MAUKIT adj. filthy; putrid; infested with maggots
Maukit is generally used to describe something extremely filthy, but the more literal meaning of the word is "maggot-infested", which makes sense given that a mauk is a maggot, and the word mauk can also be a verb meaning "to infest with maggots". In Scots, -it is usually found in place of English -ed, which in this case explains the development from the verb mauk to the past participle and adjective maukit. There are a number of quotations which illustrate this original sense in Scottish literature. In John MacTaggart's Scottish Gallovidian Encyclopedia of 1824, one example reads:
"The sheep grow mawket on the hill, And sair themsells they claw",
while another in W. D. Cocker's Poems (1932) explains:
"Shorn yowes were marked wi' keel, Mawkit anes got doctored weel".
Mauk itself is probably of Scandinavian in origin, and although not frequently recorded in medieval Scottish literature, there is a reference to "mauch muttoun" (maggoty mutton) in William Dunbar's poem The Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedy, written sometime before 1508. Written examples are more frequent after 1700, and in the following from Gilbert Rae's verses, 'Tween Clyde and Tweed (1919), the maggot-ridden sense is put to figurative use:
"Man, hev ye nae left scour For mackit souls, like yours, sair needin' dip?"
Thankfully, fewer of us now encounter maggots than in days gone by, and maukitness can just as easily result from wholesome activities. In the Dictionary of the Scots Language, one quotation from 1986 reads:
"A friend of mine decided to wash his bike the other day cause it was mockit".
And the word may also be associated with childhood reminiscences, as in the following example from The Herald in 1993:
"'My God, yur mockit, mockit, the fulthiest laddie I've ever seen,' she would shriek, as she roughly rearranged the tousled ginger carpet above a face as filthy as the Earl of Hell's waistcoat".
This week's Scots word was written by Dr Maggie Scott for Dictionaries of the Scots Language.
First published 3rd September 2007.