Ye canny forget the Cant: An Alphabet of Traveller Terms and an Education Resource

The Cant

‘Ye canny forget the Cant’ is an alphabet of Traveller terms, which will be published and distributed to Scottish Traveller families and schools in Autumn 2020. It captures a wee flavour of the Cant with the hope of encouraging children, their families and education practitioners to explore, enjoy and share this fascinating language. The Cant is said to mean ‘speech’ derived from the Gaelic word ‘cainnt’. It is a vibrant, varied language, spoken by many non-homogeneous Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities across the UK. This creative, fluid language draws upon Gaelic, Sanskrit, Scots and Romany and has different versions in Scotland, Wales, England and Ireland as well as Highland and Lowland versions in Scotland.

The Children’s Book

The book has been created by Kelly Stewart and Jo Waterhouse for STEP. The Cant words and meanings have been generously shared by Margaret McKenzie, Sandra Stewart, Raymond Stewart, Christine Stewart and Jess Smith. Some words and phrases were also gathered from literature written by individuals from Traveller communities, such as Duncan Williamson (1994). The majority of the words are Scottish Cant with a few from English and Welsh Cant. There are also some English terms, which are felt to be important to the book, such as education, learning and neighbour. We acknowledge that they hold universal meaning.

The Education Resource

An education resource has been developed alongside the children’s book to offer teachers some creative starting points for celebrating the language with their pupils. By delving into different words and their meanings all children in a class can learn about the diversity of Traveller communities’ culture, traditions and heritage. The resource will be published with the book in the Autumn term.

On this site we include some simple activities and questions on each page that will hopefully be the starting points for lively discussions between generations within families.

INTRO | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z