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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

WALLYDRAG n. A worthless person, a wretch, a wastrel, good-for-nothing; a slovenly, untidy dishevelled person, a slut, skivvy

One would certainly pity the poor individual to which the above definition could apply. 

The Dictionary of the Scots Language www.dsl.ac.uk goes on to give us ‘wallydraggle tail – a slattern’. 

 

The first example in the Scottish National Dictionary comes from Robert Forbes in his Journal from London to Portsmouth (1754) and perhaps describes a merely dishevelled person: “How blubber’d an’ droukit the peer [poor] warydraggels war [were].” 

 

DSL then widens the definition with ‘A thin, ill-grown, undersized person or animal as illustrated by Allan Ramsay in the Scots Magazine of August 1784: ‘No walydraggle among them all fine girls.’ Walter Scott writing in Heart of Midlothian applies it to animals: ‘We think mair about the warst wally-draigle in our ain byre’ (1818).

 

In the twentieth century we have an Aberdeen informant in 1929 describing: ‘A laithfu’ swier [loathful lazy] wife – a doonricht warri-drag.’ It seems that many Scots words seem to be very negative when it comes to describing women! However, in the twenty first century the equality of the sexes, in terms of abuse, is now apparent: “The shilpit [undersized] an the seik chittered unner drookit blankets while wallydraigles o laddies guddled [fished] bairnishly [childishly] in the sheuchs. [open drains]” (Matthew Fitt But n Ben A-Go-Go 2000).

 

The final say goes to the Herald Diary from September 18, 2002: “I’ve long held that a good bout of auld Scots fornication can stop any war,” says our Burns-lover [a conbtributor to the Diary], alluding to “the fact that the US avoided major conflict under the White House wallydrag Bill Clinton. 

 

The etymology suggested in the DSL is that it is comes from the interjection ‘wallie’ plus ‘draggle’ to bedraggle.

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