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SNIRTLE, v., n


Last Sunday was World Laughter Day and the Dictionaries of the Scots Language (DSL) has many words for laughter. To snirt or snirtle is “to snigger, to make a noise through the nose when attempting to stifle laughter.”


“Tho’ his little heart did grieve… He feign’d to snirtle in his sleeve”.

(Burns, Jolly Beggars, 1786)



Alexander Smart’s poem Rambling Rhymes (1834) features the word too:


“The grin of pale-faced envy, and the mere Sardonic ‘snirtle', one can well despise”.



In The House with Green Shutters (1901), George Douglas Brown gives us another definition:


“Snirt, a continuous gurgle in the throat and nose.”


And James Robertson, writing in the magazine Chapman in 1988, uses it that way too:


“Come the keek o day, an the first bummer [factory horn] gaed aff - loud eneuch, ye'd hae thocht, tae wauken the deid. But it didna steir our man - na, na, he juist snochert an snirtit an keepit on sleepin.”



Suggesting that the word might have been falling out of use in 1941, the Scotsman provided a formal dictionary definition:


“Gone will be the days when the man who dares to be choosy in his speech will raise an embarrassed snirt * *Snirt: Chambers’ Dictionary n. a smothered, laugh. v. snirtle, to snicker. [A variant of snortle.]”.



However, as recently as 2021, Derrick McClure used the word in his Doric version of Alice Through the Looking Glass. She is talking here to Deedledum:


“Ailice gied a snirtle. ‘Ye maan ding the trees fell aften I wad jalouse’.”


This Scots Word of the Week was written by Pauline Cairns Speitel.

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