SCOTS WORD OF THE WEEK
MANE n., (a cry of) lamentation or sorrow MEANING lamentation, sorrow or complaint, mane appears in the Dictionary of the Scots Language (www.dsl.ac.uk) in quotations ranging from the 14th century onwards, often in the phrase to mak (one’s) mane. This is illustrated in John Barbour’s Legends of the Saints (1380): “Thai … fand hyme ded. Than mad thai man”, and several centuries later, this from Robert Louis Stevenson in his collection Underwoods (1887): “Aft whan I sat an’ made my mane, Aft whan I laboured burd-alane, Fishin’ for rhymes an’ findin’ nane” – a lament familiar to many a poet.
As well as expressing grief or anguish, mane can refer to a complaint or grievance, and in this context to mak one’s mane means to voice one’s complaint. Thus we read in Fergusson’s Scots Poems (1773) “Ay maun the childer, wi’ a fastin mou’, Grumble and greet, and make an unco mane”.
Mane can also mean an expression of sympathy, condolence or regret, hence the adjective meenfu, as in: “It wis rael innocently deen, an’ John wis rael meenfu’ aboot it” from Bon-Accord (1891). In this context to mak mane for someone means to show or feel sympathy for them, although this is more often seen in the negative, as illustrated by this explanation from Berwickshire (1960): “He’s no tae mak mane for — he deserves no sympathy.”
From these meanings mane came to refer to any mournful or moaning sound, such as the cry of a bird, or the sigh of the wind or sea. So in Hugh Miller’s Poems (1829) it refers to running water: “Down the burnie works its way . . . An’ mourns (I kenna why) wi’ a ceaseless mane”, while in Walter Chisholm’s Poems (1879) it’s the wind: “It soughs wi’ wild an’ eerie maen The leafless trees amang.” Scots Word of the Week is written by Ann Ferguson of Scottish Language Dictionaries, www. scotsdictionaries.org.uk, mail@ scotsdictionaries.org.uk.