Anatoly (whose Russian LJ has long been a favorite of mine) has recently begun an English-language blog, Lovest Well (named for the one bit of Pound’s Cantos that just about everybody likes, the end of Canto LXXXI); a few days ago he linked to Eric Korn’s TLS review of the new edition of The Chambers Dictionary and highlighted the following delightful passage:

Chambers never forgets its origins, and Scotticisms are pleasingly many: […] and “snigger”, which last is to do with catching salmon with a weighted hook, apparently an illegality, which caused me once the wildest of surmises, when a newspaper (the Kirkintilloch Bugle, if I’m not mistaken) ran the headline MAN FINED FOR SNIGGERING AT LOCH NESS: I thought it was my first real case of political correctness run mad.

This Scottish sniggering, by the way, is a variant of standard English sniggling; there does not appear to be a Kirkintilloch Bugle (though there is a Kirkintilloch Herald), and if this is some sort of obscure Scottish joke I wish somebody would explain it to me.

(Anatoly’s latest post includes a couple of dreadful examples of Soviet children’s poems in English: “There is a well-known portrait/ Upon the classroom wall:/ We see the face of Lenin,/ So dearly loved by all….”)


  1. “There is a well-known portrait/ Upon the classroom wall:/ We see the face of Lenin,/ So dearly loved by all….”
    Aaaah, that takes me back :o)

  2. This reminds me of the American usage of ‘piddling’ for ‘puttering’. I was shocked once when a colleague said to me ‘I was just piddling around the office’.

  3. It used to be argued that Chambers carries a trace of the Scots that many of its compilers once spoke in the playground; being an Edinburgh firm, that would be eastern MidLowland Scots. Collins, being from Glasgow, would similarily carry a hint of western MidLowland Scots while the OED, if true to its origins under Mr Murray of Hawick, would have a tincture of Southern Lowland Scots – which is, of course, superior.

  4. Any web-haunter will know that “Cum” is no longer restricted to Chorlton-cum-Hardy or Stow-cum-Quy, “DP” stands for more than data processing, “bukake” is on every tongue; but still Chambers sounds seriously uncomfortable explaining “dogging”: “the pastime of visiting isolated public places, usu at night, to engage in, or observe people engaging in, sexual activity, e.g. in parked cars (sl).”, and rather more urbanely, defining “troilism” (pawkily) as “sexual activity between three people (of two sexes)”.
    But doesn’t bukkake have 3 ks?

  5. Murray actually pointed out that since English was a second language to him, his native tongue being Borderese, he was able to be more objective about what was and was not English pronunciation than native speakers could be. (I read this in Caught In The Web Of Words, but I don’t know just where.)

  6. I’ve never even heard ‘sniggling’ before. I thought ‘sniggering’ was *standard* English.
    (Admittedly, I’m a New Zealander, and we do have stray Scots terms.)

  7. Maire: Are you talking about the fishing sense? Because sniggering is standard English in the more common sense of ‘snickering.’

  8. michael farris says

    For me (SAE with some southern bias) sniggering and snickering are synonims (sp?) with nothing to do with fishing.
    Where I grew up (SW Fla coast) there was a supposed practice called snagging (IIRC it’s been a while) a kind fishing that supposedly depending on embedding the hook in the side of the fish rather than getting it to bite the hook.
    I’m not sure if anyone I knew ever did it successfully, but the theory was if you cast into a school of fish (usually mullet) and reeled the line in quickly you could snag a fish.

  9. I was born in Scotland (Dundee) but have lived in Australia since 1952 so I don’t “brogue”. My father used to talk of poaching trout by ‘tickling’ – hand in water, wait till trout comes by and tickle its belly which, apparently, calmed it to the extent that you could flick it out onto the bank.

  10. Yes, bukkake has three k’s. And it refers to a type of noodle dish.

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