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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1941 (SND Vol. II). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

BUMMER, Bomer, n.1 [′bʌmər Sc., but Ork. ′bomər]

1. An insect that makes a humming noise, esp. a bumble-bee or bluebottle (Bnff.2, Abd.19, Ags.1, Fif.10 1937).Sc. 1862 A. Hislop Proverbs 185:
The loudest bummer's no the best bee.
Abd.(D) 1922 G. P. Dunbar A Whiff o' the Doric 17:
Wi' spiders, mochs, an' bummers, ay, an' a' kin-kine o' flees.
Abd. 1995 Sheena Blackhall Lament for the Raj 26:
Teenie an wee, the bummer, the flee,
The emmack, the gleg, the moch.
m.Sc. 1870 J. Nicholson Idylls o' Hame 33:
Big blue bummers, wasps an' flees.
m.Sc. 2000 Bruce Leeming in Alec Finlay Atoms of Delight 53:
Birlin doun
the rowth of gean blume
taigles a bummer.

2. (1) (a) “A boy's toy, made with a piece of twine and a small circular disc, usually of tin; it makes a humming noise” (Uls. 1880 W. H. Patterson Gl. Ant. and Dwn.); “a thin piece of wood swung round by a cord” (Sc. 1821 Blackwood Mag. (Aug.) X. 35). Cf. bum-speal, s.v. Bum, v.1, 6 (5); (b) used also of a humming-top, see second quot. Known to Bnff.2, Abd.22, Ags.1, Lnk.3 1937.(1) (a) Ags.(D) 1894 J. B. Salmond My Man Sandy (1899) xviii.:
It mindit me o' the schule laddies an' their bummers.
(b) Ayr.4 1928:
That top's a fair bummer.

(2) “A flat piece of wood used as a marker in a bale of flax” (Ags. 1910 Arbroath Guide (22 Oct.) 2/7; Ags.1 1937).

3. A factory siren (Abd.19, Slg.3, Lnk.3 1937).Ags. 1929 W. L. Anckorn in Scots Mag. (Feb.) 321:
Behind him the bummers in half a dozen factories in Aberbrothock were skirling the skailing hour.
Dundee 1986 David A. MacMurchie I Remember Another Princes Street! 31:
Those who were working were summoned to mill, factory, yard and workshop by bell, bummer, hooter and whistle.
Dundee 1991 Sheena Wellington 'Women O Dundee' :
An the wailin o the bummer and the clackin o the laims
brocht the women o Dundee oot o their beds.
em.Sc. 1988 James Robertson in Joy Hendry Chapman 52 71:
' ... Weill, ilka mornin the factory bummers'd soun aff, aince tae gar the warkers get out o their beds, an aince mair, a wee whilie efter, tae gar them get intil their wark. ... '

4. A blunderer; an ineffective reader, singer or player (Ags.1 1937).Abd. 1832 Anon. Jamie Fleeman (1893) 23:
He a piper! He's a bummer; he canna play the Piper's Maggot!
Edb. 1931 E. Albert Herrin' Jennie 109:
“A fine auld bummer he is.” So she taunted him.
Dmf. 1910 R. Quin The Borderland 53:
Come, pay yer kip, or out you trot, I'll harbour no cheap bummers.

5. “One who is addicted to weeping” (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 19; Bnff.2 1937).

6. (1) Anything (or anyone) very large or wonderful of its (their) kind, e.g. a boat, a woman (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928)), a duck (Ork. 1929 Marw., bomer), a cow (Bch. 1928 (per Abd.15)), a grilse (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Known to Cai.7 (obsol.), Bnff.2, Lnk.3, Kcb.9 1937.

(2) Specially applied to a gross exaggeration or a lie (Bnff.2 1937).Dwn.(D) 1886 W. G. Lyttle Sons of the Sod xxiv.:
The Dominie and Johnnie Hunter were vieing with each other as to who could tell the “biggest bummer,” (i.e., the greatest lie) a practice quite common on such occasions.

Comb.: heid-bummer, head-bummer, full bummer manager, overseer; prominent or important person; “sarcastically: An officious person” (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., also simply bummer);  Gen.Sc., but Arg.1 1937 says rare. Abd. 1934 D. Scott Stories and Sketches 90:
Erchie's been secretly merriet t' the dother o' een o' the heid bummers o' the firm!
Fif. 1894 W. D. Latto Tammas Bodkin, Swatches o' Hodden-Grey i.:
The aunchent an' honourable family o' the Bodkins, whaurof I . . . am at the present day head-bummer!
Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr Duguid 20:
Johnnie was ane o' the heid bummers in the kirk.
Slk. 1892 W. M. Adamson Betty Blether 76:
They tell me that ye're the full bummer o' the Gala Ramblers Club.

[D.O.S.T. gives bumbard, -bart, bombard, (1) a lazy or stupid person; (2) a bumble-bee (1600, 1610). Prob. from Bum, bumb (as in bumble-bee), to make a humming noise, hence bummer, the insect, the drone, the lazy, clumsy creature. Cf. O.N. bumba, a drum, Norse bumba, a woman with a bloated figure; Sw. dial. bomaratta, fat, heavy women (Torp).]

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"Bummer n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 2 Dec 2022 <>



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