A Scots Proverb.

Via the always interesting Laudator Temporis Acti:

Allan Ramsay, A Collection of Scots Proverbs (Edinburgh: J. Wood, 1776), p. 33 (Chap. XIV, Number 130):

        He snites his nose in his neighbour’s dish to get the brose to himsell.

Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. snite, v., sense 2.a:

        transitive. To clean or clear (the nose) from mucus, esp. by means of the thumb and finger only; to blow.

Id., s.v. brose, n:

        A dish made by pouring boiling water (or milk) on oatmeal (or oat-cake) seasoned with salt and butter.

Hat tip: Eric Thomson, who adds:

How can southron English have retained snout and snot and yet let their cousin ‘snite’ fall by the wayside? As so often, Scots is the last bastion, a vernacular that Hume and Boswell were brought up speaking but were forced to renege, and now Scots itself has more or less fallen by the wayside. The curmudgeon’s chosen path must always be backwards, to rescue everything senselessly tossed aside.

I don’t know where I ran across the verb snite, but it was many years ago, and it was so obviously convenient and pleasurable that I’ve used it ever since — mainly to myself, since I imagine hardly anyone else in the US knows it, but I hope to spread awareness of it with this post.


  1. I’ve always pictured “thumbing one’s nose at” as putting your thumb on the tip of your nose and flipping your fingers, in a way that I associate with clownish characters in old-fashioned tv. Indeed, that definition shows up on wiktionary as “a gesture of disrespect.”

    It seems more ridiculous than insulting, making a fool of the gesturer rather than the target.

    To think of thumbing one’s nose as sniting makes a lot more sense.

    But sniting is a better word for it. The nose isn’t a mark of the disrespect. Sending someone snot is.

    Going forward my preferred usage will be as threat — “I’m ‘on snite you.”

  2. ha thank you, I had no idea there was a word for it.. snot rockets is what we used to call it, back in high school cross-country running. Now I can do it in Scots, delightful.

  3. Trond Engen says

    Norw. snyte 1. (trans.). “blow one’s nose” (s. seg, s. nesa) 2. (trans./intrans.) “swindle, cheat” (s. på skatten, s. noen for penger)
    snyteskaft (joc.) “nose”

    I can’t recall having heard a Norw. cognate of brose.

  4. PlasticPaddy says

    Re brose is it possible that the idea is that the water bubbles or fizzes? This is the sense of bruis in Dutch. I had thought these words were related to English brew but this is apparently not the case.

  5. David Marjanović says

    sich schneuzen/schnäuzen “to blow one’s nose”.

  6. J.W. Brewer says

    I am familiar with “brose” only in the context of a Scottish potation that also involves whisky.


  7. Trond Engen says

    Plastic Paddy: Re brose is it possible that the idea is that the water bubbles or fizzes?

    Maybe. Norw. brus n., bruse v. — and of course bukkene Bruse, the three billygoats Gruff. But would that correspond to Scottish o?

  8. PlasticPaddy says

    Jens got there first but…
    Wiktionary says that brose goes back to a French word meaning broth which goes back to a Latin word Brodium which was a borrowing from Germanic bruth.
    I don’t know why standard English got broth but maybe borrowings happened at different times or Scots did something with final t like Irish English does.

  9. Jen in Edinburgh says

    Old French broez, some kind of broth, according to the OED. (Borrowed into French from the same Germanic word which eventually gave broth, so the words are cousins, I suppose.)

  10. J.W. Brewer: The story goes that the Duke oi Atholl wanted to commune with his peasantry by sharing their food. When he found out that all they ate was boiled oats, he wasn’t so enthusiastic, but he thought it might be a tolerable diet if one added cream and whiskey, neither of which the peasants could afford. Thus the invention of Atholl brose.

  11. snit, snot, snite, snoot, snout…

    German has “Brausetabletten”, or fizzing tablets…

    I don’t know how trustworthy etymonline is on this, but Brazil and Bratwurst are both involved?:


    also *bhreuə-, *bhreəu-, Proto-Indo-European root meaning “to boil, bubble, effervesce, burn,” with derivatives referring to cooking and brewing.

    It forms all or part of: barm; barmy; bourn (n.1) “small stream;” braise; bratwurst; brawn; brawny; braze (v.1) “to expose to the action of fire;” brazier; Brazil; bread; breed; brew; broth; broil (v.2) “to quarrel, brawl;” brood; effervesce; effervescence; effervescent; embroil; ferment; fervent; fervid; fervor; imbroglio.

    It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit bhurnih “violent, passionate;” Greek phrear “well, spring, cistern;” Latin fervere “to boil, foam,” Thracian Greek brytos “fermented liquor made from barley;” Russian bruja “current;” Old Irish bruth “heat;” Old English breowan “to brew,” beorma “yeast;” Old High German brato “roast meat.”

  12. Stu Clayton says

    snit, snot, snite, snoot, snout…

    Also schnozz, and the Steigerungsform schnozzola popularized by Jimmy Durante long before many people here were born, and in another country.

