Scots Word of the Week: Dawtie



WE Scots are not a very romantic lot, but we do have some words of tenderness. Dawtie, although appropriate to Valentine’s Day, seems to have fallen out of fashion, which is a shame. It has this meaning in the Dictionaries of the Scots Language: “A pet, darling, special favourite”. The poet Allan Ramsay writes, whimsically, in his Tea Table Miscellany of 1724-27: “When e’er I kiss and court my dawtie, . . . My flighteren heart gangs pittie-pattie”.

In Tayside Songs of 1895, Robert Ford displays a more pragmatic side to Scottish courtship: “He hirsell’d [to slide over, slither]closely to my side, Says, ‘Dautie, can ye wash an’ shew?’”. The term could also be addressed to children: “Granny would add, ‘wir dawtie peerie oy [our dearest little grandchild]”. (Old Lore Miscellany of Orkney, Shetland 1907-20.)

‘Dawtier’ does survive in an old ballad, the Beggar’s Dawtie, which tells the tale of a young woman who elopes with a beggar only to discover that he is a rich man in disguise. The date of this verse is unknown. A 20th century example comes from Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s Sunset Song (1932), which describes a written dedication in a Bible: “And these had been all her books that weren’t lesson-books, they were all the books in Cairndhu but for the Bibles grandmother had left to them, one to Chris and one to Will, and in Chris’s one were set the words ‘To my dawtie Chris: Trust in God and do the right’.”

* Scots Word of the Week is written by Pauline Cairns Speitel: Dictionaries of the Scots Language


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