Home» Publications» SLD Newsletter» Newsletter November 2009» Scots word: trauchle

Scots word

trauchle v. to draw or to trail

Rattled with this cold weather and weary with wandering about looking for elusive shoes in overcrowded shops, I thought the Scots word trachelt fitted exactly how I felt. I tried to track the word down.

It clearly had farming connections in the past. In Orkney it had a precise meaning relating to the plough where it was the draught-rope and the pin on the beam of the plough on which it was looped. Many of the other entries began to reflect ideas of exhaustion and being defeated. W. Farquhar used it in his Poems (1784):

“Sair trackl'd wi' the win' and weet.”

It is also used to suggest dirt and a slovenly aspect which might be akin to being dragged through a hedge backwards! R. Ford in his Hame-Spun Lays (1878) puts it well:

“Wauchill'd an trauchill'd thro' dub and thro' mire.”

J. Milne in Myths (1903) described a woman who was certainly not up to his idea of scratch:

“She was trachelt in her claes.”

The Dictionary of Scots Language has a few instances of its use as a noun, meaning troubles in life and the muddle that comes with having too much to do. This seemed familiar to me. I. Maclaren in Auld Lang Syne (1895) reported:

“The bairns are just the trachle o' ma life.”

It can even mean an incompetent unmethodical worker, as illustrated by Lewis Grassic Gibbon in Grey Granite (1934):

“Sneering at her, upbraiding Almighty God for making such a trauchle to pest decent folk.”

There is an example from The Herald (1993 18th Jan) which does not have the same sense of utter defeat about it, implying instead a milder tribulation:

“What with all this misery I resolved today to make some mulligatawny soup. To be honest it's a bit of a trochle to make but it's well worth the effort.”

Although its origins are obscure, evidence suggests that it is of Dutch origin, from Flemish tragelen or trakelen which meant 'to walk with difficulty'. I will have to drag myself away from the shopping and my troubles. Soup sounds just the thing. Be sure to visit the Dictionary of the Scots Language website for more information on trauchle and any other Scots words used in the article.