    The Schnauze of an animal is the snout. A Schnäuzer is an upper lip moustache, the Hitler form being a familiar kind. The kind that exuberates laterally beyond the confines of the upper lip is a Schnurrbart, which is what cats have. A purrbeard, although it is not perforce required for purring.

    Which came first, the verb or the noun ? Maybe they arose simulaneously, like the snout and the sneeze. You can’t sneeze without a snout, and a snout predisposes to sneezing. On the other hand, schneuzen/schnäuzen looks as if it were “formed from” Schnauze.

  13. PlasticPaddy says

    I always wondered why English speakers hold their tongues and German speakers their Schnauze. Is the German expression more like “keep your nose out of my business”?

  14. Is the German expression more like “keep your nose out of my business”?
    No, it just means “shut up”. The basic version is “Halt den Mund”, and in an emotional utterance like this, Mund is normally replaced by stronger colloquial or vulgar synonyms, besides by Schnauze also e.g. by Fresse, Schnabel, Rand …

  15. David Marjanović says

    Russian bruja “current;”

    That looks like an exact cognate of G Brühe “broth”.

    A Schnäuzer is an upper lip moustache, the Hitler form being a familiar kind.

    I know that as Schnauzer, and then only from reading; Schnurrbart for me is the cover term for all m(o)ustaches.

    I always wondered why English speakers hold their tongues and German speakers their Schnauze.

    I think that’s because when we speak, we don’t open our mouths far enough that you could actually see the tongue. We’re not constantly reminded that the tongue has a role in speaking.

    That said, I’ve encountered plenty of shut your mouth/cakehole/piehole in English.


    That, along with two dialectal synonyms in my active vocabulary, is that which is either held or polished ( = punched repeatedly). It doesn’t seem to occur in any other context. 🙂

  16. Russian bruja “current;”

    Trying hard to figure out what it could be and coming up with nothing…
    bryzga, always in pl. bryzgi ‘spray, spatter’ ???
    struya ‘stream’, ‘current’, ‘spurt’ ???

  17. BRUYA
    zhen., novoros. struya, ryab’ na vode, ne ot vetra, a ot bystrogo techeniya. Voda bruit, sil’no stremitsya, struitsya ruslom.

    Tolkovyy slovar’ Dalya. V.I. Dal’. 1863-1866.

  18. Stu Clayton says

    Fresse … That, along with two dialectal synonyms in my active vocabulary, is that which is either held or polished ( = punched repeatedly).

    Meine Fresse! is an exclamation of astonishment or dismay. This Fresse, exceptionally, does not require holding or invite polishing.

    The polishing meant is polieren in dem werde ich die Fresse polieren, wenn ich ihn erwische. It is a euphemistic analogue of casser la gueule.

    I find that Spanish has slightly more explicit expressions: partir la cara, romper la cara, sacar los dientes.

    My Volksmund consultant reminded me of these:

    Noch so’n Spruch, Kieferbruch!

    Noch so’n Gag, Zähne weg! [pronunciation must be adapted]

  19. @SFR: Дякую!

    But is it really Russian? I have a feeling it’s Ukrainian (or Belorussian), as in БРУЯ:

    БРУЯ, -ї, ж. Брижі на воді, не від вітру, а від швидкої течії.

  20. It is Ukrainian; that “novoros” in the quote is for Novorossiya = Ukraine. The word is not in any of my Russian dictionaries.

  21. Novorossiya is the steppe region of south Ukraine settled after incorporation into the Russian empire in late 18-19th centuries. Most of the colonists were Ukrainian, but there were also other nationalities – Great Russian, German, Jewish, Greek, Serbian, Bulgarian, Moldavian, etc.

    Dahl’s dictionary is called “Dictionary of the colloquial Great Russian language”, so presumably he heard the word in Great Russian speech, not Ukrainian. Obviously there was a lot of linguistic mingling and mutual borrowing in the area.

  22. Yeah, but he includes a lot of dialectal material, and he presumably heard that word in Ukraine, even if from Russian speakers, the way you’d hear bits of Spanish from Texans. If it’s a Russian word, it’s a very marginal one; as I say, it’s not in my other dictionaries of Russian, even the big one.

  23. David Marjanović says

    Meine Fresse!

    Oh yeah, I’ve read that once or twice.

    Once I heard: Aufmucken, Zähne spucken!

  24. Bruno van Wayenburg says

    Dutch ‘(je neus) snuiten’, West Frisian ‘(de noas) snute’ to blow ones nose. ‘Snuit’ = ‘snout’, never thought of a link to ‘snot’ but there it is.

  25. Kate Bunting says

    ” A Schnäuzer is an upper lip moustache.”

    Hence the Schnauzer dog, presumably (though I’ve always thought their eyebrows to be their distinctive characteristic!).

  26. Stunned by a dish which Highlanders compose,
    A German traveller exclaims with glee:
    “Potztausend! Sar, if dis is Atholl Brose,
    How goot der Atholl Boetry must be!”

  27. John Cowan says

    Evidently a Southern German.

  28. More likely a Saxon.

  29. Lars Mathiesen says

    Snouting your nose previously on LH.

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