Scottish words: Going for my messages

Obviously this one is more of a Scottish phrase although I didn’t even realise that it was Scottish until I moved to the south of England for a few years in the late 70s.

I was met with puzzled faces when I said to people ‘I’m going for my messages’. They just couldn’t think what I meant by it and I thought that everybody used the word messages to mean food shopping, so I was really surprised when I had to explain it to them.

It is probably more common to hear people saying ‘I’m away for my messages’ – and they just mean that they are going to the supermarket.

In the days of my childhood when children were allowed to roam the streets on their own at a young age it was common to see them being sent for a message and that could mean something like picking up the dry cleaning or paying a bill for their mother. We were given quite a lot of responsibility in those days as youngster.

When you think about it, it sounds a strange thing to say. So I can see why Sassenachs were completely in the dark as to what I was talking about. Poor sowls.

27 thoughts on “Scottish words: Going for my messages

  1. It’s not really so strange when you remember people were given a note of items to be bought (each one on the list being a message, then) when they were sent for the shopping.
    The English equivalent, shopping list, is so much more prosaic.

    • Yes, that seems logical except I never knew anyone who had a list. Even as children we were just told what we had to get – which meant we were all going to the shops reciting the ‘list’ in our heads, terrified we would forget something.And if you had been sent to the co-op your mum always said – Did you give them my co-op number? I still remember that number.

        • Sandra MacLean,
          You were lucky, I had to remember what she said, it meant that I was repeating it to myself all the long way to the shops.

          • You might really like this short, sweet little thing called I Can Remember from early sesame street where a little girl is sent for the messages–it’s reminiscent of what you said. It really puts a smile on my face.

            Personally, I really love the phrasing, much more poetic than any other way of saying it, especially the British way ‘Going for the Shopping’ or ‘the shops’ it sounds so…ploppy to me! haha. It’s important to note Irish people use this phrase very often, too! So it’s more like a Celtic term. :)) Though I too, originally thought it was just Scottish.

          • Samara,
            Thanks for the Sesame Street link, I don’t remember seeing that one but it is exactly what I was like when I was wee and going for the messages.

            ‘Going for the messages’ is definitely originally Scottish but there are loads of Scottish words and phrases which are used certainly in Northern Ireland. We have friends from Belfast who were actually taught Ulster Scots at school, but it is all Scots words. So many Scottish Protestants were encouraged to settle in Northern Ireland for political reasons, to keep the Roman Catholics down I suppose, but those Ulster Scots remain as Scottish as the Scots, even after hundreds of years. When we went to Belfast I had never seen so much tartan ever!
            Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to comment.
            Regards, Katrina

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    • Chris,
      Thanks for visiting. It looks like we had very similar childhoods. It’s amazing how much responsibility we were given when we were wee. Nobody seemed to worry about kids being abducted or robbed of the messages money! I can still remember my mum’s Coop number.


      • I can remember the Co-op number of our landlady on holiday on Arran – she was no. 9 and we used it when we stayed in her house so that she would get the benefit – no id cards in these days!

        • chris,
          Wow! Just one number – she got there early on! My mum’s was four numbers, I’m not telling anyone though as I still use them, I know they’re numbers I’ll never forget unlike many others! My mum would have throttled me if I had forgotten her Co-op number.

  3. Earlier today, I had the young man with my supermarket groceries come round in the delivery van. I said to him have you come with the messages, he didn’t have a clue what I was speaking about.

    • Sean,
      When you stop and think about it – using the word ‘messages’ to mean shopping is a bit strange. But it all makes sense when you’re brought up saying it and I really hope it doesn’t die out. We should spread the words!
      Thanks for taking the time to comment.


  4. Hi I am from north shields in the land of the geordies. I remember well being sent for the messages by my English parents so it seems the use of the term is not unique to Scotland I suppose north shields being fairly close to the borders the use of the wording probably drifted into the geordie vocabulary. Cheers Denis Bradbeer

    • Denis,
      Yes I think a lot of Scottish words made it just over the Border. There has always been a lot of coming and going between those parts of the country. I had a grandfather who was born in Newcastle and my husband’s grandmother was born in Jesmond, but they both grew up in the Glasgow area.
      Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to comment.

    • Steve,
      Thanks for that information. I’m actually trying to learn Dutch at the moment as my brother and his family live there. There are quite a lot of words that are very similar to Scots words.

  5. This is so interesting. My sister and I were discussing the word “messages” that our Mother used when she went shopping and when she wanted us to do some shopping for her when we were little.
    Our family have lived in Australia for generations and it is only now we have found out the word is Scottish. We hadn’t ever thought it was unusual until when watching a game show the other day one of the questions was where the word “messages” came from etc. None of the contestants knew but my sister knew straight away and couldn’t understand why they didn’t know.
    My Mother died some years ago now and I have been tracing our ancestry and what do you no all my mothers family came from Scotland in the early 1800’s and so that word must have been passed down over the generations even here in Australia.

    • Christine,
      It really cheers me up to think of these Scottish words hanging on in other parts of the world. I just recently discovered that some words thought of as being from particular US states are actually Scottish, such as ‘redd up’ for tidy/clean up and ‘clabber’ meaning muddy or dirty.
      Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to comment. Your family must have been some of the first to settle in Australia.

    • Margo,
      That’s interesting, I suppose there might have been Scots around who used it and it was taken up by everyone else, or it might have arrived via Ireland as the Ulster Scots use it too.

    • Lisa,
      Yes when we were in Northern Ireland some years ago visiting friends we were amazed that the kids in school were actually taught what they called ‘Ulster Scots’, presumably because so many people there are of Scottish extraction historically. There is also loads of tartan around there, something you rarely see in Scotland apart from in tourist spots. Thanks for dropping by.

  6. Was watching an Irish program and it makes sense as back in the day it meant that going for messages was the local shop when not everyone had a phone they would leave a message at the shop to say that “Jean has had her baby etc” as not so much as cars then either so it makes sense anyways that’s what the presenter said and it fit into place

    • Rose,
      Yes it does make sense. Also it wasn’t just food that people might be buying when they went for ‘the messages’ it could be something like picking up the dry cleaning or going to the bank.
      Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to comment.

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