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