Saturday, September 13, 2008

Can you kiggle-caggle?

At a time when - for reasons that are obvious: there are so many more of them than us - Canadian terms are beginning to oust the old, indigenous Scots ones, perhaps we should take a little time to remind ourselves of some of the older terms, and add them again to our vocabulary.

If younger Scots can take to using 'rock' for stone - and even some middle-aged Scots television commentators are guilty of that grave fault - perhaps they can pick up expressive words like 'kiggle-caggle'.

It may be that 'to kiggle-caggle' has fallen out of use because ice has got better, for I see that it is defined in my notes under the date 1991 as 'to throw the curling stone with a rocking motion on the ice, designed to reduce friction when ice is wet, or even under water.' (I suspect that the definition is my own.)

In this example from a poem, Scotland’s Ain Game o’ Curlin’, sung at the Annual Dinner of the Kinross Curling Club in January 1889, and printed in the Annual for 1892, pp. 421-2, the poet, having celebrated the actual game, then deals with the apres-curl drinking, and uses the term to describe the unsteady gait of some curlers on their way home. My wife, who is a bit posher than me, has suggested I should explain some of the other Scots words. I have put a translation of each line in italics below the line!

And when we at nicht in the Public sae couthie
And when we at night in the publichouse or hotel so friendly
Sit drinkin’ for fellowship, - no that we’re drouthie -
Sit drinking for fellowship - we’re by no means thirsty -
We weel ken that 'Heath’ry' will drive us a’ hame,
We know well that Heathery (a nickname) will drive us all home,
If his dog-cart’s at hand, and his powney’s no lame.
If his pony and trap are to hand and his pony is not lame.

It is true that he may, as he ance did afore,
It is true that he may as he once did before.
Clap us down at a place that’s no’ just our ain door;
Drop us off at a place that’s not exactly our own door;
But what does it matter? - a’ doors are the same
But what does it matter? - all doors are the same
To a curler when he’s kiggle-cagglin’ hame.
To a curler when he’s kiggle-caggling home.

In Keen Curler’s Troth, from the Annual for 1936, p. cxxvi, it is obvious that 'kiggle-caggling' was part of the ordinary curler’s armoury.

I’ll aye a curler keen abide,
And ne’er a challenge shirk.
I’ll draw the tee straucht doon the slide,
And fickle ilka quirk.

I’ll kiggle caggle to and fro,
Tak wicks, and draw the port,
Ne’er be a hog, nor eke owre slow
Tae chip the brittle shot.

I’ll soop the rink frae score tae tee,
I’ll keep ma language clean,
Dae what I’m tell’t, treat courteouslie
Ma foe, forbye ma free.

I’ll mind ma feet, and slide ma stane,
No drap it, wi’ a dunt,
A gawky gommeril is a bane,
His neebors bear the brunt…

Top photo: A clear case of the kiggle-caggles. New Farm Loch, Kilmarnock, beginning of the twentieth century, from the author's collection.


Anonymous said...

Look at:
for this extreme kiggle-caggle !

David Smith said...

Typical! We Scots invent something, and then the Swiss develop it.