Scot's Word of the Week - Archive page 7

Use the links below to navigate to the previous Scot's words of the week....

Words found on this page:


meaning loath, reluctant

Dog with a bone - courtesy of stock.xchng (

This week's Scot's word comes at the suggestion of Margaret Gloag, Florida USA. This is a wonderful word, and not one that I had heard before!

Pronounced sweer it means to be unwilling or reluctant to do something and is derived from the Old Northumbrian word swaer (meaning lazy).

An example of this word can be found in the excerpt from the poem "Ma Mammy" by Rowena M Love. In the poem Rowena describes her mother as a woman who loves washing clothes so much that she does it every day:

"She's affy sweirt tae miss a day: she hates a mocket hoose.
But never fear, she'll fin a way - Maw Washer's on the loose!"

(Translation: "She's very reluctant to miss a day, she hates a dirty house, but never fear she'll find a way - Mum's washer is on the loose!")

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meaning big

The latest entry into the Scots Word of the Week was chosen by Alan and sparked a debate! This entry is therefore to solve the mystery behind the origin and meanings of these words.

Many Scots myself included) when asked assume that 'mickle' means something small (or a small amount) and that muckle is its opposite (i.e. a large amount). This confusion can be largely attributed to the popular saying (which is also common in the North of England):

"Mony's the mickle that mak's the muckle"

This saying is used to mean that many little things go into the making of a big one. It is usually used when talking about money as an encouragement to save. Perhaps an alternative saying could be "watch the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves".

The work Mickle is derived from the Old English "micel" (or mycel) akin to Old Norse "mikill". The original root was Proto-Indo-European *meg- meaning "large," also found in Latin as magnus meaning "great". The Old English micel became muchel c1200, which is likely to be the source of the Scots word Muckle, and this was eventually shortened to become "much". We can find similar words in Norwegian and Danish meget "very (much)" and in Swedish mycken means "much," as well.

Muckle Flugga

Muckle Flugga is not an insult (as the name would seem to suggest to my ears at least) but is in fact the name of a Scottish island. It's one of the places my Dad visits as part of his patrol on the Scottish Fisheries Protection vessel that he captains. I have always found it to be one of the most amusing place names I've ever heard and I used to think he was joking when he said he'd been there. It makes an appearance in this week's entry purely because I like its name so much and also because it includes the word 'muckle'.

According to local folklore, Muckle Flugga and nearby Out Stack were formed when two giants, Herma and Saxa, fell in love with the same mermaid. They fought over her by throwing large rocks at each other, one of which became Muckle Flugga. To get rid of them, the mermaid offered to marry whichever one would follow her to the North Pole. They both followed her and drowned, as neither one could swim.

Other Examples of this weeks word:

Alan found this reference to the Old English mycel in "The Earliest English Poems" by Penguin classics:

"In the catalogue of the donations of Leofric, first bishop of exeter, to the library of exeter cathedral there is 'i mycel englisc boc be gehwilcum thingum on leothwisan geworht' - one big english book about every sort of thing, wrought in song-wise. This is the "exeter book", the chief of the four codices of Old English poetry....the mycel englisc boc has survived the vicissitudes of a thousand years. (Though, not unscathed: the front has been used as a cutting-board and, more appropriately, as a beer mat; the back fourteen pages have been burnt through by a brand)."

In the Eve of St. Agnes (xiv) Keats pleads, "Let me laugh awhile, I've mickle time to grieve."

J. D. Salinger wrote in Catcher in the Rye (1951), Chapter 11, that Jane Gallagher "was sort of muckle-mouthed" because when she talked excitedly "her mouth sort of went in about fifty directions."

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One of this week's words - Ginger, is not a reference to the stereotypical image of the carrot-topped Scot (although 13% of the Scottish population is ginger which is the highest percentage in the world). No instead the word Ginger is being used in is Weegie context (note: Glaswegians - citizens of Scotland's largest city Glasgow - are commonly referred to as 'Weegies' whether they like it or not. In some cases this is meant affectionately, in others it's mildly insulting. For those of you that are interested the closest term from a native from Edinburgh is Edinbuggers). Now isn't the time to go into the rivalry between Edinburgh and Glasgow but I might save that for a later entry.

