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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid




PLOT  v  scald, swelter

In the sense of to swelter, this is perhaps a word that is not overworked in Scotland, but it has come into its own in this weather. William Paul in Past and Present in Aberdeenshire (1881) refers to the extremes of the Scottish climate:

“Fan I buried my last wife I was like to be smored wi’ sna’, and this time I’m like to be plotted wi heat”.

Items can be plotted with boiling water in order to sterilise them, hence the recommendation in William Alexander’s Johnny Gibb of Gushetneuk (1871):

“to be sure an’ plot ’er milk dishes weel, in this byous weather”.

We have further reassuring evidence of the benefits of sterilisation in Grace Webster’s Ingliston (1840):

“The cheque napkin [from an infected corpse] he gae afterhend to the minister’s lass: it was ne’er a hair the waur after it was plottit”.

Plotting was the recognised treatment for boils in my own youth, when they were subjected to my mother’s agonising ministrations with plottin-het poultices.

Plotting in the sense of immersing the carcase of a slaughtered bird or animal in boiling water facilitates removal of feathers or hair. Timing is important. We read in the Shetland News (1900):

“Da plottin’ watter wid need ta be boilin whin da gaat’s head is aff”.

You can’t skimp on quantity either, As J. J. H. Burgess  says in Rasmie’s Smaa Murr (1916):

“Ye canna plott a grice wi a tinny o watter”.

A platting-tub is the custom-built container for that job. From this method of treating a carcase, we get a figurative use similar to the English term ‘to fleece’, hence this dubious allegation of redistribution of church funds described in A. Nimmo’s Songs and Ballads of Clydesdale (1882):

“When old John Knox and other some Began to plott the bags of Rome”.


Scots Word of the Week is written by Chris Robinson of Scottish Language Dictionaries

First Published 23rd July 2013