Tuesday, July 23, 2019

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.

Scots Word of the Week - Blellum

Blellum - noun. An idle, ignorant, talkative man.
 
Blellum is one of my personal favourite Scots words and I wish it would come back into popular use. That it is still used or known at all is largely due to Robert Burns’ epic poem Tam O’ Shanter penned in 1790 where Tam is described as a ‘blethering, blustering, drunken blellum’. In so few words we have a picture of a talkative, sometimes boastful, possibly diminutive, man. Blellums to my mind are always male.
 
Its use in Scots is not confined simply to Burns. The Dictionary of the Scots Language (dsl.ac.uk) reveals that the word also appears in John MacTaggart’s Gallovidian Encyclopedia of 1824 where he defines it as: “an ignorant talkative fellow”. From Lanark in 1895 William Stewart in his Lilts and Larks frae Larkie describes a character in the terms: “Thus he raved, the senseless blellum.” 
 
Although many recent usages do indeed refer to Tam there are some instances which do not. Pete Forturne writing in the anthology A Tongue in Yer Heid (1994) describes a character thus: “In face auld Tosh (bad auld blellum he is, mind ye)…” this seems to me to call into question the veracity of whatever Auld Tosh was about to say. 
 
It is perhaps a conflation of ‘blabber’ “A gurgling noise with the lips in a liquid” and ‘skellum’ “A worthless fellow, scamp, scoundrel, rogue, now sometimes used playfully to a young boy”.

The Inventory

With the end of the Tax year approaching and many in a bit of a rush to get their tax returns submitted, I thought a wee reminder of how Robert Burns approached his tax return was in order.

Sir, as your mandate did request,
I send you here a faithfu' list,
O' gudes an' gear, an' a' my graith,
To which I'm clear to gi'e my aith.
 
Imprimis then, for carriage cattle,
I have four brutes o' gallant mettle,
As ever drew afore a pettle.
My Lan' afore's a gude auld has been,
An' wight an' wilfu' a' his days been.
My Lan' ahin's a weel gaun fillie,
That aft has borne me hame frae Killie,
An' your auld burrough mony a time,
In days when riding was nae crime
But ance whan in my wooing pride
I like a blockhead boost to ride,
The wilfu' creature sae I pat to,
(Lord pardon a' my sins an' that too!)
I play'd my fillie sic a shavie,
She's a' bedevil'd wi' the spavie.
My Furr ahin's a wordy beast,
As e'er in tug or tow was trac'd.
The fourth's a Highland Donald hastie,
A d-n'd red wud Kilburnie blastie;
Foreby a Cowt, o' Cowt's the wale,
As ever ran afore a tail.
If he be spar'd to be a beast,
He'll draw me fifteen pun' at least.
Wheel carriages I ha'e but few,
Three carts, an' twa are feckly new;
Ae auld wheelbarrow, mair for token,
Ae leg an' baith the trams are broken;
 
I made a poker o' the spin'le,
An' my auld mither brunt the trin'le.
For men, I've three mischievous boys,
Run de'ils for rantin' an' for the noise;
A gaudsman ane, a thrasher t'other,
Wee Davock hauds the nowt in fother.
I rule them as I ought, discreetly,
 
An' aften labour them compleatly.
An' ay Sundays duly nightly,
I on the questions targe them tightly;
Till faith, wee Davock's turn'd sae gleg,
Tho' scarcely langer than your leg,
He'll screed you aff Effectual Calling,
As fast as ony in the dwalling.
I've nane in female servan' station,
(Lord keep me ay frae a' temptation!)
I ha'e nae wife; and that my bliss is,
An' ye have laid nae tax on misses;
An' then if kirk folks dinna clutch me,
I ken the devils dare na touch me.
Wi' weans I'm mair than weel contented,
Heav'n sent me ane mae than I wanted.
My sonsie smirking dear-bought Bess,
She stares the daddy in her face,
Enough of ought ye like but grace;
But her, my bonny sweet wee lady,
I've paid enough for her already,
An' gin ye tax her or her mither,
B' the Lord! ye'se get them a' thegither.
 
And now, remember Mr. Aiken,
Nae kind of licence out I'm takin';
Frae this time forth, I do declare,
I'se ne'er ride horse nor hizzie mair;
Thro' dirt and dub for life I'll paidle,
Ere I sae dear pay for a saddle;
My travel a' on foot I'll shank it,
I've sturdy bearers, Gude be thankit.
The Kirk an' you may tak' you that,
It puts but little in your pat;
Sae dinna put me in your buke,
Nor for my ten white shillings luke.
 
This list wi' my ain han' I wrote it,
Day an' date as under notit,
Then know all ye whom it concerns,
Subscripsi huic,
ROBERT BURNS.