So, back to the topic, Ginger is a Weegie word which is used to describe any carbonated soft drink (like Coca-Cola, Lemonade etc etc). The origins of the term aren't clear, but it could be related to the fact that the legendary Irn-Bru (which I think is the real national drink of Scotland not whisky) is a bright orange colour. You will find some information of the sacred 'Bru in the entry for Haggis.

So, if you are asked by a Scot for a "can o' ginger" they are most likely a) a Weegie and b) looking for fizzy juice.

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tired, run down, or lacking in energy

The Scots word 'wabbit' (pronounced to rhyme with rabbit) is to be tired, run down, or lacking in energy. For example: "I think I'll have an early night, I'm feeling a bit wabbit".

Incidentally, the word wabbit has another meanings in general English. Cartoon fans will remember it as the cry of the loveable speech impaired Elmer Fudd who was forever chasing after Bugs Bunny that "wascawwy wabbit!". Amongst techy-furtlers the term wabbit is the name of a legendary early computer hack from around 1978. It was descended (if only in inspiration) from a 1969 hack called "Rabbits" which if it got onto your computer would make two copies of itself each time the programme ran until your whole system crashed. A wabbit then became used as a term for any hack which includes infinite self-replication but is not the same as a virus (which infects host programs or documents) or a worm (which uses the network capabilities of computers to spread). A wabbit is a problem that is confined to a local computer.

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meaning pig (also grumphy)

This week's Scots word is grumphie, which is an affectionate name for a pig. According to the Association of British Scrabble Players it is a legal scrabble word so take heed and impress your friends!

A few facts you might not know about the humble grumphie:

  • The first domestication of the pig is thought to have taken place in China around 4900 BC and may have occurred as early as 10,000 BC in Thailand.
  • Average lifespan in the wild is 15-20 years but may be up to 27 years.
  • Some of the domestic breeds are in danger of disappearing. Among these are the Berkshire Pig of Britain, the Gloucester Old Spot Pig (rare), and the Tamworth Pig , one of the oldest breeds known (Britain and only distantly related to modern breeds).
  • Pigs are fourth on the intelligence list. (Humans are first, non-human primates are second, dolphins/whales are third and pigs are fourth.)
  • The scream of a jet engine taking off measures 113 decibels. The scream of a frightened pig can measure 115 decibels.
  • On a couple of occasions the Romans used pigs to scare elephants in battle. They noticed that elephants were afraid of the noise squealing pigs make. The first time they used them, against Pyrrus around 275 BC they just sent them running at the enemy. The second time they used them, they covered them in tar and set them on fire before they sent them running at the enemy, fire ensured that the pigs would squeal. After this, the Macedonians boarded their elephants with pigs so they would be used to the noise.

Quote of the week:

This is a verse from a Robert Burns poem called "Halloween" in which Burns tells us the amusing tales of several people engaging in Halloween rituals - most of which involve love or courtship. In this poem one young man goes out in the dark alone to sow a handful of hemp seed. Traditional has it that if the seed is sown whilst saying: "Hemp-seed, I saw thee, hemp-seed, I saw thee; and him (or her) that is to be my true love, come after me and pou thee" when you look over your left shoulder you will see your true love pulling out the hemp. Having completed this task our hero looks over his shoulder and:

"He roar'd a horrid murder-shout,
In dreadfu' desperation!
And young and auld came runnin' out
To hear the sad narration;
He swore 'twas hilchin Jean M'Craw,
Or crouchie Merran Humphie,
Till, stop! she trotted through them
And wha was it but grumphie"

He is horrified when he looks over his shoulder and believes he sees "hilchin" (hobbling) Jean McCraw or "crouchie" (hunchbacked) Merran Humphie until it is revealed that it is actually just a pig in the field. I've read the rest of the poem and was sad to see that neither Jean nor Merran handbag the boy to death for being so cheeky.

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meaning dirt or dust

Stour (also spelt Stoor) is a great Scot's word meaning dirt or dust, usually in a layer or a cloud. I heard it used recently when a friend of my said he had to clean his lab because it was 'covered in stoor'. Something that is stourie/stoorie is dusty or dirty.

