• 4-minute read
  • 30th November 2020

Persnickety Tattie-Bogles (6 Scottish Words for St. Andrew’s Day)

Greetings to readers in (or from) Scotland! We reserve this extra welcome for Scots in particular since today is St. Andrew’s Day, the feast day of Scotland’s patron saint and a time for celebrating everything Scottish.

Including delicious, delicious haggis. (Photo: Jonathunder/wikimedia)
Including delicious, delicious haggis.
(Photo: Jonathunder/wikimedia)

And since we’re always looking for an excuse to delve into etymology here at Proofed, what better time is there to examine some interesting words of Scottish origin? How many of the following do you know?

1. Bard

These days, a “bard” is usually an esteemed author or poet, making “bard” a term of praise. But the Scottish Gaelic word that “bard” comes from was an insult for an itinerant musician, typically a troublemaker.

This appeals to us, as we like to think of Shakespeare, often known as the Bard of Avon, as a more mischievous soul than he probably was.

2. Gloaming

“Gloaming” means “dusk” or “twilight.” Pleasingly, it also sounds exactly how we imagine the setting sun would sound if the sun setting made a sound.

'What's that gloaming noise?' 'Just the sun setting. Nothing to worry about.'
“What’s that gloaming noise?”
“Just the sun setting. Nothing to worry about.”

A version of this word (“glomung”) was used in Old English. But it fell out of use in England before being reintroduced by Robert Burns, among other Scottish writers, after 1785. And that makes it Scottish enough for us!

3. Persnickety

“Persnickety” (or “pernickety” in British English) is a fun word that means “precise or fastidious over details.” In addition, this term is a variation of the Scots “pernicky,” the origins of which are unknown.

4. Shindig

A “shindig” is a raucous party and a modification of the older term “shindy,” which referred more generally to a ruckus or brawl.

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The origins of “shindy” are more obscure, but could lie in the traditional Scots sport of shinty, which is little like a cross between hockey and hurling.

Balancing a ball on a stick while running seems like an overly-complicated way of getting it from A to B. (Photo: Alasdair Middleton/wikimedia)
Balancing a ball on a stick seems like a complicated way of getting it from A to B.
(Photo: Alasdair Middleton/wikimedia)

Incidentally, if you suspect the stereotypes of Scottish people being hardy are false, we suggest watching this video of a shinty goalkeeper saving a shot with his head. You will never doubt the toughness of Scots again.

5. Tattie-Bogle and Bodach-Rocais

Probably the most obscure words in this list, “tattie-bogle” and “bodach-rocais” are both Scottish terms for a scarecrow. In fact, “bodach-rocais” literally translates as “old man of the rooks.”

The sporran earns this guy bonus St Andrew's Day points. (Photo: Elliott Simpson)
The sporran earns this guy bonus Scottish points.
(Photo: Elliott Simpson)

“Tattie-bogle,” meanwhile, combines two words: “tattie” (meaning “potato,” since potato farming was common in Scotland) and “bogle” (meaning “ghost”). However, we’re not sure if the second term is because tattie-bogles are scary or because they stop spirits from stealing the potatoes.

6. Trousers

Although it is now a common word in English, “trousers” has origins in the Scottish and Irish Gaelic word “triubhas,” which meant “close-fitting shorts.” This later became “trouze,” and then “trousers.”

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, these were considered a peculiarly Celtic item of clothing. This might seem odd to modern readers, as the Scottish are now far more widely associated with kilts than trousers!

Trousers or kilts? Both at least a bit Scottish, in an etymological sense.
Trousers or kilts? Both a bit Scottish, in an etymological sense.

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That’s all of our Scottish words for now. But if you have a favorite term with Scottish roots, let us know in the comments below. And if you’d like any help proofreading a document, give our services a try for free today.

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