TRAUCHLE n. tiring labour; a long tiring trudge; a burden etc.
Trauchle has a variety of meanings associated with struggle, hardship and fatigue, and examples abound in early twentieth-century Scottish literature. Lewis Grassic Gibbon refers to
"the trauchle of time"
in Gray Granite (1934), and moving house is
"a bonny trauchle"
in Neil Munro's tale of Erchie's Flitting (a1930). There are also many trauchles in recent media sources from different parts of the country. In 2006 The Scotsman described the television series Coast as an
"epic trauchle round the edges of Britain",
in 2005, the Aberdeen Press and Journal recommended Tiree as the ideal place to take a holiday:
"gin ye wint tae get awa fae the trauchle an steer"
and in 1993 The Herald described mulligatawny soup as
"a bit of a trochle to make but ... well worth the effort".
The noun trauchle is first recorded in Old Scots in a document from 1671, quoted in James Meikle's The History of Alyth Parish Church:
"There is hope of a second life, Birth's a doom, life's a trachle, death is needful".
The verb trauchle, meaning exhaust or overburden, appears earlier in known sources including Robert Lindsay's sixteenth-century Historie and Cronicles of Scotland:
"Thay war wondrous tyrd ... and trachled gretlie in travell".
The origins of trauchle are uncertain, though there appears to be some connection with Flemish tragelen or trakelen
"proceed with difficulty".
A trauchle can also be a state of chronic muddle caused by having too much to do, as in this Aberdeen quotation from 1920, noted in the Dictionary of the Scots Language:
"She's a peer doilt (confused) cratur, aye in a trauchle".
Nevertheless, trauchlesome situations afflict us all, and there are few forms of employment that don't involve some degree of trauchling. The English dictionary-maker, Dr Samuel Johnson, mischievously defined the word lexicographer as
"a harmless drudge".
Perhaps the Scots equivalent might be
"a sakeless trauchler".
This week's Scots word was written by Dr Maggie Scott.
First published 18th September 2007.