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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1934 (SND Vol. I). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

BA', BAA, BAW, n.1 Sc. forms of ball, with meanings partly as in St.Eng., partly peculiar to Sc. [bɑ: + a: I.Sc., n.Sc.; bǫ; em.Sc., wm.Sc. but Arg. bɑ:; bɒ: sm.Sc., s.Sc.]

Sc. forms of Eng. ball, in games; in pl. testicles; nonsense.Sc. 2002 Sunday Herald 27 Oct 10:
... and they must all experience that first cry of, "Can you gie us wir baw back, Mister?"
Sc. 2004 Daily Record 6 Apr 21:
Did he cry? Oh no! He just laughed like a big numpty, picked his 'baw' up and tried again.
ne.Sc. 1979 Alastair Mackie in Joy Hendry Chapman 23-4 (1985) 65:
The sea's skin is nickit wi white slits.
The gowfer's club heid whangs the souchin baa.
m.Sc. 1997 Liz Niven Past Presents 15:
"Here's yer baa, Edwin."
Jist as yin day he'd be laith fu
At Glesca's mauk baneyerd
Or Warsaw's weir teirin vennels.
m.Sc. 1998 William Neill in Neil R. MacCallum Lallans 51 17:
An ye growe smuith an creeshie in yir carcase
an aye growe fatter wi yir baws for brains
while I maun tyauve ti keep fleish on ma banes
an hae ti shift ma airse ti whaur the wirk is.
em.Sc. 2000 James Robertson The Fanatic 36:
'Baws tae that. Ye'll need tae define normality first, and then insanity. Name anither instance o ma supposed weirdness.'

Sc. usages:

1. Football as in Eng. Gen.Sc.Sc. 1896 A. Cheviot Proverbs 33:
A's fair at the ba' o' Scone. Refers to the annual game of football on Shrove Tuesday [Fasten's E'en], between the married men and bachelors of Scone, Perthshire. [The “Ba'” was also played at this festival in many Border towns, in the Highlands and in e.Lth.]

2. (1) The game of Handball played on certain annual holidays in many of the Border towns and villages, as in Ancrum, Hobkirk, Duns, Jedburgh, Kelso, and also at various places in Ork. (Ork. 1967 J. Robertson Uppies & Doonies passim). See also Hand-ba.Ork. 2002 Herald 16 Dec 22:
Then, on Christmas Day and New Year's Day, hundreds of men take to the streets of Kirkwall to engage in the annual battle known as the Ba'.
Ork. 2004 Mirror 7 May 27:
You might also experience the Ba, Orkney's own take on football.
Rxb. 1909 Jedburgh Gaz. (5 Feb.) 3/2:
This contest is still known as The Callants' Ba'.
Rxb. 1916 Kelso Chron. (15 Feb.) 3/2:
Fastern's E'en Handball at Jedburgh . . . known as the Men's Ba'.

(2) The ball of the leg, the calf.Sh.(D) 1891 Burgess Rasmie's Büddie 9:
Wha, tinkin it time for ta gie him a seg, Sank his yackles fair inta da baa o his leg.
Kcb. 1789 D. Davidson Seasons 96:
Ane scours the plain, well kilted to the baw.

Comb.: baa-peece, a piece of leather put on to the ball or sole of a boot to mend or compensate for a worn piece. Ork. 1949 "Lex" But-end Ballans 11:
Du'll hae tae pit a baa-peece on Or else sheu'll spoil her ceuts.

(3) The coppers thrown to children at a wedding. Orig. the money was for the purchase of a ball. In Rxb. a ball with coloured ribbons attached and a coin tied on each ribbon was kicked off by the bride and fought for by children to get possession of the ball or at least a ribbon and coin (Rxb. 1940).sm.Sc. 1988 W. A. D. and D. Riach A Galloway Glossary :
ba'money, ba'siller, a ba' money thrown to children at a wedding.
See also  BA'-MONEY, BA'-SILLER. w.Dmf. 1905 J. L. Waugh Thornhill, etc. iii:
The "baa" was a largesse of copper coins flung among the children on the street.

