflect our local community.'

Unfortunately a rather nasty article in the Sunday Times (13 March 2005) by Allan Brown attacked the move.  He described the Scots translations as 'the phonetic transcription of a slovenly, antique dialect' and accused those behind the scheme of of promoting illiteracy!  This serves to remind us that the intolerance sometimes shown towards Ulster-Scots here in Northern Ireland can also be shown towards Scots in Scotland.


  1. How would you describe it then Nelson? I'm not trying to offend anyone, but it seems very much to me that is a phonetic transcription of a dialect of English spoken in certain parts of Scotland.

    The fact that I can understand pretty much everything written on the DCAL website in Ulster Scots without ever having come into contact with someone who claims to speak it would tend to support Mr Brown's (misworded and potentially offensive I grant you) assertion.

  2. Thank you for your response Nelson. I went to the website, and came across some interesting words, but it did strike me (perhaps I was using the website incorrectly) but most of the words I saw just used English spellings. Furthermore, the vast majority of the content seems only to be available in English.

    More surprisingly, the entire content of the Ulster Scots Agency appears to be only available in English as does the "Ulster-Scot" magazine.

    I think it was your party colleague Edwin Poots who admitted that when he attended Ulster Scots cultural/committee meetings that everyone only spoke English because nobody could actually speak the dialect/language.

    Perhaps providing these services in Ulster Scots would be a better use of £2,500 than some Santa hats (I am aware you have commented about this today in the media).

    Best regards.

  3. jaymac5 - I am surprised that when you looked at the Dictionary of the Scots Language you only came across 'some interesting words' with 'English spellings'. This is a 12-volume Scots dictionary with a wealth of words and well-documented examples of historic usage! Perhaps it is that you were not using it correctly. You may find it easier to use a hard copy and there is a full 12-volume set in the Linenhall Library.
    as regards the relationship between Scots and English or Ulster-Scots and English, these are sister languages and they share many words and forms. That is not in any way unusual eg Swedish, Norwegian and Danish are sister languages and are all quite similar. To take an example nearer home, Irish Gaelic and Scots Gaelic are sister languages and very similar.


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