The meaning of gie

It is worth recognising that gie is not just “this is good”. Gie is, more specifically, the appropriate response to something that opens up new possibilities; that has expanded the speaker’s world not simply by being present as itself (“another one of those”) but, through its interaction with other things already known or experienced, by promising new knowledge or experiences in the future.

Sometimes gie acknowledges familiar things, either as things-to-be-played-with (as funds of further experiences) or as they appear in ways or configurations that shed new light on the relationships between them and other familiar and unfamiliar things. So the cat is gie when it is close enough to be played with; it is also gie when it walks in having previously been observed to be absent, and especially when it comes back in through the cat flap, having previously been observed going out. The parent picking up a ball that has been dropped is gie when it becomes apparent that this is not random behaviour but a game.

Gie is broadly speaking an aesthetic/erotic response, a response of delighting-in; “this is fun”, “this is exciting”. The gie discussed here (which is not , I have discovered, the only – although it is the main – use of the word “gie”) is not a response to the fulfilment of a need, although gie cannot easily be said in the awareness of major unmet needs. Gie is not about completeness or satisfaction, and it is not about usefulness. A focus on immediate usefulness prevents gie. So grandpa’s umbrella is not gie because it keeps the rain off, it is gie because it has a bright orange handle; this without forgetting that the rain probably needs to be kept off, as a precondition for gie.

Gie is a predominant mode of encounter with the world for a seven-month-old baby, but is not confined to the seven-month-old baby. Significant new discoveries in any field of research are gie; researchers are generally, at least in part, in it for the gie. Gie and the prospect of gie is often what keeps learners learning. It would be a mistake to assume that growing up, and knowing more about the world and how it works, automatically reduced the gie factor, although there is an implicit affirmation of faith in the claim that gie can rightly be said without reducing to solipsism. The merely selfish gie (“I affirm whatever is fun for me”) is rightly called “childish” in a derogatory sense and regarded as something to be outgrown; but this develops only one aspect of a baby’s gie, which could equally well point towards a call to praise with the intent to become universal.