Originally the word meant turmoil or conflict, and came for the Old French estour (meaning armed conflict). It's this same word that 'storm' originates from too. Some (quite belligerent) internet sources (and the internet is never wrong as we well know....) say that the Old French estour was itself derived from the old Norse word Styrr (which is pronounced stour) meaning battle, brawl or tumult. This source claims that invading Norsemen in the 9th century introduced the word to the locals. At some point over the years the meaning of stoor changed from battle to dust (not sure I see the leap of logic there...) and its a commonly used word today.

Examples of usage:

"Ma hoose needs cleaning, it's aa covered in stour!" (My house needs cleaning it's covered in dirt)

"Dinae touch that, it's right stourie!" (Don't touch that, it's very dirty)

Cosmic Stoor

In this spirit of the weekly word here are a few facts about space dust to keep you interested!

Cosmic dust is widely present in space, where gas and dust clouds are primary precursors for planetary systems. The zodiacal light, seen in the sky on a dark night, is produced by sunlight reflected from particles of dust in orbit around the Sun. The tails of comets are produced by emissions of dust and ionized gas from the body of the comet. Dust also covers solid planetary bodies, and vast dust storms can occur on Mars that can cover almost the entire planet. Interstellar dust is found between the stars, and high concentrations can produce diffuse nebulae and reflection nebulae.

Dust samples returned from outer space could provide information about conditions in the early solar system. Several spacecraft have been launched in an attempt to gather samples of dust and other materials. Among these was Stardust, which flew past Comet Wild 2 in 2004 and returned a capsule of the remains of the comet to the U.S. in January 2006. The Japanese Hayabusa spacecraft is currently on a mission to collect samples of dust from the surface of an asteroid.

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meaning a particularly ugly lady

This week's word is a particularly colourful one, and it is used to describe a female who is quite breathtakingly ugly. This is a much worse form of ugly than a girl described as a minger. This week's word can also be used as a verb. For example:

"She's a bit of a munter. She munts for Scotland. She's so ugly, she'd get gold everytime if munting was an Olympic sport."

We chose this word because I had seen a van with the name "Munters" written on it being driven by three very annoyed looking women on my way to work. I thought this was pretty funny, and pretty unfortunate for the women involved. It turns out that Munter is also quite a common surname! So if your name is Munter and you wonder why Scottish people have giggled when you introduced yourself, now you know the reason.

In the spirit of the weekly word I bring you an interesting little fact. Super famous (and very pretty) model/actress Charlize Theron gained an Oscar for her performance in the lead role of "Monster" the dramatization of the life of serial killer Aileen Wuornos. This was a famous role for her because she had to go through a lot of make-up sessions each day in order to hide her natural beauty and become a munter. Some people went on to say that her acclaim for this film had more to do with this radical transformation into a munter than her actual acting skill.

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meaning unpleasant/ugly/smelly/dirty

This week's Scots word is a wonderfully descriptive word that can be used to describe things from the generally unpleasant right through to the completely disgusting. This is a great all-purpose word that can be used in many different contexts. Some examples could include:

"That egg sandwich smells minging"
"My clothes are minging" (this could mean dirty or smelly)
"The weather is minging" (generally this would mean wet and horrible)

Other uses of the word are that it can be used to describe someone who is very drunk, and a 'minger' is a particularly insulting term for a (usually female) very unattractive person (the word 'munter' has much the same meaning here).

What I love about the word minging (which sort of rhymes with clinging) is that it just sounds horrible. I think that even if you didn't know what it meant, if you heard it in conversation you would have a pretty good idea!

TV character Rab C Nesbitt, was very famous in Scotland, and was always completely minging in every sense of the word. He never washed, was permanently drunk and would exclaim at the top of his voice "I'm scum and I'm proud!". He was such a fabulous character that I think we will have to have a word-of-the-week page entirely dedicated to him at some point.

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meaning scarecrow

This week's Scots word, literally translated, means potato ghost/bogeyman i.e. something used to scare things away from your crops. It's a word that is used throughout Scotland, except in the Northeast.

