It’s outwith Edinburgh.
Did I just hear her say ‘outwith’? I’m not sure. Our guide is explaining where we’ll be going in the afternoon and the context makes it reasonably clear that she means ‘outside’.
Now, I know ‘downwith’, its use coming more naturally to me in the street-protest sense (Downwith racism!) than in the ‘hood sense (I’m downwith that). I know ‘upwith’, as in What’s upwith that? And I’ve definitely used ‘onwith’ at work, as in Let’s get onwith that. But ‘outwith’? That would be a new one.
But did I hear her correctly? Maybe it’s me: aswith the rest of my body, my hearing isn’t what it used to be. I give my head a shake: to clear my ears, my brain, or the artificial circuitry that now links the two (and about which, after only three years, I am still unhappy)? I’m not sure. Everything seems to be working fine, but I’m still not sure what I heard. Unlike loo, bonnet, and spanner, I’ve never even heard tell of this usage before.
Back in the shack that evening, I’m idly scanning a tourist brochure and a word jumps out at me: ‘outwith’. Not just local or age-related slang then, but more-or-less standard usage. Cool.
Fast forward about a week. As our 14-seater lumbers to a stop at one of the free public conveniences (no ‘p’ to pee, not in the Highlands), today’s guide pipes up.
We’ll stop here for the toilets. Anyone who wants to get out the bus to stretch their legs is welcome to do so.
‘Out the bus.’ I have stopped wondering about my hearing. I’ve heard it enough times now that I’m sure I’m not missing a mumbled ‘of’.
At home, I can get out the rake to clean up the leaves in the fall; get out the cutlery to set the table; or get out the ice cream to warm up just a tad (and do, too frequently). But if I ‘get out’ the car, it’s the car that’s moving out of something, not I.
Not being at home, I can get out the bus to stand in line outwith the public convenience. And so I do: indeed, I’m goodwith that.