AULD-FARRANT adj., old-fashioned
The Scots adjective auld-farrant is included in the latest batch of updates added to the Oxford English Dictionary. Its second element, farrant or farrand, is derived from Older Scots farand, which combines with various adverbs to mean ‘of a specified appearance or disposition’. So in the Dictionary of the Scots Language (www.dsl.ac.uk), we also find ill-farrant (ugly), fair-farrant (superficially attractive) and foul-farran (dirty, untidy or nasty).
When applied to things, auld-farrant can mean simply old-fashioned, as in this quotation from James Brown’s The Round Table Club (1873): “Sic a getherin’ o’ auld farrant things cuttit oot o’ stane” or this from David M Moir’s The Life of Mansie Waugh (1839): “In a droll auld-farrant green livery-coat”.
When used to describe people, auld-farrant often refers to young people or children, and indicates that they have, or appear to have, the demeanour, temperament or wisdom of older people. In John MacTaggart’s The Scottish Gallovidian Encyclopedia (1824), auld-farrent is glossed as “Cunning beyond years” which may or may not be complimentary. And in James Nicholson’s Idyll o Hame (1870) we read that “Sic an auld head on young shouthers Disna wag the kintra roun’. Gossips lauch when they forgather At her queer auldfarant ways”. In a similar vein, John Galt in his Sir Andrew Wylie (1832) describes a child character as follows: “He’s an auld-farant bairn, and kent a raisin frae a black clock before he had a tooth”.
Overlapping with that meaning, auld-farrant can also mean genuinely ‘sagacious, prudent, knowing, cunning, clever, witty, ingenious’. Examples of this include “Ye’re ower auld-farren to be fleyed wi’ bogles” from Andrew Henderson’s Scottish Proverbs (1832), and finally, a comment on the Scots language itself, from James Beattie to Alexander Ross in 1778: “Our country leed is far frae barren, ’Tis even right pithy and auldfarren”.
Scots Word of the Week is written by Ann Ferguson of Scottish Language Dictionaries www.scotsdictionaries.org.uk, 9 Coates Crescent, Edinburgh EH3 7AL, firstname.lastname@example.org. For £20 you can sponsor a Scots word.