‘Do you want a muffit of tea?’ This expression – if you’re unfamiliar with it – can be heard in a short sketch by the Scottish comedian Brian Limond, aka Limmy, in series 2 of his brilliant Limmy’s Show:
As well as being a wry comment on how new usages can spread, the sketch got me thinking about words that are used informally by small groups but never go beyond that (and aren’t meant to), like codes and catchphrases that develop within circles of friends, peer groups and families. I’ve been compiling a list of expressions used uniquely by my siblings and me, and they would baffle anyone outside the family.
The muffit sketch shows the expert control of expectations, timing and tone characteristic of Limmy’s Show, while the closing moments hint at its more serious side. (Here’s a couple of good reviews of this highly original comedy.) I like the Glasgow dialect, but some may find it occasionally difficult to follow, so I’ve included a transcript below, adapted slightly from material (PDF) on Limmy’s website.
DONNIE: The week from hell, so he’ll probably be drinking himself into oblivion tonight.
LIMMY: Aye. So d’you want to just head round now, or…?
D: Naw, we’ve got another 20 minutes. D’you want a drink? Beer? Coke? Muffit of tea?
L: Aye, just get us a… a what?
D: Beer? Coke?
L: No, the other thing.
L: Aye, but what did you say? A what of tea?
D: A muffit. A muffit of tea.
L: A muffit of tea?
L: What’s a muffit of tea?
D: A muffit of tea, a cup of tea.
L: What’s a muffit?
D: A cup.
L: What, is it a type of cup?
D: Naw, it’s just a cup, it’s just another word for a cup.
L: Since when?
D: I don’t know. Look, d’you want one or not?
L: Aye, get us a tea. A cup of tea. (To himself) Muffit?
DEBBIE: What d’you want for dinner?
LIMMY: Eh, I don’t know, spaghetti bolognese.
D: Well we need to get mince, and we’ve ran out of teabags and all.
L: Oh here, that reminds us, wait’ll you hear this. See when I was in Donnie’s, he said, ‘D’you want anything to drink?’, and one of the things he offered us was… a muffit of tea. A muffit of tea.
D: Aye, that is a bit civilised.
L: Did you hear what I said? A muffit of tea. A muffit.
D: I heard you.
L: Oh, no you anaw. [not you and all, i.e., not you too]
D: No me anaw what?
L: What’s a muffit of tea?
D: A cup of tea.
D: Och, just go and hurry up and get teabags. And remember to get mince.
L: (To himself) Has everybody lost their mind?
WAITER: Yes, sir, what can I get you.
LIMMY: Eh, can I have a coronation chicken focaccia please?
W: D’you want something to drink with that?
L: Aye, can I have a… Can I have a tea, please?
W: Yep. Is that a, a pot of tea?
L: Naw, just a… Fuck it. A muffit of tea.
W: Ahahaha, you said a muffit!
DEBBIE: A muffit? What’s a muffit?
DONNIE: ‘Can I have a muffit of tea?’, hahaha! Aw, mate.
L: Aw how stupid of me! How stupid and weak-minded of me to start calling something by another name for no reason other than that’s what everybody else is calling it now! D’you know what I mean?