Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Birthday Busk

As I’m writing this column, I’m listening to a CD—a birthday present sent to me by my friends Jack and Ali in Australia.  “Craigie Dhu” is its title.  Recorded in Perthshire, Scotland (Jack’s native ‘home turf’) some 30 years ago, it is a collection of Scottish folk music performed by artist Dougie MacLean--and in some cases, written by him, too.

I wanted to listen to it before sending my thanks to the Ramsays.  They fell in love with the Jud Strunk CD I sent to them, and I hoped I could do the same with their local music.

I did.

The first song started playing and I was struck by the peacefulness of the melody and vocals.  The second thought that followed on the heels of the first was that I didn’t understand the lyrics.  Was wee Dougie singing in English?  Don’t the Scots speak the same language I do—albeit full of rolling r’s and ‘ochs’ and ‘ayes’?

Um…I don’t think they do. 

“And show ye braw sicchts mony and ane, and busk ye wi’ a silken goon…”

I sat here trying to figure out if I would enjoy being busked with a silken goon—or not.  It seemed a bit titillating, so I looked up the word ‘busk’ and found this definition: “the metal clasps that close the centre front of a corset.”  Well, that had to be wrong.  After all, the word ‘center’ was spelled incorrectly, so what credibility could I grant to the rest of the definition?  Besides, I was looking for a verb, not a noun. 

Dictionary.com had this to say, and it made a little more sense: “to entertain by dancing, singing, or reciting on the street or in a public place.”

Okay.  That was better.  I’m always up for a little entertainment.  But…entertained by a goon?  Back to the computer I went.  Urbandictionary.com defined goon as “gang terminology for a low level gang member… usually the street drug runners.”

Hmmm…I don’t think that is anyone I’d want to be busked by.  Optimistic of finding an alternative meaning, I traveled to Merriam-Webster which defined a goon as “a stupid person” or “a man hired to terrorize or eliminate opponents.”

I was beginning to lose my romantic vision of being busked by a goon, no matter how silken he might be.  Being terrorized or eliminated simply didn’t seem very entertaining.  Having a silken ‘stupid person’ as the busker seemed slightly more appealing, but still…

And then there are the sicchts.  What the heck are they?  Googling that word didn’t help me at all.  Not one bit.  The only mention I could find of sicchts was in reference to making balisongs, and we all know how complicated that process is!  Sheesh.

How about mony?  Urbandictionary.com says a mony is “an aesthetically pleasing, physically fit male, aka a ‘man-pony’.”  Now we’re talking!  Hi-ho, Silver… busk away!  However, with further research I found that mony is a (chiefly Scottish) variant of ‘many’… so most likely, that’s how the word is used in the phrase.

Braw was easier to identify.  Also 'chiefly Scottish', it’s an adjective meaning “fine or excellent, especially in appearance or dress.”

And ane appears to be the Scottish word for “one.”

So, the translation of that specific line in “Gin I Were a Baron’s Heir” goes something like this:  “And show you fine and excellent sicchts many and one, and entertain you with a silken terrorist (thug or ignoramus).”

Och, aye, lassies and laddies!  As you can see; in the space of just a few minutes, I’ve conquered ‘Scotch-English’ (Jack would bellow to read that—avowing that ‘Scotch’ is whiskey or tape, only!)  I’m almost bilingual, wouldn’t you say?  Yep.  Aye.  I learned mony of the words, with just that ane ‘sicchts’ to trip me up.  But never fear…once I learn how to craft a balisong, I’ll know sicchts inside and out.  Have no doubt… I’ll share that wisdom with one and all, once I do.
Ben A'an, Scotland (Ramsay photo)

Despite my teasing, the truth is that I love the music.  ‘Tullochgorum’ is absolutely phenomenal.  Perfection.  My favorite song is (naturally) ‘Bonnie Bessie Logan’, even though Dougie seems to have misspelled ‘Bessey’.  But we Besseys don’t get too testy about such minor errors, being so bonnie and braw, and all. 

The best thing about my birthday CD is that, when I listen to the music, I feel closer to Jack and Ali, friends who live as far away from me as friends can be, while still remaining on this planet; one made up of people who speak in many different tongues, but who are often drawn together by the universal language of music. 

“I fain would be among them, but och, that canna be.” *

Thank you, Jack and Alibal.  Craigie Dhu has taken me ‘home’ with you and the journey was lovely.

Kinnoull, Scotland

*Lyrics, 'Bonnie Bessie Logan'


  1. "(And I would take you to the town)
    And show you fine sights many and one
    And dress you with a silken gown"

    It's all in the accent: Wouldn't it be good if CD's came with subtitles? But as they don't, I found this site that has a Scottish glossary for you http://mudcat.org/scots/display_all.cfm>here.


  2. Ah, CP, my friend. :o)

    I should have known I could count on you to...well, to make sense out of a goon. :o)

    Seriously, had I'd relied on my hearing, alone, I would have come to those same conclusions. But the songs were written out in plain Scotch, right there for me to see. So I got tripped up by reading literally, I suppose. :o)

    Heh...thanks, Pal. Thank goodness I don't have to study forging and braising in order to learn what a sicchts is, now (although I WAS looking forward to owning a new balisong!)