Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Quark is a cheese?

On a happier note than the previous post, also at the TLS is Eric Korn's extremely charming essay about the new edition of Chambers' Dictionary. It's all great, but here's a taste:

Chambers never forgets its origins, and Scotticisms are pleasingly many: here’s “haar” and “haaf”, and “douce”; and “mutchkin”, defined, perhaps without a trace of chauvinism, as three-quarters of an imperial pint, or one quarter of an old Scottish pint, and “snigger”, which last is to do with catching salmon with a weighted hook, apparently an illegality, which caused me once the wildest of surmises, when a newspaper (the Kirkintilloch Bugle, if I’m not mistaken) ran the headline MAN FINED FOR SNIGGERING AT LOCH NESS: I thought it was my first real case of political correctness run mad.

The word haar reminds me so strongly of my Scottish grandparents (who lived in North Berwick by the time I came to know them) that I almost feel as if they must have made it up, it is always a shock to see it actually in print and really know it to have been used by other people as well. (The other word I so strongly associate with them is shoogly--you know, like when you go to a coffee-shop and you have to wedge a matchbook under one of the legs of the table because it's all shoogly....)

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