Scarecrow facts

A scarecrow is a device (traditionally a mannequin) that is used to discourage birds such as crows from disturbing crops. Not only do crows feed on recently cast seed, they also gather nightly, starting with groups of a half dozen which then unite to form a group of 20 to 30 and so on until the flock is quite large and noisy. It is their habit to return to the same place each night so keeping crows away is a serious business.

These days human shaped scarecrows are actually not that common. Some alternatives include:

  1. In the southern Appalachians they use of a dead crow hung upside down from a pole.
  2. In California highly reflective aluminized PET film ribbons are tied to the plants to create shimmers from the sun.
  3. Automatic noise guns powered with propane gas.

Famous scarecrows

In the UK, between 1993 and 2000 a children's TV series called 'Wizadora' about a trainee wizard was very popular. In the series Wizadora has a scarecrow friend that lives in her garden who is called Tatty Bogle. Another famous TV Scarecrow was Worzel Gummidge a British children's character, a walking, talking scarecrow, who originally appeared in a series of books by Barbara Euphan Todd. Worzel, played by Dr Who's Jon Pertwee, is a scarecrow who gets bored standing around in Ten Acre Field all day and often wanders into the village of Scatterbrook to see what's going on - and to see what mischief he can get up to. Worzel wasn't very bright because his head is a turnip, or rather, a set of interchangeable turnips for different occasions - thus, should the plot require Worzel to sing, he would put on his "singing head".

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Lorne Sausage

meaning sliced sausage meat, usually square in shape

This week's Scots word is a well loved staple of the Scottish diet - Lorne Sausage. Most commonly referred to as simply 'sausage' it is made when sausage meat (which may be pork, beef, or a mixture of the two) is set into a square and sliced into pieces generally about 3 inches (8 cm) square by about half-an-inch (1 cm) thick. It also goes by the name 'square sausage', 'sliced sausage' , and in parts of Glasgow is known as 'slice'.

Lorne sausage is very well loved north of the border, and rarely heard of south of it. This can be a confusing experience for a non-native when they ask for sausage and are presented with a square of meat instead. In Scotland traditional shaped sausages are usually called 'link sausages'.

The most popular way to eat Lorne sausage is either as part of a fried breakfast (along with things like black pudding, eggs, bacon, fried bread, baked beans and fruit pudding) or as a 'roll on sausage' where it is put in a freshly baked morning roll usually with ketchup (which is my favourite way to eat it!).

The Scotsman newspaper reported in 2002 that butchers in Glasgow and beyond can sell as many as 20 different styles of Lorne. There are also many places online where people can order Lorne sausage to ease their cravings. One butcher in North Lanarkshire reported selling £240 worth of square sausage to a woman from Blantyre who wanted to distribute it among her friends in England to show them what they're missing.

For tourists coming to Scotland who want to taste authentic Scottish culinary delights I can think of nothing better than to give them a can of Irn Bru and a roll on sausage. You really will be eating like a local!

Absolutely fascinating stuff about Lorne sausage and sausages in general (that I found on the internet)...

What's in a name - Why is it called Lorne sausage?

(info taken from

It is thought by some that the Lorne sausage was an invention of the Scottish comedian Tommy Lorne who lived from 1890 and died in 1935. Tommy was very famous in his day for his comedy act and pantomime work as well as his love of sausages. He was reputed to often eat sausage sandwiches between his acts and it has been suggested that this particular type of sausage was named after him for that reason.

A common misconception is that the Lorne sausage comes from the area of the Firth of Lorne on the West Coast of Scotland.

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Lorne sausage - A danger to national security?

In June 2006 the actor Alex Norton (star of Taggart (DCI Matt Burke) and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (Captain Bellamy)) was stopped by security guards at Glasgow Airport who mistook his kilogram of Lorne sausage for the high explosive Semtex. He was on his way to London and taking the square sausage slab to his Scottish friend who wanted a taste of Scotland for his breakfast.

