Betty Kirkpatrick, “the former editor of several classic reference books, including Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary and Roget’s Thesaurus,” is doing a nice series of “Useful Scots words” for the Caledonian Mercury; they don’t seem to have a convenient group URL, but you can do pretty well with a site search on her name. Here, for instance, is her March 27 piece on boorach:
Boorach means mess, a state of great untidiness or confusion – like guddle but more so.
A good example of a boorach is the kitchen of an enthusiastic but disorganised cook who leaves the kitchen sink and cooker hob piled high with every single pan and utensil in the place and the worktops a sea of half-spilt packets and bottles and dirty plates. A boorach can also be applied to a scheme, often one involving several people, that might have started out as well-intentioned but got horribly complicated and ended up in an almighty muddle. Several official schemes turn out to be boorachs…
As is the case with many Scots words, boorach has several alternative forms, including bourach. The ch is, of course, pronounced in the same way as the ch of loch. I had always assumed that the word was Gaelic in origin and was associated with the Gaelic word burach, to dig up. However, I see that an Old English connection has been suggested.
Before it came to mean a shambles, it meant a mound or a heap of something, such as stones or peat. Then it came to mean a crowd or group. It also took on the meaning of a particularly humble dwelling house and developed into a play house, often of sand, built by children. It has had an eventful life.
The word boorach was very familiar to me when I was a child, but I have not heard it for a long time. I hope it is still alive and well.
I like that combination of the personal and the lexicographical. Thanks, Huw!