Cauld Blasts and Clishmaclavers by Robin A Crawford

Cauld Blasts draft cover new.indd

I love language and new words so I’m delighted to help begin the launch celebrations for Cauld Blasts and Clishmaclavers by Robin A Crawford today. My grateful thanks to Alizon Menzies for inviting me to participate and for sending me a copy of Cauld Blasts and Clishmaclavers in return for an honest review.

Cauld Blasts and Clishmaclavers is published by Elliot and Thompson on 20th August 2020 and is available for purchase here.

Cauld Blasts and Clishmaclavers

Cauld Blasts draft cover new.indd

The evocative vocabulary, wit and wisdom of the Scots language – from Robert Burns to Twitter.

Scottish writer and bookseller, Robin Crawford, has gathered 1,000 Scots words– old and new, classical and colloquial, rural and urban – in a joyful celebration of their continuing usage. His amusing, erudite definitions put each of these words in context, revealing their evocative origins and essential character. Delightful line drawings by Scottish printmaker Liz Myhill contribute to this treasury of linguistic gems for language lovers everywhere.

kellas cat

The Scots language is intricately bound up in the nation’s history, identity, land and culture. It is also a living and vital vernacular, used daily.With references to Robert Burns mingling with contemporary examples from Billy Connolly and even Monty Python, Cauld Blasts and Clishmaclavers revels in the richness of one of our oldest languages, and acts as a precious reminder of words that are also beginning to fade away, their meaning and value disappearing.

Clishmaclaver: the passing on of idle gossip, sometimes in a book.

Inkie-pinkie: weak beer.

Sodie-heid: literally, ‘head full of soda bubbles’, airhead.

Smowt: youngster, technically a young trout or salmon but also affectionately applied to a child.

Simmer dim: Shetland term for long summer evenings where due to the northern latitude it never really gets dark.

Dreich: grey, miserable, tedious; usually applied to weather but indicative of the Scots temperament, hence it being voted Scotland’s favourite word in a recent poll (or perhaps indicative of the temperaments of Scots who feel the need to participate in online polls): ‘It’s gey dreich the day.’

My Review of Cauld Blasts and Clishmaclavers

A treasure trove of Scottish words.

Prior to reviewing properly the linguistic content of Cauld Blasts and Clishmaclavers I have to say something about the overall quality of the book. Difficult to see in an image, there is beauty in the gold lettering, and the self-coloured, purple, illustrated end papers pick up the thistle of the cover so that there’s a real feeling of coherence. It made it a real pleasure to open the book before even beginning to read it.

I cannot begin to imagine how much time and effort Robin A. Crawford must have put in to the construction of Cauld Blasts and Clishmaclavers as it is meticulously researched, helpfully cross referenced and provides a useful bibliography with all the sources of quotation too so that readers be confident of the authenticity of the book. Words are often placed within exemplar sentences that give total credibility. It sounds slightly bizarre to say so but I felt I was in safe hands reading Cauld Blasts and Clishmaclavers and this enhanced my enjoyment.

Presented in alphabetical order, each letter page has a superb illustration that reflects one of the words in the section. I derived considerable pleasure in looking at the drawing and then skimming the words to see if I could guess which one was being referenced. I loved the tattie bogle! I think readers could make quite a game of this, sharing the book as a family.

Speaking of games, Cauld Blasts and Clishmaclavers doesn’t need reading all in one go or in the order it is presented. It’s such a pleasure to pick up the book in passing and dip in at random. I must admit, I read the whole of  the sections spelling out my first name first! The book could be used for impromptu games of pictionary, charades and as a diversion perhaps for those with a bout of blabs (you’ll have to read the book to find out…) by making up sentences from the words presented here.

Cauld Blasts and Clishmaclavers is an absolute must for anyone with an interest in language because it takes them on a geographical, literary and historical journey. The author’s introduction distils the history of the Scots language wonderfully in just a few pages so that I had total confidence that what I would find would be entertaining and accurate. It was. I thoroughly enjoyed every page, every illustration, every word.

About Robin A Crawford


Born in Glasgow, writer and Scottish bookseller Robin A. Crawford has a particular interest in the culture and natural heritage of his native land. He is the critically acclaimed author of Into ThePeatlands: A Journey Through the Moorland Year, longlisted for the Highland Book Prize 2019. He lives in Fife, Scotland, with his wife. Robin is available for interview.

You can follow Robin on Twitter @RobinACrawford2, or visit his website for further information.

CBC blog tour poster

15 thoughts on “Cauld Blasts and Clishmaclavers by Robin A Crawford

  1. I’ll buy the book. Consciously bringing a word to mind for work, even when you know you know it, is hard compared to when you’re blethering awa and oot they come fleeing frae yer mooth intae anither lug wi-oot a thoucht and then as rapidly forgot again. That’s where books like Robin’s pay off – by helping to keep them in the mind and in use. Which is very important to me.

    Liked by 1 person

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