Haar – word of the week

Every week, I’d like to introduce a new word or phrase that I’ve learned while living abroad. This could be Scottish, English, Urdu, Cantonese…Edinburgh is a diverse city and I’m lucky enough to know some really fantastic people who’ve shared bits and pieces of their own cultures. Today the word of the week is Scottish and it’s used often in Edinburgh.

 

Despite its size, the UK has an amazing amount of regional dialects and vocabulary. In fact, if you travel one county north of Edinburgh, you will hear a stronger accent as well as words and phrases that are bespoke to that region. Go even further – to the surrounding villages of Aberdeenshire – and you’ll hear Doric, a dialect that was often spoken by fishermen and farmers. I’ve been told by my Scottish friends (some who even have family who speak Doric) that they have a hard time understanding them. I can’t wait to hear some!

haar royal mile

Back to the word of the week – haar. Haar is derived from Old Norse (Vikings once invaded Scotland and remnants are left scattered in archeology, genetics – think redheads – and in language). The haar is a fog that comes in from the North Sea and affects the east coast of Scotland (where Edinburgh is located). It tends to be dense and cold.

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Edinburgh Castle in the background

It’s an otherworldly experience when walking through a haar. The haar’s gothic atmosphere adds to Edinburgh’s bloody history and the topography of the city. Edinburgh is built on so many layers – small alleys (the Scottish word for this will be a future word of the week) lead to the different levels of the city making it easy to end up somewhere completely different from where you expected. When the haar rolls through Edinburgh, I always imagine its ghosts coming out to re-enact the many scenes that the city’s ghost tours spin to tourists. More on some spooky history and folklore at a later date. Must stop speaking about it now as it’s cold, dark and blustery outside and I’ve managed to spook myself!

What are your experiences with the haar? Do you have something similar where you live?

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