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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

poor oot n. the throwing of coins of for children to catch prior to a wedding.

In the tenements of Edinburgh, as the bride was leaving her home for the last time with her father, small children would gather round the limousine or horse and carriage and chant “poor oot!, poor oot!”. The father, who had possibly been collecting coins for some considerable time, would throw this money into the crowd of waiting children.

The earliest example in the Scottish National Dictionary (SND) comes from J H A MacDonald's Life Jottings, where he bemoans the passing of this custom : “I also remember the shower of silver which was thrown to the crowd as the bride and bridegroom drove away, a custom no longer in use. The cry of “pooer oot” is no more heard in the land. A “pooer” of rice or pasteboard confetti does not draw as did the shower of coins.” (1840).

However, the custom did continue long after this date. The Scots Magazine number 392 of April 1894 quotes the following: “A marriage was about to take place in a private house in Bristo Street, Edinburgh. Crowds of children round the door assailed the guests as they arrived with the well-known cry of “Poor oot!”.

Indeed, it continued into the twentieth century as shown here from the Scottish Daily Mail of 25th July 1959: “The bride laughed as her architect-trained husband leaned from their bridal car for the “poor-oot” — the old Scots custom of throwing coppers and silver for children lining the pavement.”

Nowadays, the custom seems to have died out but is still remembered as part of popular culture as shown in this example from Scotland on Sunday (2002): “Like any wedding poor-oot or scramble - the ancient custom of brides and grooms distributing coins to waiting urchins - plenty people were willing to accept the largesse, no questions asked.”

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