The Great Swede vs Turnip debate

Burns Night celebrations are due, and I was buying some turnips, potatoes and vegetarian haggis:

“Could you get a turnip from over there?”


“Over there by the potatoes”.

“That’s a swede, it says so on the label”.

“No it isn’t, it’s a turnip”.


“Turnip”. – this is quite a funny report . . . my favourite lines are “parsnips reared their pointy heads on more than one occasion” and ‘Like so many things, the idea that the Scottish stomp about shouting for neeps isn’t one that matches reality. I guess the word probably persists in rural areas (or, as my dad puts it, “in Aberdeen”)’ – anyone else have any opinions on this?

Exhibit  A – The Enormous Turnip

Exhibit B –

Anyway – I now have some veggie haggis, neeps, tatties and a bottle of 12yo Co-op Highland Single Malt in for Burns’ night!

From an on-line review: ‘Was tempted to buy this at £20.09 a bottle. I’m not a massive fan of Dalmore 12yo, but it’s a bit of a bargain at 20 quid, & i’m 99% certain that’s what it is. Was researching what it could be in “Black Isle” area . . . tastes & smells exactly like Dalmore 12:- old sherry cask, thick, almost cloying “marmalade” sweetness, slightly nutty finish. Appears to me to be 1/2 price Dalmore 12, only difference from distillery bottling might be that it’s very slightly lighter. I live in Aberdeen, Dalmore 12yo normally £38-40, so this is a serious bargain. Slainte!’

I think that in the North of England and Scotland, ‘turnip’ is used to mean both “turnips” and “swedes” and judging by the name of the author of the children’s book above, ‘Bridie McBeath’, she is surely either a Scottish or Irish writer? – I rest my large, purple, turnip-shaped case!

Wikipedia entry for swede – ‘In Scotland, it is known as turnip, and in Scots as tumshie or neep (from Old English næp, Latin napus)’, whereas my wife was referring to the English definition of the word. (although the Guardian article above differs)

Rutabaga – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia The rutabaga, swede (from Swedish turnip),[1]turnip, yellow turnip, or neep (Brassica napobrassica, or…)

And at the bottom of the Wikipedia article, a traditional Irish TURNIP Hallowe’en lantern – creepy.

Andrew Walton's photo.

Either way, it is a very confusing conversation to have in the vegetable aisle!

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