RIP, Cromarty Fisherfolk Dialect

Most people have never heard of the Cromarty Fisherfolk dialect. And now, it’s gone forever. Bobby Hogg, the last living speaker of the dialect, passed away last week. This unique dialect dies with him.

Cromarty is a small fishing community in Scotland with around 700 inhabitants, so the language was always vulnerable. As linguist Dr. Robert McColl Millar of Aberdeen University explained to the Daily Mail,

‘This was always going to be the danger of the Black Isle, as there were so few speakers even when it was healthy, when the fishing was still good. So Bobby Hogg’s passing is a very sad day. It was a very interesting dialect and was unlike any of the others.”

In the Daily Mail, Mr. Hogg himself described his memories of the community he grew up in and the language he grew up speaking:

“Our father was a fisherman and all his folk had been fishermen stretching way back. It was the same on our mother’s side too. When we were young, we talked differently in the fishertown to the rest of Cromarty. It wasn’t written down. It was an oral culture. We had this sort of patois, which I think had both Doric and Gaelic in it. There were words, a lot to do with the fishing, which nobody else could understand.”

According to a publication on the dialect from, at one time in Cromarty’s history, there were three different dialects: one for the farmers, one for the townspeople, and one for the fisherfolk.

To give you a feel for what’s been lost, here are some of the more interesting and evocative (in my opinion, at least) vocabulary words from the Cromarty Fisherfolk dialect:

  • ablach: odd-looking, awkward
  • belwar: layers of tangles
  • bronyach: poor creature
  • cosfeet, cosfit, cossetor cossits: starfish
  • carcle: to count, calculate
  • crockums or crockuns: refuse of fish livers after oil is extracted
  • droog-droogle: be engaged in wet, heavy work
  • foodge or fooge: to play truant
  • greenga or greengaw: slimy grass left after the tide has receded
  • lyeerin: green slime
  • tumblers: dolphins & harbour porpoises

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closest to English

Which Languages Are Closest to English?

Have you ever wondered which languages are most closely related to English? Well, wonder no more! Here are the 5 languages that linguists say are the most closely related to English. Some of them might surprise you…

The Closest Language to English: Scotsscotslanguagemap

The closest language to English is Scots . . . assuming you consider Scots a language, that is. According to a 2010 study by the Scottish government, a majority (64%) of Scottish people don’t.

And yet, Scots began to diverge from English as far as back as the Middle English period.  The UK government classifies it as a regional language and it is protected under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.

Fast Facts About the Scots Language

  • Scots is spoken by about 1.5 million people
  • Technically, the Scots alphabet has one more letter than the English alphabet. The last letter, called yough, looks like a backward “3.” The letter “z” usually replaces it.
  •  Scots has been primarily an oral language for so long that it does not have a standard spelling system.

Scots is not only the closest relative of the English language, it’s also been heavily influenced by its “big brother.” So, how easy is it for an English speaker to read Scots? Try it for yourself!

Aw human sowels is born free and equal in dignity and richts. They are tochered wi mense and conscience and shuld guide theirsels ane til ither in a speirit o britherheid.

Got that? It’s Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Here’s the English translation:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

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