Useful Scots words: Skoosh

Casey in pictures

Whatever happened to the smirr that was formerly as regular a part of the Scottish summer as midgies? Now the smirr, a Scots word meaning fine rain or drizzle, has been replaced by regular bouts of teeming rain coming down in stair rods reminiscent of monsoons.  I suppose climate change will be held responsible for this.

Whatever the reason, there seems to have been water, water everywhere for weeks now. Rainwater has been skooshing down the gutters, often ending up in great puddles when the drains cannot cope.

You can probably guess from the context what the Scots verb skoosh means. When applied to water, it means to gush or spurt out. The word skoosh, which has the alternative form scoosh, imitates the sound of water engaged in this activity and so is onomatopoeic in origin.

Apparently, skoosh did not make a written appearance in Scots until quite late on in the nineteenth century, but it sounds like the kind of word that might have been used orally for a while before being committed to paper. In fact, I am not sure how they coped without it

As to its use, if you suddenly develop a faulty kitchen tap which refuses to be turned off you may well find water skooshing uncontrollably all over the place. Liquids, other than water can also be said to scoosh. For example, if you cut yourself very badly with an ultra-sharp kitchen knife or, worse, if someone stabs you, you may well see your blood skooshing out of the wound as you frantically try to locate the first-aid box– or reach the phone to dial for emergency help. On a lighter note, if a bottle of fizzy drink, whether soft or alcoholic, has been shaken over-vigorously, its contents are liable to skoosh over the shaker and anyone else in the near vicinity.

Solid objects can also be said to skoosh under certain circumstances. Sometimes water or other liquid is involved, but a certain degree of speed and a swishing sound are usually present. It has been a common part of the Scottish summer experience to date to have cars and buses skooshing past you as you wait at a bus stop and get drenched by the water the vehicles throw up. Should you escape to a café to dry out you will probably hear the coffee machine skooshing noisily away in the background.

Children and skooshing commonly go together. You will see the young merrily skooshing down the slides in play parks and you will have to take smart evasive action when they skoosh round corners on their skate boards, or scooters.

Skoosh can also mean to squirt something at someone or something. Thus, children can skoosh water from water pistols at each other. People often skoosh flies, wasps and the like with some form of insecticide, although more sensitive souls take the trouble to remove them from their plate of food or jar of jam and place them outside so that they can fly in again. A spray used for this purpose, or, indeed, for other purposes, is known as a skoosher.

Skoosh can also act as a noun meaning a splash, spurt or jet of water, or other liquid. For example, you can borrow a skoosh of perfume from your friend, but it would be as well to get her permission first in case she smells the evidence on you. Or you may need to apply another skoosh of sunscreen to your child, if you are going abroad, but, if you are on a staycation here, you might well not need to.

You may well add a skoosh of tonic water to your pre-dinner gin or a skoosh of water to your whisky. Some may even add a skoosh of lemonade to whisky, although hopefully not if the whisky in question is a good malt. Such a habit has resulted in a fizzy soft drink, such as lemonade, becoming known as skoosh.

Skoosh as a noun has a meaning unrelated to water. Also found in the form skoosh case, it can be used to refer to something that is very easy to do or deal with. Thus, a student might claim to have found the Highers a skoosh, although it would be as well to wait until after the results are out before voicing such a claim out loud. As you might expect, skoosh is often to be found in the world of sport. To skoosh it is to trounce the opposition.

What is definitely not a skoosh in the sense of easy task is the laying of the new Edinburgh tram system which seems to be taking forever. Why am I mentioning this?  Trams were once known as skoosh-cars from the noise made by the wheels on the tracks. I think the planned system is intended to be a good deal less noisy, but it could be a while before we find out.

  • Dorian Harris

    Thank you for clearing that up. We’ve always liked the ‘easy’ definition.

  • Jode

    It also gives rise to the adjective ‘skooshy/scooshie’ as in scooshie cream (from a tin).

  • gayl

    We call a can of deoderant ‘skoosh’. I also like to remember John Smeaton after the terrorist attack on Glasgow airport describing the flaming car like a aerosol can on a bonfire going skoosh. Brilliant!!