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Make your own Lorne sausage

It is recommended that either or a mixture of minced beef and minced pork is used. The ideal square sausage slice should have at least a 20% fat content - great for blocking the arteries! Health conscious eaters of Lorne sausage may want to alter this percentage for their recipe. Traditional cooks would argue that the high percentage animal fats are needed to stop the square sausage becoming too dry.

The square sausage slice is bulked up in equal proportion with rusk which is traditionally stale breadcrumbs. Crushed bones have been used in some very old recipes but aren't recommended. Modern chefs will use fine bread crumbs in their recipes.

The unique taste of Lorne sausage comes from the seasoning. Many butchers and chefs have their unique recipes but common seasoning ingredients include salt and pepper with some nutmeg and coriander.

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Sausage lovers unite! - British Sausage Week and the Sausage Appreciation Society

(taken from the official British Sausage Week website

The 9th annual British Sausage Week was held between the 30th of October and 5th of November 2006 and was described as an event for "fans up and down the country to celebrate sausages". A good source of information for lovers of sausages is which goes by the tagline "Your complete guide to the British banger".

The World's longest sausage was made in October 2000 during British Sausage Week and weighed 15.5 tonnes and was 35 miles long.

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Historical Sausages - Strange sausage facts from through the ages

It is often assumed that sausages were invented by the Sumerians in what is Iraq today, around 3000 BC. Chinese sausage (làcháng), which consisted of goat and lamb meat, was first mentioned in 589 BC. The Greek poet Homer mentioned a kind of blood sausage in the Odyssey (book 20, verse 25) , and Epicharmus (ca. 550 BC - ca. 460 BC) wrote a comedy titled The Sausage.

During the reign of the Roman emperor Nero, sausages were associated with the Lupercalia festival. The early Catholic Church outlawed the Lupercalia Festival and made eating sausage a sin. For this reason, the Roman emperor Constantine banned the eating of sausages. Early in the 10th century, the Byzantine emperor Leo VI the Wise outlawed the production of blood sausages following cases of food poisoning.

The sausage was in trouble again nine hundred years ago. Emperor Leo V declared that sausage makers would be 'severely scourged, smoothly shaved and banished from our realm forever'. It is not known what sausage sellers had done to cause such offence.

It was in the reign of Charles I that sausages were divided into links for the first time.

Apparently legendary highwayman, Dick Turpin, was known to moonlight as a butcher making sausages from the finest meats hunted in Epping Forest.

Sausages were nicknamed bangers during the Second World War because when they were fried they tended to explode with a bang!

Henry V stated: "War without fire is as worthless as sausages without mustard".

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Meat Hats - Perhaps the craziest use of a sausage I've seen

For those of you who want to take your love of sausages to the next level perhaps you ought to consider make them into an attractive hat. The website which was created for "remembering the past, cherishing the present, and celebrating the future of meat hats". Perhaps someone should design a Glengarry out of Lorne Sausage??

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meaning a drain or drain cover

This weeks Scots word is Syver, which means a drain in the road or the covering of such. It is also a Scandinavian boys name which means victorious defender.

In the spirit of the weekly word I like to include some interesting facts related to that word, so here is this week's offering. Some people find drain covers so interesting that there is a website dedicated to them. Click on the link below to visit 'DrainSpotting' a website with over 1000 pictures of drains.

Visit the DrainSpotting website!...and I thought being a physicist was geeky!

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meaning 'Be quiet!'

This weeks Scots word is a very onomatopoeic one, and is a little like 'Shhh!' used to tell someone to be quiet, or to shut up. It can also be used in the sense of making someone be quiet, for example:

'the mither wheeshts her weans' (translation: 'the mother keeps her children quiet')

The word is most commonly used in the phrase:

"Haud yer wheesht!"

Which means either 'be quiet' or something along the lines of 'keep your opinions to yourself!'.

And now for a bit of culture.....

Here are a couple of quotes from Ancient Greece about silence:

"Dancing is silent poetry."
- Simonides of Ceos, Greek lyric poet, 556-468 B.C

"I have often regretted my speech, never my silence."
- Xenocrates of Chalcedon, student of Plato and head of the Academy, 396-314 B.C

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Just for fun

A little peek into the lighter side of life within the Heriot-Watt Waves & Fields group.

Word of the Week: