Sunday, November 19, 2017

Scots Word of the Week - Pech

PECH verb, to be out of breath, to pant.

Pech as ‘To breathe quickly and in a laboured way, to pant with exertion’, and it is in this last sense that it is most used today. An early example dates from the sixteenth century: “He will tye the burthen of them on their owne backes whilest they grone and peach” from Robert Rollock’s On the Passion.
Moving forwards through the centuries, in 1754 we find “At last, wi’ great peching an’ granin, we gat it up with a pingle [an effort]” from Robert Forbes’ A Journal from London to Portsmouth; and a character in Sir Walter Scott’s The Bride of Lammermoor (1819) declares: “I hae been short-breathed ever since, and canna gang twenty yards without peghing like a miller’s aiver [an old carthourse]”. A more modern example is from Ian Rankin’s Strip Jack (1992): “By the time he reached the second floor, he was peching and remembering exactly why he liked living in Patience’s basement”. The fact that pech appears quite at home in a sentence that is otherwise in English, is perhaps evidence that it is widely used.

As a noun, a pech is a laboured breath or gasp. John White in his Jottings in Prose and Verse (1879) refers to “…the old man’s severe and continued pech-pech”. And predictably, the phrase out o pech means out of breath.

Scots Word of the week - Slaister

Slaister - noun, a messy person or the verb, to make mess or work in a sloppy fashion.

The Oxford English Dictionary gives the origin of slaister as ‘obscure’ and the Dictionary of the Scots Language  says that its immediate origin is uncertain but it ultimately may have its roots in Scandinavia.Our earliest example of a person being a slaister with food or drink is from Roxburgh (1825) in John Jamieson’s Etymological Dictionary of The Scottish Language first published in 1808. In the Scotsman of 26 July 1954 we have: “He maladroitly spilled his tea on the glistening tablecloth, and was promptly but not unkindly called a wee slaister." So let's here it for slaisters that manage to draigle authing down thir dukes.

Scots Word of the Week - Sclaff

SCLAFF- verb to graze or slap
Sclaffing is most commonly found in the context of playing golf, where it means grazing the ground with the club in the act of striking the ball.  Depending on the skill of the golfer, this may or may not be deliberate.  For example, Sir W G Simpson in The Art of Golf (1887) advises that “A great secret of steady putting is to make a point of always ‘sclaffing’ along the ground”.  On the other hand, the fact that sclaffing is not always intentional is evidenced by its appearance in this list of undesirable shots: “It mattered not whether his master ‘sklaffed’, or ‘topped’, or ‘heeled’ his ball”,  from J G McPherson’s Golf and Golfers (1891).  
From its basic meaning, to strike or slap with an open hand or other flat surface, sclaff can be used of walking in a flat-footed or shuffling way, planting the feet on the ground with a slapping motion or sound.  Thus we find “She eye gangs sklaffin’ aboot wee aul’ slippers on” in Walter Gregor’s The Dialect of Banffshire (1866).  Hence a sclaffer, who may be sclaffy-fittit, is a clumsy, flat-footed person.