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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 since then 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 23 Jun 2024 <>



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