Useful Scots word: trauchled

by Betty Kirkpatrick

<em>Picture: Colin Adamson</em>
Picture: Colin Adamson

Trauchled is one of my favourite Scots words. This is not because it means something particularly pleasant because it certainly does not. I like it partly because of its sound, but mostly because it conveys its meaning so well that it is virtually untranslatable into English.

In order to translate trauchled into English satisfactorily we need a whole raft of English words and probably an extended browse through a thesaurus. Roughly speaking, to be trauchled is to be utterly exhausted, overburdened, overworked, and harassed, in all cases physically, mentally and, probably, emotionally. For those of you who cannot figure out the pronunciation you will not go far wrong if you pronounce the trauch element to rhyme with loch.

I witnessed the personification of trauchled the other day. A youngish mother got on the bus I was on, or rather she staggered on. She was trying to hold a baby in one arm while folding up an enormous buggy with the other, all the while trying to stop a toddler from rampaging up the bus and hold on to her clutch of plastic bags. She looked ready to drop and well past the end of her tether. She was, indeed, trauchled.

Trauchled comes from the verb trauchle which has several meanings. Trauchled as we know it is from trauchle meaning to exhaust, perhaps from overwork or a long journey, to overburden or harass – or a mixture of all three. Trauchle also means to trudge along slowly or very wearily, as if you were having to force yourself to keep going. Another meaning of trauchle is to overwork and go drudging on in a state of fatigue and harassment. That is the way everyone will probably end up if the retirement age keeps rising.

The verb trauchle has also given us a noun of the same form, also with various meanings. The noun trauchle can refer to a long and tiring walk, to fatiguing and disheartening work or to a burden or source of trouble that wears you out.

The noun can also be applied to any exhausting and arduous struggle, such as juggling the demands of work and family or, to some unfortunates, the whole journey through life. Trauchle can also refer to a state of permanent muddle or chaos, usually a result of someone trying to do too much. Beware multi-tasking. It can lead to a trauchle.

Trauchle is of uncertain origin. It has been suggested that it is Dutch in origin and that it has some connection with Flemish tragelen or trakelen meaning to walk or proceed with difficulty.

All this talk of trauchled and its linguistic relatives has quite tired me out. I need a lie-down.

Betty Kirkpatrick is the former editor of several classic reference books, including Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary and Roget’s Thesaurus. She is also the author of several smaller language reference books, including The Usual Suspects and Other Clichés published by Bloomsbury, and a series of Scots titles, including Scottish Words and Phrases, Scottish Quotations, and Great Scots, published by Crombie Jardine.

  • mary jo andes

    Well…for what it’s worth…I always enjoy reading Betty’s column on Scot’s words.

  • James

    Knackered in English would translate very well for trauchled in Scots.

  • What a wonderful descriptive language we have

    • Anither Rab

      Ay! An baith the Scots an English estaiblishments haes been ettlin for ower a hunner an fifty year tae redd it oot o oor heids. Thair biggest lee is tellin fowk that it’s juist un-edicatit donnert heids that speaks Scots cause they’re no clever eneuch tae lairn hou tae speak guid English. Conterin this is a richt sair trauchle at times.

      • diana paterson

        I would love to learn to write and speak like you!!!

  • Davie Dites

    In my dim distant schooldays, I remember coming across the Latin verb Trahere which means to drag. I wondered then if there was a possible connection.

    Or maybe it was the Latin teacher who occasionally lapsed into Doric. One of his gems was “Amavi heri mani”. Pronounced “Am a wee hairy mannie” it translates as “I loved yesterday morning”.

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