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A Dictionary of Scottish Phrase and Fable
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on 19 September 2013
I loved this book. The cross references on every page lead the reader on an endless treasure hunt of stories, characters and vivid, often earthy Scottish phrases, each with its own dead-pan translation. My personal favourite is "if it's no' the skitter, it's the spew", roughly equivalent to life's a bitch, but there are many to choose from. And if you want a list of colourful vernacular terms for Scottish flowers and fauna, or nicknames for football clubs, regiments, places or eminent/ notorious Scots, past and present, this book is for you. Ian Crofton has a keen sense of faux jockery (jings, hoots mon!), akin to Balmorality and Wallacethebrucism, but relishes ever inventive Scottish slang, sayings and invective. But it's the stories that really draw you in: Johnnie Faa, ("King of the Gypsies"), Sawney Bean (pater familias of the legendary cannibal family), the Flannan Isles mystery, and endless others. If you have a half memory of a tale that you heard long ago and need to fill in all the riveting details, again this book is for you. Finally, if you've forgotten your history and need to refresh your take on, for example, the Darien Scheme or the Covenanters, you will find a suitably succinct synopsis here. But anything quirky, arresting or unusual is grist to the author's mill. Keep it to hand but I warn you: it's hard to stop browsing.
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on 28 January 2013
Scottish life and letters are full of reference works aimed at home readers ranging from the definitive (Mairi Robinson's Concise Scottish Dictionary) to the outrageous and scurrilous (no names, no pack drill). This absolute gem actually touches both extremes, though the entries are normally distributed along that spectrum, from the inevitable, such as the Ploughman Poet and the Appin Murder, to the amazingly obscure such as His Polynomous Omnipotence or Kertin Mary. We particularly love the Kilmarnock mittens, though as residents of nearby Strathaven we have to say he hasn't got his Strathaven Toffee quite right. Since its arrival the book has been dipped into on many evenings, to be followed by a breaking of silence, "I never realised that…", or, "Did you know…". The volume lives on the lounge coffee table has never reached the bookshelf alongside its learned reference companions. It probably never will. Every dip is a delight. It should be in every literate Scottish home, in Scotland or elsewhere.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 10 November 2012
I picked this up as a present for my partner who has recently moved to Scotland, and I have to say I happened to have a light browse whilst wrapping it up that I could not put it down. Had to get a copy myself and it takes pride of place on my kitchen table.
AN excellent read and would be a great gift present
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on 22 February 2013
This is an outstandingly researched and compiled dictionary which deserves superlatives and compliments to Ian Crofton and Birlinn the Publishers.

It is a wide ranging guide to Scottish culture, idioms, sayings, reflections, myth and folklore. The range, history and insights are adeptly chosen, with an impressive array of quotes from less well known sources. History is covered, recent events, the Broons, Oor Willie, football, current politics and lots more.

Reading through this book you are guaranteed to become more informed in so many ways about the many aspects, identities and human qualities of Scotland. It is testament to Crofton and Birlinn that in today's publishing world and climate, a book of this can still be published. My only concern is that the book's title - A Dictionary of Scottish Phrase and Fable - will allow it to get the varied, rich audience it deserves.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 29 December 2012
I laughed out loud. But that doesn't detract from the wealth of real knowledge here. An essential reference book for anyone interested in Scotland's rich heritage.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 15 February 2013
A good coffee table book to dip into. Some omissions which I am sure will be included next time .
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