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According to the Dictionaries of the Scots Language (DSL), a corter is “a piece of oatcake, a quarter of a round”. It comes from the Northeast and a gloss is given by “The Dominie” in the Fraserburgh Herald (1940):


“The initial ‘w’ is sometimes dropped … The ‘kw’ sound in quarter is lost, and we get ‘korter’, but coat becomes ‘kwite’, cud becomes ‘queed’, and cool becomes ‘queel’.”



An early record of the word comes from Robert Forbes’ A Journal from London to Portsmouth (1755):


“An honester fellow never brack the nook o a corter”.



Later, there’s William Alexander’s redoubtable Johnny Gibb of Gushetneuk (1871):


“That’s a piece o the kitchie kyaaks [cakes]… Is there mair o’t? Eh aye – here's twa korters”.

(Scotland was once known as the Land o Cakes, meaning oatcakes.)


An example of a twentieth-century usage comes from a poem published in the Aberdeen Press and Journal in January 1926, entitled To a Scot Abroad:


“Tak’ up your speen an’ mak yoursel’ at hame, A reekin’ bicker [beaker], syne there’s chappit kail; Tak’ owre a corter; hoot! ye'll manage a’, We sanna prigg [shall not haggle] - jist rax [reach out] an’ help yoursel”.



Later, an endorsement of the nutritional benefits of corters appears in Jack Webster’s autobiographical Another Grain of Truth (1988):


“I willingly joined in the ritual of ‘milk-an-breid’, which amounted to a bowl of milk, into which a corter of oatcakes was broken and supped in hearty spoonfuls by young men who wanted to grow up with mush [sic] on their arms”.


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

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