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STUSHIE n fuss

If you look up stushie as a ‘headword’ in the online Dictionary of the Scots Language, all you will find is the starling, otherwise known as a stuckie. Although a flock of starlings might make a right stushie, this is not the word we want.

A ‘full entry’ search, however, takes us where we want to go. This is a useful tip for users of the online dictionary. It gets round the problem of spelling variations. Under stashie (also stashy, stachie; stushie, stushy; steeshie, steishie, stishie), we find it means “an uproar, commotion or brawl”. It is often slipped into Scottish English, but most Scots are aware that stushie is not an English word.

Nevertheless, it is widely used and has even been heard on Radio Four’s Today programme from the lips of James Nauchtie. It is the ideal word to cover all levels of political, religious or domestic fuss, internationally or locally. Minimal stushie is implied on James Stewart’s Sketches of Scottish Character (1857): “The weel-timed whisper’d wheesht aye lays The sma’est stushy that they raise”. When some scandal becomes the speak o the place you might, like Grace Webster in Ingliston (1840) say “The hail toun’s been in a stushie about it”. On a truly global level, we have Hugh MacDiarmid’s line from Somersault, published in Pennywheep (1926): “I lo’e the stishie o’ Earth in space”.

Stushies can become violent. Douglas Lipton, implies anticipatory delight in The Day I Met the Queen Mother (1990) “Whit a stooshie! — Ah’ll haud yir jaikits”. Some even get out of hand as in R. Sim’s Legends of Strathisla (1862) where intervention becomes necessary and “The Earl o’ Huntly was aye ane o’ the true hearts that was sent for to red the stachie”. That was one stushie “the weel-timed whisper’d wheesht” could not quell.  

Scots Word of the Week is written by Chris Robinson of Scottish Language Dictionaries, 25 Buccleuch Place, Edinburgh EH8 9LN (0131) 650 4149" target="_blank"> For £20 you can sponsor a word in the new edition of the Concise Scots Dictionary.