View site in Scots

Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid


SKOOSH v. (cause to) gush, squirt; move rapidly, glide, dart, etc.


Skoosh is an onomatopoeic word that ably echoes the sound of what it describes. Although it may be considerably older, written evidence for skoosh first appears in the late nineteenth century.


The word became associated with the sound made by tramcars skiting along at speed, with the result that they were known as "skoosh-cars". Under the name of Hugh Foulis, Neil Munro's stories of Erchie, My Droll Friend (1904), talk of travelling


"doon the length o' Yoker on the skoosh car".


The reminiscences in Anna Blair's More Tea at Miss Cranston's include "the 'automatic' chippery" at a Glasgow Exhibition:


"where, for tuppence, a poke of vinegared chips came scooshing at you down a chute".


The versatility and evolution of skoosh is a good illustration of semantic development and change.


An exploration of the Dictionary of the Scots Language reveals that in the early twentieth century, skoosh was the name for a particular game of marbles, and that since at least the 1970s, a utensil for sprinkling or spraying has often been described as a skoosher.


Skoosh has developed further meanings relating to liquids and speed. In Iain Banks' novel The Crow Road (1993), for instance, we find one usage:


" 'Have some skoosh,' Ash said. She ... handed me a half-finished bottle of Irn-Bru".


But we also find the word used as a command in Liz Lochhead's play, Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off (1989):


"Wee Betty: Skoosh! Richie: Skedaddle. Wee Betty: See you later, alligator!"


A skoosh can also be something easy, or performed with little effort, as the following Scotsman extract from 1997 illustrates well:


'Our estimable Secretary of State, Donald Dewar, used a splendid Scots word ... Writing the bill to give legal flesh to the bones of the Scottish parliament white paper, was not, he said, a downhill "skoosh" '.



This week's Scots word was written by Dr Maggie Scott.

First published 2nd December 2007.