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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

Pittin oan the paraffin

For a night out with yer chinas, get a new tin flute and put on the paraffin. London does not have the monopoly on rhyming slang. It has long been thriving in urban Scotland and, while some expressions, like china (china plate: mate), did originate in London, this is now as Glasgow as Sauchiehall Street. Other examples of rhyming slang are entirely Scots in origin. The rest of Scotland might get dressed up on their braws but, for Glaswegians, style rhymes with paraffin ile (oil) and your tin flute is your suit. A Glasgow worthy by the name of Malcolm (Malkie) Fraser, has become synonymous with a razor used as a weapon and to malkie someone is to assault them seriously. Another eponymous piece of Glasgow rhyming slang, oscar, (later), owes its existence to Oscar Slater who was wrongly convicted of murder. Football is a rich source of rhyming slang. The Evening Times of 28 May 2003 undiplomatically remarks: “what a lot of hacket-faced growlers support the Teds”. This takes a bit of decoding from Rangers to Gers to Teddy Berrs or Bears shortened to Teds. On the East Coast are the Jambos (Jam Tarts: Hearts) and the Cabbage and Ribs (Hibs). The Edinburgh Evening News reported on 9 Feb 2002 that“it’s admittedly been a wee while since the Cabbage lifted any silverware”. Corn(ed) beef rhymes with Scots deef but not with English deaf. Pan breid corresponds to English brown bread (dead). An alternative is pottit heid, or simply pottit.  A comparatively recent Edinburgh one is explained by Ian Rankin in Dead Souls: “‘Salisbury Crag’ has become rhyming slang in the city. It means skag, heroin”. So now you know the Hamden roar, don’t sit on your chorus (and verse). Any collie dug can find these and more in the Dictionary of the Scots Language at

 Scots Word of the Week is written by Chris Robinson of Scottish Language Dictionaries