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TAIVERS n., v.


“Ye’ve biled these tatties tae taivers”. So my Grandma admonished my mother many years ago. As a child, I had not come across this word before then and I was reminded of it recently when I heard a friend use it to describe what he had done to his parsnips.


The Dictionaries of the Scots Language (DSL) has quite a sparse entry for the term:


“rags, tatters, shreds, small bits; frequently of meat, in phrase ‘boiled to taivers’, over-cooked, boiled to shreds”.


Although (not covered in this DSL definition) my friend's parsnips were actually roasted to taivers.


The word has a long pedigree, with an early example in DSL from Elizabeth Cleland’s 1759 A New and Easy Method of Cookery:


“To make Soup de Saute the French way. Boil a Hough of Beef to Tavers on a very slow fire”.



There is also a sense of being exhausted attached to the term, as in William Tennant’s The Muckomachy (1846):


“But doubt, they’d dung themsels to taivers”.



In more modern times, a 1930 speaker from Orkney described the temperament of one unruly dog thus:


“The whalp’s taered me goon in taevers”.



This is where the DSL’s record currently stops, so, as ever, that prompted research to find some more recent examples. I discovered the following in the Herald of December 2018. In the McManus Art Gallery (Dundee), the author, Jan Patience, came across signs translated into Scots relating to the jute industry and noted:


“My favourite text… ‘roughly ripped apart’, becomes ‘riven aw tae taivers’”.



This Scots Word of the Week was written by Pauline Cairns Speitel. Visit DSL Online at