3. Combs.: (1) Ba' day, the day of the annual Handball or football; (2) baw-face, a big, round face; a person with such a face; (3) baw-faced, also ba-faced, round-faced; (4) ba-hair, also baa-hair, baw-hair, a hair's breadth, a very fine measurement (of width); (5) bawheid, also ba'-heid, a fool; also a more general term of contempt; (6) ba'-men, bawmen, the players in the game of Ba'in(g); (7) ba'siller, coins thrown for children at a wedding; (8) ba' spel', -spiel, a single game (of handball, etc.), a “spell” at the ball; see Spiel; (1) Sc. 1928 The Times (2 March) 10/5:
So common [in Scotland] was a game of ball [football] on Fastren's Eve that it was known as “Ba' Day” and hailed as a time of riotous sport.
Abd.(D) [1788] J. Skinner Christmas Ba'ing, Amusements, etc. (1809) xxxii.:
Fy, Sirs, co' he, the ba' spel's [game's] won, And we the ba' ha'e hail'd.
Rxb. 1922 Kelso Chron. (3 Mar.) 3:
The annual ba' day was observed on Tuesday.
(2) Edb. 1992:
Hye, bawface! C'mere the now.
Gsw. 1985 Michael Munro The Patter 10:
bawface A big round face or someone having one.
(3) m.Sc. 1996 Christopher Brookmyre Quite Ugly One Morning (1997) 2:
What this situation had needed, what it had been audibly crying out for, was a glaikit, baw-faced, irritating, clumsy, thick, ginger-heided bastard to turn up and start cracking duff jokes, and here was PC Gavin Skinner to answer the call.
m.Sc. 1998 Lillias Forbes Turning a Fresh Eye 16:
The ba'-faced gowk they cried him
Geordie Pate o the Loan:
Dwelt aye at the back-en o his hoose.
Edb. 1991 Irvine Welsh in Hamish Whyte and Janice Galloway New Writing Scotland 9: Scream If You Want to Go Faster 149:
No intros are made, but that's the prerogative of my baw-faced icon, Mike Forrester. He's the man in the chair, and he certainly knows it.
wm.Sc. 1991:
A photo of our revered boss as a baw-faced baby.
Gsw. 1962 Bill McGhee Cut and Run 157:
Ya baw-faced bastart.
(4) Sc. 2002 Sunday Mail 8 Sep 18:
7. WE'RE A BA' HAIR AWAY FAE EATIN' DOG FOOD: A meagre state pension means we're living on the poverty line.
Gsw. 1988 Michael Munro The Patter Another Blast 6:
baw-hair A pubic hair, regarded as the very narrowest of fine measures: 'Whit haunless bampot drapped that hammer? That wis a baw-hair aff stovin in ma skull!'
Gsw. 1989:
The gless he cut wis a ba-hair oot.
Dmf. 1989:
Measure the space [in a proof] - it should be twa baa hairs in the figures column.
(5) em.Sc. 1992 Ian Rankin Strip Jack (1993) 154:
'Think I'd give Glenlivet to the ba'-heids I get in here? I'm a businessman, not the Samaritans. They look at the bottle, think they know what they're getting, and they're impressed. ... '
Edb. 1989:
An as for you bawheid, just you be quiet!
wm.Sc. 1983 William McIlvanney The Papers of Tony Veitch 222:
'Listen fuckin' bawheid,' Laidlaw said. 'I'm on serious business. I don't need the Chic Murray kit. You want to be a comedian, practise somewhere else.'
Arg. 1993:
Whoot's ba-heid sayin noo?
Gsw. 1998 Glaswegian 22 Jan :
"Hey bawheid!" will not endear you to anyone, especially if it's the charge-hand you're talking you.
(6) Abd.(D) [1788] J. Skinner Christmas Ba'ing, Amusements, etc. (1809) xxxiv.:
Of a' the bawmen there was nane But had twa bleedy shins.
Bwk. 1834 T. Brown in Proc. Berw. Nat. Club (1885) I. ii. 44:
Three young men were chosen to conduct them, and were called “ba'-men.”
(7) Sc. 2000 Sunday Mail 30 Apr 46:
One tradition that is still very much alive today is the scatter, or scramble, where coins are thrown to local children as the bride leaves her home.
The sum had to cover the price of a ball, hence the expression "ba' siller".
sm.Sc. 1988 W. A. D. and D. Riach A Galloway Glossary :
ba'money, ba'siller, a ba' money thrown to children at a wedding.
(8) Sc. 1816 Scott Black Dwarf vi.:
I staid away from the Ba'spiel on Fastern's E'en.

4. Phr.: the ba's (up) on the slates, the baa's on the sclates, the ball's on the slates, it's a hopeless situation, it's all over, the fat's in the fire. See 1985 quot. Sc. 1989 Scotsman 31 Jul 18:
This sort of thing has been happening since history and money became seriously acquainted with one another in recent times. But the fun is over, ladies and gentlemen. The game's a bogey and the ball's on the slates. It has taken the very courageous grandson of Louis Bleriot to demonstrate to the world that if history is not exactly bunk, it is at least highly unlikely.
m.Sc. 1997 Tom Watson Dark Whistle 67:
an' forbye
That, they're movin' Philistines intae the
Schemes, an' ah doot wee Davie's quangoed
So the ba' is oan the slates - irrevocably!
Gsw. 1962 Bill McGhee Cut and Run 127:
'If we don't get somebody,' Maxy pointed out. 'Gunn'll likely keep comin' back, an' the ba'll be oan the slates as faur as the [gambling] school's concerned,'...
Gsw. 1964 George Friel The Boy who Wanted Peace (1985) 212:
And I couldn't just walk into a bank and bank thousands in fivers. That would have put the ba' up on the slates, that would!
Gsw. 1985 Anna Blair Tea at Miss Cranston's 83:
It took that long sometimes that you got shouted in before you wir done wi' pototties, and that was the ball-on-the-slates for your tig or whatever.
Gsw. 1985 Michael Munro The Patter 84:
the baw's up on the slates Said when a plan falls through or something happens to put a stop to some activity: 'Wee Billy canny make it an he's the only wan wi a motor an aw. That's the baw up on the slates noo.' The phrase springs from street football: if the ball ends up on a high roof the game is effectively over.

[O.Sc. ball, baw, baa, etc., O.N. bǫllr, genitive ballar. Cogn. O.H.Ger. balle; M.Du. bal; Mid.Eng. bal. No O.E. form is known.]

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"Ba' n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 16 Jun 2024 <>



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