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The recent tartan days in Canada and the USA put me in mind of terms for Scottish traditions. I landed on heedrum-hodrum, though Dictionaries of the Scots Language (DSL) defines this as:


“a derogatory term for Highland music”.


Its appearance in the DSL dates from 1988 in Raymond Vettese’s collection The Richt Noise and Ither poems:


“the spreit that lowps whaun it meets the swecht o oor true past, and greets no oot o seep-sappin heedrum-hodrum but oot o whit we were ...”.


However, it is not always used in a derogatory sense - as shown in The Times of August 1996:


“Once in the Oyster Bar of the Cafe Royal in Edinburgh he used the traditional method of ‘mouth music’ to illustrate his pibroch ... it was an incomprehensible ‘heederum-hoderum’ but they could not have known that the distinguished-looking kilted and bearded scholar was giving a demonstration of an art form which stretches far back into history”.



In the twenty-first century, a scandalized journalist from the Evening Times writes (in April 2003):


“I was horrified recently to discover that the journey now features a pre-recorded video extolling the virtues of the capital accompanied by a heedrum-hodrum dirge with repetitive beat”.


Here at the Dictionaries of the Scots Language we are always looking to find earlier evidence on our more recent entries. With this in mind, we discovered this earlier example from the Aberdeen Evening Express of October 1959 and it relates to the practising of bagpipe music by Scottish ex-pats in New Zealand:


“They were hounded from house to house by irate bagpipe haters and eventually sought isolation a bungalow outside the city. There they were able to indulge in ‘heedrum-hodrum’ to their hearts content!”



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