We Scots seem to be a messy lot, and this is reflected in the Dictionaries of the Scots Language (DSL). The definitions of scuddle range in scope from simply
“to wash dishes, pots, etc., to do the rough work in a kitchen or scullery”
“to work in a slatternly way, to mess about at domestic work”.
Then one can,
“sully, soil or make one’s clothes shabby or shapeless by rough usage”,
“walk in a slovenly manner”.
The meaning can be extended to give us “scuddling claes”, or clothes to do rough or dirty work in. The Arbroath Guide of October 1907 provides an early illustration:
“I’ve keepit on my scuddlin claes”.
The term has survived. This writer compares his leisure wear to that of the then popular shell suits:
“In my youth we wore scuddling claes for scuddling aboot – not as now, expensive playsuits for play. Clothes too old or tattered for school use were duly worn out in the rough and tumble of play at hame”.
(Aberdeen Press and Journal March 1991)
An earlier example of shabbiness dates back to May 1873. In the Dundee People’s Journal, a lady is discussing the state of her Sunday bonnet and the necessity of purchasing a new one:
“But it wis high time I had it [ the new one] for my auld ane wis geyan far through wi’t, an I kent tae that it fell sair scuddled…”.
O the perils of being seen in the Kirk wi a scuddled bonnet!
This Scots Word of the Week was written by Pauline Cairns Speitel. Visit DSL Online at https://dsl.ac.uk.