Scottish Poetry Selection
- Imph-m

Imph-m is a very Scottish word (or maybe is it just a sound like clearing the throat?) which crops up in all sorts of places - as this poem by James Nicholson illustrates.


Ye've heard hoo the deil, as he wauchel'd through Beith,
Wi' a wife in ilk oxter and ane in his teeth,
When someone cried oot, 'Will ye tak' mine the morn?'
He wagged his auld tail while he cocked his horn,
But only said Imph-m! That useful word Imph-m,
Wi' sic' a big mouthfu' he couldna say - aye!

When I was a laddie langsyne at the schule,
The maister aye ca'd me a dunce and a fule;
For a' that he said, I could ne'er understan'
Unless when he bawl'd, 'Jamie, haud oot yer han'!'
Then I gloom'd and said Imph-m, I glaunch'd and said Imph-m,
I wisna ower proud, but ower dour to say - aye!

Ae day a queer word, as lang nebbit's himsel',
He vow'd he would thrash me if I widna spell.
Quo' I, 'Maister Quill,' wi' a kin o' a swither,
'I'll spell ye the word if ye'll spell me anither:
Let's hear ye spell Imph-m, that common word Imph-m,
That auld Scotch word Imph-m, ye ken it means - aye!'

Had ye seen hoo he glower'd, hoo he scratched his big pate,
An' shouted, 'Ye villain, get oot o' my gate!
Get aff to yer seat, ye're the plague o' the schule!
The deil o' me kens if ye're maist rogue or fule!'
But I only said Imph-m, that common word Imph-m,
That auld farran' Imph-m, that stan's for an - aye!

An' when a brisk wooer, I courted my Jean -
O Aron's braw Isaacs the pride an' the Queen -
When 'neath my grey plaidie wi' heart beatin' fain,
I speired in a whisper if she'd be my ain,
She blushed and said Imph-m, that charming word Imph-m,
A thousan' times better and sweeter than - aye!

Meaning of unusual words:
wauchel'd=plod with difficulty
ilk oxter=each armpit
langsyne=a long time ago
glaunch'd=gritted my teeth
lang nebbit's=long nosed
plaidie=piece of tartan cloth worn over the shoulder

Return to the Index of Scottish Poetry Selection

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