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MINNIE n., v.


As Mother’s Day is not far off, I thought I would pick one of the many Scots terms for mother this week. In the Dictionaries of the Scots Language (DSL) minnie is defined as:


“Of human beings: an affectionate term for a mother”.



It has a long pedigree. As early as 1513 William Dunbar wrote of his “mynnye”, and James Kelly’s Proverbs of 1721 gives us the following put-down:


“Your Minnie’s Milk is no out of your Nose yet”.



If you’re a minnie’s bairn, you are:


“a child over petted by its mother, mother’s darling”.



Burns, in his poem Tam Glen (1790), offers a cautionary note to young women:


“My Minnie does constantly deave [bother, annoy] me, And bids me beware o young men”.



Minnies can indeed be formidable, as in this tale told by a schoolboy in Ramsey’s Reminiscences (1858):


“One boy, on coming late, explained that the cause had been a regular pitched battle between his parents . . . adding, however, with much complacency, “But my minnie dang, she did tho.”.



The term also appears in a well-known lullaby, Lady Nairne’s Cradle Song (c.1800):


“Now baloo loo, lammy, ain minnie is here”.


(In Scots, lamb is an affectionate name for a young child.)



In Shetland, however, your Minnie is more likely to be your grandmother. John Graham’s online dictionary, Shetland for Wirds (2009), shows that this term is still used in the twenty-first century, with the example:


“Mony’s da tale I heard fae Minnie”.



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