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JEEL v freeze; n extreme cold


You may be fed up being jeelt with cold this winter, but some people actually look forward to low temperatures. Jeffrey Inglis writes in The Laird and Ither kent Fouk (1918):


"Oh, John o’ Frost, great frosty one! Come geal the dam we curl upon”.


Although jeeling is usually associated with cold, the Edinburgh Evening Courant (1786) suggests age can have a similar effect:


“An’ whan your bluid begins to jeel An’ shanks grow fozie”.


So can lack of hope, in a poem by William Tarras (1804):


“Wer’t no for houp, that darling bliss, Our very hearts wou’d geal”.


Looking forward to summer, we find happier uses of the word in the setting of jams and jellies. Mrs McLintock (1736) recommends:


“To every Mutchkin of the Juice of Rasps, take half a Mutchkin of the Juice of red Rizers to make it geil”.


She even uses it as a noun for the preserve itself:


“To make Geil of Gooseberries ... let it boil about half a Quarter of an Hour, and put it in the Geil Glasses”.


No doubt Mrs McLintock had a jeelie bag for straining her fruit and so this simile from The Maitland Quarto (a1585) might have appealed to her:


“Of fyne silk [are] thair furrit cloikkis, With hingand slevis lyik geill poikkis”.


We gather from  the Treasurer’s Accounts (1496) that jeel was a dish fit for a monarch:


“To the child that brocht gele to the king”.


“Bran and geill” or brawn and jelly is mentioned in several Dictionary of the Scots Language quotations from the sixteenth century, including one in which an alleged witch, Agnes Woobster,


“brocht ane dische off develische potage”


which she claimed was


“bran and geill”


to a certain Marjory Davidson. Fortunately, Marjory refused it. For that, and a large number of other unlikely offences, poor Agnes was sentenced to be burnt. At least she had a warm end.


First published 2nd April 2013.
This Scots Word of the Week was written by Chris Robinson of Scottish Language Dictionaries.