I recently asked my work colleagues to tell me what they thought of when they thought about being Scottish. The list that we produced contained a multitude of icons that are truly Scottish and will form the basis of my writing for a very long time. However, one that made me laugh was when someone mentioned the word ginger as ginger has more than one meaning in Scotland.
Most of us know that ginger is a fiery root vegetable that adds flavour to our much loved Asian meals, however, in Scotland ginger also means to have red-hair. The wonderful film Brave portrays King Fergus, Princess Meridah and the triplets, Harris, Hubert and Hamish all with red-hair or as we say in Scotland “ginger-heided”. Ginger hair is seen by many as the stereo-type of the typical Scot, a gene that we inherited from the Vikings when the invaded our land. It is often said that people with ginger hair are fearless and brave so much so that when the Romans invaded they brought with them warriors with fiery red-hair believing them to be better fighters.
However, in Scotland ginger also refers to carbonated drinks. Most of us are familiar with drinks like Ginger Beer which contain ginger root, nevertheless in Scotland, ginger refers to any type of flavoured carbonated non-alcoholic drink. Our most famous type of ginger is of course Irn Bru although any famous branded fizzy drink is likely to be referred to as ginger. As a child we used to wait eagerly for the arrival of the ginger-van selling bottles of different flavoured carbonated sugary drinks. If you collected enough empties you could get a bottle of ginger for nothing as the empty bottles had a deposit on them which was off-set against your next purchase. Eagle eyed youngsters would often look out for discarded bottles realising that 5 or 6 empties meant a free bottle of ginger when the van arrived.
Ginger has other meanings, mainly outside of Scotland, so don’t be surprised if you hear the word ginger mentioned in other contexts; Ginger Spice (Geri Halliwell) and referring to someone learning a new skills as being ginger are two examples that spring to mind. I’m sure there are plenty more.
Please feel free to leave your comments and suggestions for future blogs!