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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.