KEEK n, v peep, glance
This Scots word was good enough for James VI of Scotland who in his poetry disparages the dandified male:
“Thay ... Quhose accent all effeminatt quhose bonnie bleankis [glances] & keikis Declaires that thay are only men of outuard shou [show]”.
Much keeking seems to have been done flirtatiously in Church. The Thweis off Gudwomen (c1460) admonishes a woman
“our al thinge kep hir [restrain herself] in kirk To kek abak, to lauch or smyrke”.
Her sin will not go unnoticed if we believe Charles Rogers’ observation in Familiar Illustrations of Scottish Character (1861):
“O Lord, Thoo is like a moose in a dry-stane dyke – aye keekin’ oot at us frae holes an’ crannies, and we canna see Thee”.
Poetic keekers include a spring shoot peeping though the earth and the sun appearing at the keek o day. A keekin-gless has long been used in the sense of ‘a mirror’. Sir Walter Scott uses it in The Monastery (1820):
“A breastplate you might see to dress your hair in, as well as in that keeking-glass in the ivory frame”
and Sheena Blackhall gives it a motoring twist in Wittgenstein's Web (1996):
“I fichered wi the keekin glaiss, sae I nae langer saw the road ahint, bit cud spy yon pairt o the seat far they war restin their hauns”.
‘What the butler saw’ is recalled by Alexander Stewart alongside other pleasures in Reminiscences of Dunfermline (1886):
“Circuses, menageries, and ‘penny keeks’”.
Keek-the-vennel was a nickname for a school attendance officer recorded in Perth in 1959. A keeker could simply refer to an eye, but it could also be a black eye, as this belligerent statement in Robin Jenkins’ Fergus Lamont (1979) shows:
“Onybody that laughs will get a keeker from me”.
The Scots phrase ‘a blue keeker’ is much more accurate than ‘a black eye’.
Written by Chris Robinson of Scottish Language Dictionaries.
First published 22nd January 2013.