SCOOT v, n squirt
English has scoot in the sense of ‘go suddenly and swiftly’, but the squirty senses are exclusively Scots. It probably comes from Old Norse ‘skjóta’ meaning ‘shoot’ or ‘dart’. A typical Scots usage is exemplified by J. B. Salmond in My Man Sandy (1894) :
“Like’s a shooer o’ cauld water had been skootit aboot him”.
The substance scooted was not necessarily liquid. Augustus Muir tells us in The Blue Bonnet (1926):
“You scooted peas at tram-conductors”.
Edinburgh take note. The peashooter itself was a scoot as this exchange from Adam Dawson’s Rambling Recollections (1868) demonstrates:
“‘Pray, what is a scout?’ ‘It’s a stick and a hole in’t,’ ... meaning thereby a wooden ‘squirt’, an instrument which the boys in these days manufactured from a cutting of bourtree, from which the pith was easily expelled.”
A scoot or scooter was used of a syringe and in Robert Ford’s Humorous Scotch Stories (1904), a scoot-gun is a water pistol used by
“A wee angel sittin’ lauchin’ in the doon corner wi’ a scoot-gun in its hand”.
Scootins are predominantly of thin fluid consistency, occasionally urine but also thin excrement including bird droppings. The book of the Farms by Henry Stephens (1889) notes:
“‘Scout’ is a fatal form of diarrhoea amongst lambs about two or three days old”.
This description of projectile vomit comes from James Nicol’s Poems (1805):
“Till, bush! — he gae a desperate spue, An’ gut an’ ga’ he scoutit”.
Little wonder that a scootmagroo is an objectionable person as in Samuel Macplowter’s Mrs. McCraw (1903):
“The scootmagroo that he is, tae chairge ye wi’ stealin’, and ye never clappit een on hes bress face afore!”
Scoot itself can carry the sense of an insignificant or worthless person like the truant in Robert Leighton’s Scotch Words (1869):
“The learned, pious, yet unworthy skoot Neglects his sacred trust to catch a troot!”
Scots Word of the Week is written by Chris Robinson of Scottish Language Dictionaries. First published October 21st 2013.