There has been a lot of publicity recently about the University of Glasgow project to publish an online Historical Thesaurus of Scots (HTS). Based on content from the Dictionary of the Scots Language, the first part of the HTS was published last week.
Much of the media comment was around the fact there are more words for snow in Scots than there are in Inuit. However, I thought it would be interesting to have a look at a few other words and see how many synonyms they have. When you try this, you swiftly discover that the project has some way to go as there is a limited number of categories to investigate.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given Scotland’s geographical position, half (nine) of these categories are about meteorological words, from the aforementioned snow to rainbows. As an aside, it would be fascinating to see the geographical source of each word for rain: I suspect there would be far more on the west side of the country than the east?
Apart from weather, the other nine categories are all to do with games and sports. Golf, naturally, given Scotland’s role in its development, features strongly and some of my favourite words come from the sub-categories under this heading. For example, the next time you’re on the links, consider whether your opponent is a ‘tousler’. A tousler, in case you didn’t know, is, well, actually it can mean a lot of things including, and if you are of a sensitive disposition look away now, “to sport amorously, to pull one another about playfully, to fondle, of lovers”.
From the golfer’s perspective, that’s not what you want as you’re contemplating a mashie shot from the rough onto the green. Or actually that is precisely what you want, as the word, in its golfing context, means just that. As that redoubtable Aberdeenshire newspaper, the Buchan Observer, told its readers on the 12th of August 1952, “A Toosler (sic) is a player who eases his ball out of the rough if lying badly”.
We, at Global Connects, live languages every day. We know that not everyone shares our fascination, but I defy anyone not to get immersed in the old language of Scotland, or indeed of any other country and start to find all sorts of new, amazing, entertaining, bawdy, sometimes downright unbelievable words and their meanings. You can start here, with all the different meanings of ‘tousle’!
James Miller, Interpreting Manager, Global Connects