Useful Scots word: stooshie

A stooshie, <em>by Abraham Diepraam</em>
A stooshie, by Abraham Diepraam

By Betty Kirkpatrick

Last time I wrote about stramash and its connection with commotion and disorderliness. This time I am staying in the same general area and writing about stooshie.

Stooshie, whose spelling indicates its pronunciation, means an uproar, a commotion, a fuss, a row or a brawl.

It is often used in connection with protest. In this context it is often attached to the verb raise or the verb create. People can create a stooshie about anything that displeases them, from the major to the trivial. Stooshies have been created about suggested extensions to motorways, traffic congestion, the introduction of trams, changes to bus timetables, closure of schools in bad weather, dogs barking, neighbours parking their car in front of someone else’s bit of street and so on.

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Stooshie is still quite commonly used in Scotland and is even found being used with reference to the august Scottish parliament where disagreement and rows are often the order of the day. However, stooshie has not had the success that stramash enjoys when it comes to making its mark in the south. True, it is occasionally to be found on the lips and in the writings of Scots who have emigrated south, but others seem to have remained immune to its charms.

Why is this? The reason might come down to sound. Stramash has a more international ring to it. If you did not know better, you might even think that it was a piece of modern slang. Stooshie, on the other hand, sounds distinctly homely. Then, although I am sure that stooshie is quite often to be found in a football context, it lacks the almost official connection that stramash seems to have with the game.

Stooshie is an excellent example of the Scots language’s lack of a standard spelling. It is also commonly spelt stushie, but the problem does not end there. If you are looking for the word in some Scots dictionaries or in the online edition of the Scottish National Dictionary, you could find yourself out of luck. This is because the word is located under the entry stashie and given such alternative spellings as steeshie and stishie.

Stooshie follows many Scots words in being of uncertain origin. It has been suggested that the word, in the form of stashie, is a form of the English word ecstasy. Certainly, there are people who so love a good stooshie that they go into ecstasy when they are creating one.

The other day I came across the Australian and New Zealand word stoush meaning a fight or dispute. It can also be a verb meaning to fight or quarrel. Apparently the noun version can be applied to a war, and world war one was sometimes referred to as the Big Stoush.

Several dictionaries indicate that the origin of the Australian word is unknown. But surely it must bear some relationship to stooshie. If so, then stooshie has probably been even more successful than stramash when it comes to infiltrating other countries.

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.

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