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CLYPE v. n. to tell on, a tell-tale

The definition of clype in the Dictionary of the Scots Language ( is ‘to tell tales about, to inform against someone’.  It is commonly followed by ‘on’, as in “Mrs Rafferty had cliped on Bella to the police” from George Blake’s Mince Collop Close (1923), and this from James Meek’s McFarlane Boils the Sea (1989): “McFarlane looked at the policeman, leaned back and folded her arms. Surely she could clype on Doctor Bree without guilt or further involvement”.  

Clype can also be used without an object, as illustrated by this quotation from Lewis Grassick Gibbon’s Grey Granite (1934): “If that doesn’t please you, gang off and clype”, and this from Robin Jenkins’ The Thistle and the Grail (1994): “Has Geordie Bonnyton been clyping? he asked.  She smiled at the child’s word. Clyping? You’ve done nothing wrong, Andrew, so there can be no clyping…”.

As a noun, a clype is a tell-tale, and clypes often turn up in school contexts.  Thus in A M Williams’ A Bundle of Old Yarns (1931) we read that “The clype of the class told her that Johnnie had a preen”. 

Among clype’s derivatives are the noun clyper, as in “There were aye some clypers ready to tell on ’m”, from J A Duthie’s Rhymes and Reminiscences (1912), and the adjective clypie, which has several spelling variants and can mean ‘loquacious, addicted to tattling’.  This sense is illustrated in David M Moir’s The Life of Mansie Wauch (1928): “a cleipy woman … that rhaemed away [harped on] and better rhaemed away, about the Prentice’s Pillar … and such a heap of havers”.  

And finally, there is a clype-clash – a tale-bearer.  In  the Arbroath Guide (1898) we read “I was never kent for a clype clash a’ my days”.  



Scots Word of the Week is written by Ann Ferguson of Scottish Language Dictionaries, 9 Coates Crescent, Edinburgh EH3 7AL, For £20 you can sponsor a Scots word.