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GUSSIE n., a pig

In conversation with a couple of Dundonians the other day I learned the word gussie – which I had not come across before – meaning a segment of an orange.  On checking the Dictionary of the Scots Language (www.dsl.ac.uk) I found that the primary meaning of gussie is a pig, especially a young pig or a sow.  The earliest example dates from 1814, and there are various other quotations from throughout the nineteenth and into the twentieth century.  This colourful example is from S R Crockett’s Lochinvar (1897): “Sandy himsel’ lyin’ snorkin’ an’ wamblin’ in his naked bed like a gussy swine in a stye!” and this from Helen B Cruickshank’s Up the Noran Water (1934): “She stirs the meat I’ the gussie’s troch”. 

Gussie, often repeated as in gussie-gussie or guss-guss, was also used as a call to a pig, as in this quotation from James Colville’s Studies in Lowland Scots (1909): “The pig . . . thereafter in process of assuming a douce obesity, was familiarly addressed as Gus-gus!”  In this sense we also find the form gissy, as in the following from a 1952 edition of the Daily Record: “When we … wished to rouse the somnolent pig in the crave it was always as “Gissy-gissy,” that we ‘addressed’ him”.

Gussie can also be used of a gross or fat person – “a porker”.  S R Crockett in The Men of the Moss-Hags (1894) refers to “ …a great fat gussie o’ a loon”.  And, playing on the various meanings of the word pig, a gussie can also be a hot water bottle.  

So, what of gussie as a segment of an orange?  There are examples of this usage in Angus from the 1950s, with the explanation of its meaning being that orange segments are similar in shape to piglets huddled together.

 

Scots Word of the Week is written by Ann Ferguson of Scottish Language Dictionaries www.scotsdictionaries.org.uk, 25 Buccleuch Place, Edinburgh EH8 9LN (0131) 650 4149 mail@scotsdictionaries.org.uk. For £20 you can sponsor a Scots word.