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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

Spring

WARE – SPRING

The season of spring is made up of three months, March, April and May. In the Scots language the season is called ware. This takes the form voar in the dialects of Orkney and Shetland. Ware comes originally from a Common Germanic word which is believed to have taken the form *wēr about two thousand years ago. In the Old Norse language Vár or Vór was a goddess who was associated with agreements, pledges and oaths and it may be that the goddess represented the ‘promise’ of new life at a time when the natural world renewed itself after winter. In any case, the forms ware and voar came into Scots from the Old Norse language. The three months which make up this season – March, April and May – take the forms Mairch, Aprile (‘ahp-rile’, rhymed with style) and Mey (rhymed with stey) in Scots.

In the middle of this season falls the major Christian feast of Easter which was grafted onto existing pagan tradition. What they both have in common is a celebration of the renewal of life. The Northumbrian Anglo-Saxon writer Bede (AD 725) claimed that Easter derived from a pagan goddess called Ēostre but much controversial debate has surrounded this statement, many claiming Bede invented this goddess even though Latin dedications do exist dating from the third century AD. Christians in the Middle Ages came to know this festival as Pasche (from the passion of Christ) which gives us the Scots words for Easter - Pask or Pace. Spring is the time of the great fire festivals in many European cultures. What trade unionists re-branded May Day was, in fact, an ancient festival of rebirth, popularly known in Scotland as the Beltane Festival.

Spring is associated in some parts of Scotland with strong winds. In particular, Whitsun (which falls during the second half of May) has usually been a blustery period in the year. A high build up of pressure in Scandinavia at this time often leads to strong winds blowing down from the north east of Scotland. These north east winds can seem sudden, dramatic, and occasionally destructive. For instance, in 1989 the town of Fraserburgh was badly hit by winds and some 75,000 people in the North East lost electricity. This inclement weather is thought to have given rise to the Scots saying “Castna a cloot, til Mey be oot” (don’t throw away your clothes until May is ower).

Please click on the audio files below to hear some words and sayings in Scots associated with springtime weather.

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blatter

blowster

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blowster

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gowsty

ice-lowsing

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ice-lowsing

spring proverb

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a spring proverb