SCOTS WORD OF THE WEEK

The Herald - - OPINION -

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.

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