Spik Doric : Lesson One

Ferfochen Doric AberdeenshireFerfochen (adjective). Worn out, weary, exhausted. Pronounce the “ch” as in “loch”. Stress the second syllable.

I once organised a newspaper poll in which I asked readers to list their five favourite Doric words. I was astonished by the volumes of mail that resulted. As I had promised, I collated all the replies to produce a list which could fairly claim to be a guide to the North-east’s favourite Doric words. Top of the list by a wide margin was “ferfochen”.

As with many words in Doric, there is some debate as to the spelling. I sometimes think we have a sore need for an official Doric dictionary to adjudicate in such matters. Among the variations are ferfochen, forfochen, ferfoughtin, forfoxtin and at least half a dozen others. Ferfoughtin gives a clue as to the likely derivation. The literal meaning is “exhausted by fighting”, although most native users now understand it to be just physical exhaustion for any reason, viz:

Jeannie’s ferfochen efter aa that hoosework. That explains the half bottle o vodka.”

Note that a person can be said to be “fair ferfochen”. Contrary to first impression, this is not a softer and lighter form of ferfochenness; quite the opposite. In Doric, to be “fair” anything is to suffer it doubly. Jeannie might be ferfochen after her housework, but if she was judged to be “fair ferfochen”, she’d have finished the vodka.

• You can have a course in book form on how to master key words in the dialect. “Spikkin Doric”, by Norman Harper, is available through all bookshops. It costs £4.99 and is published by Birlinn Books. Quote ISBN 978 1 84158 680 9.

Filed Under: Doric


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