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STRAMASH  n  uproar, commotion


My personal definition of stramash is a happy chaos but, like most words, it can mean different things to different people. The dictionary defines it as an uproar or commotion and these can lead to trouble. So a stramash can also be a squabble, accident or disaster. The dictionary quotations show there is little new under the sun. We have stramashes in finance. A quotation dating from 1803 in the Three Banks Review (1959) relates:


“A very unexpected stramash occurred in our Accomptant's office two days ago”.


They can unsettle governments, as threatened in John Galt’s The Ayrshire Legatees (1821):


“She will raise sic a stramash, that she will send the whole government into the air”.


In similar vein, John Buchan in Witch Wood (1927) writes


“The folk of Woodilee are ready enough for any stramash in kirk or state”.


Stramash also appears as a verb meaning to be rowdy, and we have yet another meaning J. F. S. Gordon’s The Book of the Chronicles of Keith, Grange, Ruthven, Cairnie and Botriphne:


“Choking the lums with a divot which occasionally stramashed the Tea Pots”.


It is first recorded in Yorkshire as a verb meaning smash to pieces, as in that last quotation. Therefore, the New English Dictionary hypothesises it may be an altered intensive form of smash and argues against the Scottish lexicographer John Jamieson’s ingenious suggestion of connection with Italian ‘strammazone’, a downward slash with a rapier in fencing. The Scottish National Dictionary adjudicates:


“There is nothing inherently impossible in the adoption of a fencing term ... but the phonology, esp. the accentuation, is difficult to explain and earlier historical evidence for development of meaning is lacking. The word may in fact be a corruption of O.Fr. (Old French) escarmoche or one of its many forms ... which have produced Eng. scrimmage, skirmish.”


Etymology is certainly not an exact science.



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

This week's Word is an extract from 'Scotland's Ain Kingly Hooses' and is read
by Dauvit Horsbroch.

First published 23rd July 2012.