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Skullduggery

Skullduggery

The word 'sculdudry' was first used in Scotland in the mid 17th century. By the mid 18th it was 'sculduddery'. Scottish emigrants to America made the term popular, where it changed spelling again to 'skullduggery'.

Blak maill. maill is Scots for rent. 'Blak maill' was rent money that a landlord extorted from a landowner as 'protection' against possible damage to the landowner's property.

Hekill. First used in 15th century Scotland, the word 'hekill' came to mean 'to reprove or scold' somebody. When the Scottish started to use the modern version of the word, now spelt 'heckle', to refer specifically to members of a crowd 'heckling' a speaker, it became popular through the English speaking world.

Slogorne. Borrowed from the Gaelic phrase 'sluagh ghairm' (the cry of the army) the Scots word 'slogorne' was first used in 14th century Scotland. Originally a slogorne was a battle-cry that was used by a clan to identify and locate other clan members during battle but it eventually came to mean any catchy or ritualistic phrase.

Weird. Originally an Old English word for 'fate' or 'destiny', weird took on it's modern meaning of 'strange' or 'uncanny' thanks to the Shakespearean play 'Macbeth'. Shakespeare based his three witches on an actual Scottish legend about the three Goddesses of Fate that many Scots believed had actually tempted Macbeth to his grisly end. Unfortunately most of Shakespeare's English audience didn't realise that the phrase 'Weird Sisters' meant 'Sisters of Fate' in Scottish and just assumed it meant the Unnatural or Uncanny Sisters'.

Gowf. The Scottish were obsessed with their beloved 'gowf' from as early as the middle 15th century. In 1457, for example, the Scottish Parliament tried to ban the sport as they believed that a large section of the Scottish Army spent more time playing golf than preparing for war. But of course they failed and today Scotland has given the English speaking world a plethora of new sporting words, including 'golf', 'caddie', 'putt', 'putter', 'stymie' and 'tee'.

Flat. Flat as another term for apartment was first used in Scotland in the 18th century. Originally another term for landing (i.e. the 'flat' part at the top of a flight of stairs) it came to also refer to the apartments whose doors opened out onto the 'flats'.

Gift of the gob. Used in Scotland as early as the 17th century. 'Gob' means 'mouth' in Scots, so the phrase literally meant 'gifted mouth'. The English would later change the phrase to 'Gift of the Gab'. 'Gab' is English slang and roughly means glib or profuse talking.

Hunker doon. Used in Scotland since the 18th century, 'hunker doon' means to squat down on your 'hunkers' (Scots for the back of your thighs).



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