The Herald - - OPINION -

Wher­ever it is from, how­ever, neuk has de­vel­oped some spe­cial mean­ings in Scots. It can mean a promon­tory, that is a piece of land pro­ject­ing into the sea, as in the East Neuk of Fife, a place-name first recorded in the Dic­tionary of the Scots Lan­guage (www.dsl.ac.uk) from 1706 but clearly much older.

Com­pounds in­clude such rar­i­ties as neuk­stanes (cor­ner-stones), and an Orkney us­age: neuk-bed, a bed in a re­cess of a cot­tage. The word oc­curs in phrases, such as “to hold one in his ain neuk”, mean­ing ‘to con­trol strictly’.

Another sim­i­lar-look­ing, equally mys­te­ri­ous word is Glaswe­gian nyuck, glossed rather vaguely in the Dic­tionary as “a con­temp­tu­ous term for a per­son”, al­though it isn’t sure whether it’s the same word. Cliff Han­ley records the word in his mem­oir, Danc­ing in the Streets (1958): “That yin wi’ the baldy heid is Julius Cae­sar, a right stupit-lukkin nyuck … Auld Green rolled up the street and shouted up to the first-storey win­dow for the rot­ten cow­ardly nyuck to come down and get a bast­ing.”

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