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BOGLE n  a terrifying supernatural being


Tonight, watch out for bogles. In the poems of Andrew Scott (1926), we learn that


“Auld folks wha liv’d in days o’ yore, Could nightly tell us tales galore, ‘Bout warlocks, witches, brownies, boggles, That sometimes ev’ry traveller oggles”.


The Dictionary of the Scots Language contains copious evidence of supernatural activity on this and other nights, in spite of a proverb from Henderson’s collection (1832) that suggests age brings equanimity on the presence of the unknown:


“Ye’re ower auld farren to be fleyed wi’ bogles”.


Gavin Douglas in the prologue to book four of his Aeneid said,


“Of browneis and of bogillis ful is this buke”


and the same might be said of the Dictionary. Within its pages are


“Ane laithlie lene tramort (corpse), … like ane bogill all of ratland banis”


from Stewart’s Buik of the Croniclis of Scotland;


“boggles, brownies, gyrcarlings (ogres) and gaists”


from the The Flyting between Montgomerie and Polwart (1585); and


“ghoulies and bogles and dead things and horrors that crept in the night”


described by Colin Mackay in The Song of the Forest (1986).


Even bogles have their uses, however. The tattie-bogle or scarecrow still serves a useful function. An article in the Dundee Courier in March 1995 gives detailed instructions:


“First you need a neep for his head, a bannet for his pow, and a graavut for his thrapple".


From this sense, the word extends to badly dressed or less than bonny folk providing quotations such as this one from J. J. Bell’s Wee Macgreegor (1903):


“I never cud unnerstaun’ hoo yer brither Rubbert cud mairry sic an auld bogle”.


If you are feeling nervous tonight, just recall these words from Burns:


“Gaists not bogles shalt thou fear; Thou’rt tae love and heaven sae dear. Nocht of ill shall come thee near, My bonnie dearie”.



Scots Word of the Week is written by Chris Robinson of Scottish Language Dictionaries.
This week's word is spoken by Sheena Blackhall from Aberdeen.

First published 12th January 2010.