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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

Annaker’s midden n. a mess, a shambles

The Scottish National Dictionary’s (SND) earliest example of the above phrase used in this sense from Central Scotland in 1962. This was firstly interpretated in SND as ‘a knacker’s midden’. Later research, recorded in the SND’s 2005 Supplement, suggested that it originated instead from: “Annacker's, a Glasgow pork butcher from 1853 to 1942; their messy bins were frequently raked through by the poor”.


Michael Munro in his Patter Another Blast from 1988 traces the origin to a firm of pork butchers, sausage makers, and ham curers: “Founded in 1853, at its height it was a chain of sixteen branches all over the city. The company also owned a sausage factory the last location of which was Naipiershall Street (near St . George’s Cross). The People’s Palace has in its collection the shop sign from the Bridgeton Cross Branch.”


A quotation from Edinburgh in 1959 shows that as it spread eastwards, the phrase had developed an extended meaning: “There’s the Knacker’s midden at it again. Said of a person who is voracious.”


However, the original meaning of a scene of general chaos is still very much with us, as illustrated by an example from a guide to Scottish speech in the Daily Mail of 16 September 2005: “ANNACKER’S MIDDEN: A mess, a dreadful muddle.”. Greg Hempill and Ford Kiernan writing in Still Game from 2004 describe a house after a ‘flitting’ as: “Look at this. It's like Annicker's Midden.”


Scots Word of the Week is written by Pauline Cairns Speitel of Scottish Language Dictionaries