This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Thing To Do This Week: be canny.

Is it better to be Scots canny or English canny?

Setting aside cannae, which is said in almost the same way as canny but is in Scotland short for cannot, the Scots canny means clever and careful. It can be clever and careful with money, or careful and careful with decisions: shrewd; astute; wary.

Canny in Scotland can also sometimes mean lucky, too.

In the North East of England (though these meanings are used by some Scots, too) canny means...well, various things. A canny lad will be charming and good fun. A canny lass will be good-natured, attractive and happy. A canny body is a kindly soul. A canny job is a good one.

Canny can also mean quite, and to make things even more confusing it can mean quite in both its senses of a lot and not much.

Canny shan means rather shocking, but it hurts a canny bit means it hurts a lot.

This meaning can be extended to mean very: canny big dog is a huge one.

So canny's a canny [very] canny [good] word that means careful, shrewd, kind, good, and good-natured. And other things, too.

And whether we're Scots, English, Irish, Welsh, American, Australian, European, Asian, African, or at home somewhere in the howling Antarctic, let's hope for a canny week for every one of us.

Happy Old Man-crop

Thing To Do This Week: be canny. This word comes from the English word can, in its meaning of to know how.


  1. Gosh, how I hope people heed your advice!

    1. It'd be a very cheap way to make the world a much better place, wouldn't it.

  2. Cannae is not short for cannot.
    It is a word from the Scots language
    Willie Douglas

    1. Fair enough, Willie. Perhaps I should have described it as a word some Scots people use in place of cannot. Hope that's better!