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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

Mince and tatties




This well-known combo could be described as Scotland’s ‘other National dish’, to paraphrase an old advertisement relating to Scotland’s ‘other National drink’. One aspect of its meaning is recorded in the Dictionaries of the Scots Language (DSL) as a


“stereotype of working-class Scotland”.


Generally, though, when not referring to the actual dish, it means unfancy, frills-free food of the sort Stuart McHardy describes the Dundonian dockers eating in Speakin o Dundee: Tales Tellt Aroun the Toun (2010).


“It wis the tradeetional grub that they liked, beef stews and pies and tatties an mince, wi dumplins an mealie puddins an piles o tatties and neeps and carrots, an mebbe Brussels sprouts or cabbage.”



And it’s hard to disagree with JK Annand’s verdict (From A Wale o Rhymes, 1989):


“I dinna like hail tatties Pit on my plate o mince For when I tak my denner I eat them baith at yince. Sae mash and mix the tatties Wi mince into the mashin, And sic a tasty denner Will aye be voted ‘Smashin!’.



‘Mince and tatties’ is also used adjectivally to describe anything plain – for example, from Scotland on Sunday (1998):


“Some of them are in cul-de-sac restaurants in the city centre where tonight there’s lamb and ginger and red wine on the menu, served on a crust of oatmeal, a long way from the city’s mince and tatties image”.



Finally, Scotland on Sunday (2022) reported:


“Not every pundit acknowledges the big injury list when pronouncing. Lots of pundits like mince-and-tatties football and are suspicious of deviations”.


This Scots Word of the Week was written by Pauline Cairns Speitel.

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