THEY say absence makes the heart grow fonder and while that’s probably true, I’ve found that, actually it makes the ears work harder.

Stay with me on this. I’m talking about the language barrier when you take a trip away.

This weekend I went to St Andrews (yes in Scotland) and while, admittedly, it’s not exactly far flung (a two hour drive, in fact) there were times I was lost in translation.

It’s one of Scotland’s most beloved towns and thanks to the booming tourist industry there, it boasts an eclectic mix of people from all parts of the international community, meaning my ears were tuning in to different accents, languages and dialects at a rate of knots.

But even with more nationalities than a G8 Summit, everyone spoke perfect and polite English.

It got me thinking, what if even just one of them were to visit Ayrshire? An area rich in local dialect, so much so that it varies greatly from town to town and in some cases, even area to area with barely a mile or two apart.

So I decided to rattle up a quick guide to Ayrshire’s most mind-boggling (and mostly made-up) words. Here goes: Ken - we have to start with what is probably the most ‘Ayrshire’ of all words; Ken. Used in famous sentences such as ‘Ken this...?’, ‘Ken whit I mean.’ ‘Ken who I’m talking about.’ Or - in what I consider it’s most fundamental and effective form - simply on its own, with a sharp nod of the head in agreement with what someone has just said to you: “He’s absolutely useless, him.” “Ken.” Roll and slice - unless you’ve had one, you’re clueless. A bread roll filled with Lorne sausage, which comes in slices - ergo; a roll and slice.

Ma bit - the Ayrshire version of one’s humble abode.

How - this is a word which is pronounced in Ayrshire just as it is the world over - but it is only in these here parts that it seems to have committed identity theft against the word ‘why’ and is almost always used in it’s place. “I’m not coming out tonight.” “How?” Skelp - this is a particular favourite of mine, mainly because it comes in two forms which mean different things. Skelp itself means to slap or strike another and between the years 1950 and 1995, was especially favoured by irate mothers at the end of their tethers. ‘Do that again and I’ll skelp your a***.’ In its other guise- skelpit - is used to describe the colour red (or, indeed, the after affects of a skelp). “Ma maw skelped me and now my a*** is skelpit”.

Shin - is not, as you might expect, a more common word for the tibia bone. No this is Ayrshire for ‘shoes’. As in: “I’m going out, do you ken where my shin are?”.

Maw - the affectionate term used by Ayrshireites to describe the woman who birthed them.

Spicket - a word which, for reasons not known to man nor beast, means ‘tap’.

Oaft - one of those superb Scottish words which is actually more of a noise. Appropriate use of this would be in the context of a shocking or surprising conversation. For instance: “I married an axe murderer”. “Oaft!”.

Ocht - another noise which has gained status as a fully-fledged word and is, I’m pretty sure, universal to the whole of Scotland. It is usually used to describe extreme disappointment: “No, I won’t come to the pub with you”. “Ocht!”.

Glaikit - a truly excellent word which is used to describe those unfortunate souls who look vacant behind the eyes.

Rid neck - an expression of mortification or extreme humiliation. “Oh, he is a pure rid neck”, meaning “that man his highly embarrassing”.

Whaw - the Ye Olde Ayrshire pronunciation of the word ‘who’, still widely used by people of a certain age (and anyone impersonating them).

Gadz - the universal (if Ayrshire was the universe) expression of repulsion.

Poke - not, as you might think, a prod from one person to another. No, a ‘poke’ is a plastic or paper bag. Don’t ask why, because no one knows.

Haud yer wheesht - not quite as rude as ‘shut up’, but the Ayrshire person’s way of telling you to hold your tongue.

And on that note...

If you have a favourite Ayrshire word or expression that I haven’t mentioned and you would like to share, feel free to email it to me at