DICHT v wipe, clean, put in good order
Nowadays, dicht is usually used in the sense of to wipe. The Aberdeen Makar, Sheena Blackhall uses it frequently. In The Bonsai Grower(1998) we read of mothers dichtin “bibbly snoots”. It is still found in related senses such as to polish, clean or sweep.
Edinburgh Burgh Records (1530) note the requirement that:
“euery man and woman dicht and mak clene befor ther durris (doors) and closis”.
Stirling’s defences were well cared for, because the Burgh Records (1651) contain an entry:
“For thrie sheep skins to dight the cannon”.
The parent Old English word ‘dihtan’ had a wider range of meanings, several of which were shared by Scots and English until the word became obsolete in English in the sixteenth century. It often meant to dress or decorate.
Robert Henryson in the late fifteenth century describes a magnificent
“croun of massie gold … With … mony diueris dyamontis dicht”.
According to the lexicographer John Jamieson (1808):
“A discourse is said to be weil dicht, when the subject is well handled”.
Dicht could also mean to sift or winnow grain and, in Angus, in the mid-twentieth century, a strong wind could still be described as
“A wind at wid dicht bere (barley)”.
Food can also be dichtit, hence a hospitable proverb from David Fergusson’s collection (1641):
“A friends dinner is soon dight”.
Another proverb drew upon the habit that hens have of wiping their beaks before going to roost. So we get this political comment from James Ballantine’s The Gaberlunzie’s Wallet (1843):
“Wha’s to be prime minister say ye? Charlie Fox? Troth man, that’s good news indeed...Troth an’ Billie Pitt may now e’en dight his neb and flee up”.
If you want to tell someone in Scots to take a look at themselves before criticising others, you might say
“Dicht yer ain door stane”.
Scots Word of the Week is written by Chris Robinson of Scottish Language Dictionaries. This week's Word is spoken by Roseanna Cunningham MSP.
First published 9th August 2009