A new online series is exploring Ulster-Scots words and phrases and their influence on modern-day language.
In A Word In Yer Lug, broadcaster Jane Veitch and native Ulster-Scots speaker Liam Logan travelled throughout Northern Ireland to discuss the words used in our everyday vocabulary (and some that aren’t... yet).
“Most people use Ulster-Scots words every day, but they don’t necessarily recognise or understand them,” said Liam.
“Did you ever ‘footer’ with anything? That’s Ulster-Scots, but it’s got its roots in medieval French. The Scots had a great connection with the French back in the medieval times.
“All the Scottish people used to go to France for education, and all the rest of it. They brought that back from France and then they sent it over to us here in Ulster.”
With 20 short episodes, the web series is the ideal introduction to Ulster-Scots, showing the richness of the language.
“I don’t think either of us would put ourselves forward as linguists or tremendous academics in the world of linguistics, but Ulster-Scots, it’s a part of life, and it’s a part of life to be celebrated,” said Liam.
“In a world that grows ever more homogeneous, when there’s internet everywhere, satellite television and everybody’s on Squid Game, the point is Ulster-Scots makes us different.”
“I’m from Fermanagh and a rural background and a lot of the words would have been used by my granny and granddad,” explained Jane.
“There’s a real feeling of nostalgia for me as well with Ulster-Scots. So, I’m by no means a native speaker but I understand it and I know a lot of the words I would use in my day-to-day life.”
The presenting pair started shooting the series last September and filming lasted three to four months.
“Every episode is filmed in a picturesque Northern Ireland location and we’re trying to link the location and the word and showcase Northern Ireland as well,” said Jane.
“We were lucky with the rain, because there are plenty of words in Ulster-Scots for rain and bad weather,” added Liam.
“From the Grand Opera House to the Gobbins, from fishing in Lough Erne to fadge making in Cullybackey, the series includes special guests such as May McFettridge.”
Jane and Liam hope the series encourages others to learn more about a language we use often each day without knowing.
“We cover a lot of the words that people will know in their day-to-day language, but then we also obviously explore some words that perhaps aren’t as well known,” explained Jane.
“We’d be very keen to reintroduce those into the vernacular.”
“We’re especially fond of the many, many words of insult that there are in Ulster-Scots,” joked Liam.
He says people are “language curious” when it comes to learning more about Ulster-Scots.
“I give talks, as well as broadcasting, and people are very interested. There was a time ago, whenever I was young, that people would have had the Ulster-Scots beaten out of them. People have told me that time and time again: that we could have said something in the playground but we weren’t allowed to say it in the classroom.
“That has changed, and there is a move now for people to understand that Ulster-Scots is part of who we are and what makes us different.”
Indeed, there has been international interest in both the show and the maintenance of the Ulster-Scots language, with queries coming from Seattle, Canada, southern Germany and Australia, from those, as Liam describes, “who are interested and thirsty for a wee word for hame (home)”.
“The Maine Ulster Scots Society want to use all our material, and Northern Irish Connections, the diaspora organisation, are using it across their channels,” explained Jane.
“Just because, just to circle back to what I said earlier, it’s that little touch of home. It’s that sense of nostalgia, connection to your grandparents, and things like that, which we all love.”
For Liam, knowledge and usage of Ulster-Scots is the perfect accompaniment to language in Northern Ireland.
“There’s a wee bit of oregano that goes on top of a pizza, but it makes a hell of a difference to the taste. It’s the same with Ulster-Scots: you may not be using it every minute of every day, but when you do, it adds a wee thing to your language.”
The web series is produced by Macmillan Media in partnership with the Ulster-Scots Agency, with funding from Northern Ireland Screen’s Ulster-Scots Broadcast Fund.
“A Word In Yer Lug is a humorous foundation to learn the Ulster-Scots language,” said Heidi McAlpin, Northern Ireland Screen’s Ulster-Scots Broadcast Fund executive.
“With a fresh and contemporary look at the dialect, this series explores how words are used to describe different scenarios in our everyday lives.
“We are very excited to promote the development of digital content like this and highlight the importance of the Ulster-Scots Broadcast Fund by delving into its language, culture, and heritage.”
A Word In Yer Lug is available to view on YouTube.