Last year, February 25th was named the first Alasdair Gray Day to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the late scriever’s seminal novel, Lanark. And as March 21st is World Poetry Day, a look at the word scriever seemed appropriate.
In the Dictionaries of the Scots Language (DSL), scriever does not start out with a very good pedigree. It is defined in the entry for scrieve as:
“a writer, used somewhat contemptuously, a scribbler, ‘a mean scribe’”.
That definition comes from the early nineteenth century, although later it sometimes still popped up as a derogatory term, as this example from the magazine Cencrastus (1995) illustrates:
“… hoist oan yir ain petard as the baldy wee scriever yince said”.
An early twenty first century example, from the Hairst edition of Lallans (2001), is more respectful:
“…that comic genre whaur the scriever lauchs baith at, an wi, his characters. But the tragic tensions are never aa that faur ablow”.
In our modern times a scriever is much more respected. The Aberdeen writer, Sheena Blackhall, describes herself in Wittgenstein’s Web (1996):
“As a Scots screiver, I sit in the mids o ma culture, like a wyver [spider] in her wab”.
Another well-loved Scots scriever, Anne Donovan, uses the term in her translation of Roald Dahl’s Matilda into Scots (2019):
“‘Whit’s this mince??’ he said, wheeching book fae her haunds. ‘It’s no mince, Daddy. It’s braw. It’s cried The Rid Pony. It’s by John Steinbeck, an American scriever.’”.
So, all you would-be scrievers out there, take heart! You are in good company.
This Scots Word of the Week was written by Pauline Cairns Speitel, Dictionaries of the Scots Language https://dsl.ac.uk.