In the Dictionaries of the Scots Language (DSL), bodach is described primarily as
“an old man; often used in a more or less contemptuous way … a person of small stature”.
The word comes from the Gaelic, meaning an old man.
It was also used by Scott and others in the sense of a spectre or bugaboo, and DSL gives an example from Highland Widow (1827):
“Oh! then the mystery is out. There is a bogle or a brownie, a witch or a gyre-carlin, a bodach or a fairy, in the case?”
In Herd [Shepherd] of the Hills (1934), Allan Fraser implies both smallness of stature and contempt:
“He told of how Alicky Mag, the daft wee bodach that he was, had been taken away at last”.
In what sense he was taken away is not stated.
Moving into the noughties, Davie Kerr’s A Puckle Poems (2000) has:
“Then up sprang an old bodach, (who’d been dying almost daily). ‘Come in’, he beamed a welcome, ‘and we'll haff [sic] an early Ceilidh’”.
As recently as June 2022, an old joke appeared in the Press and Journal recounting an elderly man’s visit to his doctor for a check-up. The next day the doctor spies the gentleman with a young lady on his arm. Says the doctor:
“‘You’re doing really well…’. The bodach said ‘Well, I am only doing what you told me to. You said to get a hot mama and be cheerful.’ The Doctor replied, ‘No… I said you have a heart murmur so be careful.’”.
This Scots Word of the Week was written by Pauline Cairns Speitel. Visit DSL Online at https://dsl.ac.uk.