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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

KEBBOCK n a cheese

Whether this word comes from Gaelic or the Gaelic ‘càbag' comes from Scots is unclear. We know that it has been around since the late fifteenth century when it was used by Robert Henryson in The Fox, The Wolf and the Cadger: “Ye sall ane cabok haif in to your hand, … It is somer cheis, baith fresche and fair”. Another mouthwatering quotation is in the Scotsman (1935) “An' links o' puddin's, black to see, An' yowe-milk kebbuck, sweet to pree”. “Old Janet's best kebbuck, and oatmeal cakes” get an appreciative mention in James Hogg's Shepherd's Calendar, and in Burns' The Cottar's Saturday Night cheese is served: “The Dame brings forth in complimental mood, To grace the lad, her weel-hain'd kebbuck, fell”, And aft he's prest, and aft he ca's it guid: The frugal wifie, garrulous, will tell How t'was a towmond auld, sin' lint was i' the bell”.  HYPERLINK "" Her pride in maturity of her cheese perhaps gives a clue to a meaning behind the proverb recorded by Andrew Henderson (1874): “A whang aff a new cut kebbuck is ne'er missed”. It could be that a recent cheese is of less value or, more likely, when there is still plenty left, one can afford to be generous. Kebbock-shire formerly meant Ayrshire, from the importance of the cheese industry there, in places such as Dunlop. A kebbock could be large cake of something other than cheese. A 1596 example is in Miscellany of the Spalding Club: “Ane cabok of talche(tallow) of ane stane vecht”. A comparatively recent example appears in the Aberdeen Journal (1909): “At Aberdeen yesterday, before Sheriff Laing, John Thain (14) and Alexander Ewen (12), both from Cluny, pleaded guilty to mischievously removing from Tillyfourie Railway Station a 12lb. kebbock of margarine cheese, and also with removing pieces from eight other kebbocks, between December 18 and 25”.

Scots Word of the Week is written by Chris Robinson of Scottish Language Dictionaries