I am not really a street party kind of person and most of the royal jubilee celebrations passed me by unnoticed. They had one effect however. I was a child when the queen came to the throne and her jubilee made me pause and think about the enormous changes that have taken place in society since then.
The most major of these have involved technological and scientific changes which would once have been dismissed as the stuff of science fiction. However, there have been many other changes in various fields also, including language. One such change is the great spread of informal language and slang which purists see as the dumbing down of language. Another is the whittling away of linguistic taboos.
When the queen came to the throne people were disinclined to talk about certain subjects such as death, cancer and the bodily parts and functions. Sex was still very much what coal was delivered in in Morningside or other genteel places.
Now it is a case of let everything hang out and talk about it at length. As far as bodily waste is concerned, however, there remains a degree of reticence. Rather than call a spade a spade, many people still resort to euphemism. There have been a few changes here as well in that the number two of yesteryear has become old-fashioned, having been replaced by the now ubiquitous poo.
This was formerly largely a child’s word but now seems to have become the standard term for many adults as well. It has its origins in the exclamation pooh! used to indicate the presence of an unpleasant smell.
Poo is obviously a lot more acceptable to many people than excrement or faeces which may sound rather technical for such a familiar substance. But it is undeniably rather a silly word. English would have done much better to adopt the Scots word keech, altogether a more homely sounding word than excrement or faeces and, unlike poo, not sounding ridiculous.
Note that the ch of keech is pronounced like the ch of loch. Do not pronounce it with a k, because keek is quite a different word. In origin keech is related to English cack which shares a meaning with keech, but has nothing to do with being cack-handed. Should you be trying to look up keech in a dictionary you might be unsuccessful. You might find that it is listed under kich, an older spelling of keech.
Like poo, keech can also act as a verb. As a noun, it can broaden its meaning to refer to any filthy or dirty substance. It can also be used as an exclamation of disgust in much the same was as pooh! can and it can be shouted as a warning to a child not to touch something dirty. Often, of course, such a warning will come too late or go unheeded.
Keech can also be used figuratively to refer to rubbish or nonsense, as in Don’t listen to him. He’s talking a lot of keech. It can also be used to refer to a person in a particularly contemptuous way, as in He’s a right wee keech, always sucking up to the bosses.
In some parts of Scotland you will find keech in the form of toley, pronounced to rhyme with goalie. If you regularly share a walking area with dog-walkers you will undoubtedly encounter many toleys.