The Herald - - OPINION -

the end of the 14th cen­tury, in doc­u­ments, as a time of mer­ry­mak­ing, al­though af­ter the Ref­or­ma­tion it was con­demned; in 1618, for in­stance, the au­thor­i­ties in El­gin re­ferred to the “su­per­sti­tious ob­seru­a­tion of auld re­itis (‘rites’) and cer­e­monies ex­presly for­bid­den dur­ing the tyme cal­lit Yooll”.

Yule-shard’s sec­ond el­e­ment, shard, is a lit­tle harder to ac­count for. It seems to be a “cor­rupt form” of yaud or yald “old mare”, per­haps also in­flu­enced by shaird “a puny ill-de­vel­oped or de­formed crea­ture” or “bad-tem­pered or ma­li­cious per­son”. Yule-shard is a handy ex­pres­sion for any­one be­hind with their Christ­mas prepa­ra­tions. As some­one who is al­ways a last-minute shop­per strug­gling to find an ap­pro­pri­ate gift for my wife, I’m happy to self-iden­tify as such. Yet it seems sadly to have fallen out of use; DSL’S last records are from the first quar­ter of the 20th cen­tury:

“Ye’ll be a Yule shard; yer stockin’ winna be fin­ished.”

Scots Word of the Week is writ­ten by Pro­fes­sor Jeremy Smith on be­half of Scot­tish Lan­guage Dic­tio­nar­ies, 9 Coates Cres­cent, Ed­in­burgh

EH3 7AL.

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