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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid


jink v. turn quickly, move or dodge nimbly; evade, elude

Jink, like many other words including pony, guffaw and cosy, was originally a Scots word before it found its way into mainstream English. The earliest recorded uses of jink appear in the works of poets who championed the eighteenth century Scots Vernacular Revival: Allan Ramsay, Robert Fergusson and Robert Burns.

The first instance is from Allan Ramsay’s poem, Christ’s Kirk on the Green (1715):

"Was ne’er in Scotland heard or seen Sic Banqueting and Drinkin, Sic Revelling and Battles keen, Sic Dancing, and sic Jinkin".

Robert Fergusson uses jink to mean "dodge, evade" in his poem, Hame Content: A Satire (1773):

"The Arno and the Tibur lang Hae run fell clear in Roman sang … there the herds can jink the show’rs ’Mang thriving vines an’ myrtle bow’rs".

Jinkin can relate to trickery as well as physical escape and Robert Burns plays on this ambiguity in his Address to the Deil (1786):

"Auld Cloots, I ken ye’re thinkin, A certain Bardie’s rantin, drinkin, Some luckless hour will send him linkin (moving quickly), To your black Pit; But, faith! he’ll turn a corner jinkin, An’ cheat you yet".

As a noun meaning a trick or prank, the Scots word jink has given rise to the expression ‘high jinks’, originally the name of a drinking game. In a footnote to his Elegy on Maggy Johnston (1721), Allan Ramsay explains:

"A drunken Game, or new Project to drink and be rich; thus, The Quaff or Cup is fill’d to the Brim, then one of the Company takes a Pair of Dice, and after crying Hy-jinks, he throws them out: The Number he casts up points out the Person … (who) is obliged to drink, or pay a small Forfeiture in Money … But if he forget to cry Hy-jinks he pays a Forfeiture into the Bank".

First published 2nd June 2008