MOCHY adj muggy
Mochy is pronounced with the ‘ch’ representing the Scots velar sound as in ‘loch’. Like Scotland’s favourite ‘ch’ weather word, ‘dreich’, this word can have a range of meanings. Dreich can mean dust dry (as in a dreich sermon) and anything from just overcast to distinctly damp, but mochy always implies a high level of humidity. It is perhaps most often used to capture in a single word the feeling of damp, close, muggy, misty and oppressive weather. An Argyllshire quotation from the English Dialect Dictionary seems to suggest an early date for the word:
“I’ the time o’ the Flood the deil gaed sailin’ by the Ark on a barn-door, an’ said, ‘It’s a mochy mornin, mester Noah.’”
However, the earliest use that I have been able to substantiate comes from Gavin Douglas, in his Aeneid of 1513 where he refers to damp, health-giving vapours:
“moich hailsum stovys”
The early Scottish lexicographer, Jamieson (1825) observes that:
“mochy is not applied to mist indiscriminately; but to that only which is produced by great heat, or an accompaniment of it, when the air is so close as to affect the organs of respiration”.
However, ‘great heat’ is relative and can refer both to the thundery heat of summer or to an unseasonal warmth in winter, accompanied by mist. Mochy can also be used to describe the condition of corn or other foodstuffs which have been spoilt by damp and heat and, as a quotation from the Aberdeen Evening Express (1998) about a stench in a block of flats shows, it can also refer to smell:
“It’s a vile, mochy smell like something is rotting”.
So, the next mochy, dreepin day that comes along, when your oxters feel or smell a bit mochy, you have just the word you need.
This Scots Word of the Week was written by Chris Robinson of Scottish Language Dictionaries.
First published 15th July 2013.