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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1968 (SND Vol. VII). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

PLAIN, adj., adv. Also plane, plen(n) (Per. 1887 R. Cleland Inchbracken viii.), plan-. Sc. forms and usages. [ple(ə)n, em.Sc.(a) plɛn]

I. adj. 1. As in Eng. Deriv. plainie, n., in children's games: any movement or manoeuvre in its simplest form, before complications and variations are introduced for the sake of variety and as a test of skill (see quots.) (Mry., m. and s.Sc. 1966).Sc. 1952 Folklore LXIII. 230:
Plainie-Clappie. This is played with one ball thrown against a wall. Plainie: The ball is flung against the wall and caught with both hands on the rebound. Clappie: The hands are clapped between throwing and catching the ball. Hereafter all actions are between throwing and catching.
Edb. 1955 Edb. Evening News (4 Jan.):
[In the game of Knifey] each throw had a name. Dropping the knife from the height of about two feet was called “plainey”. Other throws were “palmy,” “back-handy,” and “fisty.”
Edb. 1960:
In beds or peevers, plainie is the plain square 9-compartment diagram instead of a more complicated one, and in skipping plainie is the skip over the rope in its downward motion as opposed to dykie on the rise.
Slk. 1966:
When the rope (in skipping) was being ca'ed towards you that was plain. The other side, where it was being ca'ed away from you, was the hirdle. We jumped in at the plain, sometimes, and out at the hirdle and vice versa. It was always easier to jump in at the plain.
wm.Sc. 1993:
Plainie clappie, roll the reel and backie.
Edb. 2003:
Plainie clappie, stot the baw, tobackie.

Combs: (1) plain loaf, the more common of the two main varieties of Scottish loaf, a flat-sided loaf with a hard black crust on top and a floury brown crust at the bottom, a batch loaf, as distinct from the Pan loaf which is baked separately in a tin. Gen.Sc. Hence plain bread; (2) plain-middle, in weaving: a piece of material with an unpatterned central panel surrounded by an edging of pattern, freq. applied to Paisley shawls in which the two sections are gen. woven separately; (3) plain shale, in mining: “oil shale not foliated” (Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Mining Terms 51).(1) Sc. 1907 J. Kirkland Modern Baker I. 119:
Bakers in Scotland have not yet adopted compressed yeast to any great extent for their plain bread, but a good many are now using it for pan bread and fancy sorts.
Sc. 1927 J. Kirkland Bakers' ABC 216:
In Scotland the greater portion of the bread is still batched, but the shape is oblong and the name “plain” is used to describe that shape rather than “household”.
wm.Sc.1 1948:
Our pan-loaf is called a tin in Liverpool and the Eng. word for our plain loaf is a batch-loaf.
Fif. 1985 Christopher Rush A Twelvemonth and a Day 13:
They were surrounded by ranks upon ranks of baking: drumrolls and rows of baps, bread in battalions; crusty loaves, half loaves, brown loaves, white loaves, plain loaves, pan loaves, bran loaves, seed loaves ...
Rnf. 1993 History on your Doorstep, The Reminiscences of the Ferguslie Elderly Forum 8:
We never got pan bread then, it was always a plain loaf your mother bought.
Edb. 2003:
Ma twa laddies can eat a plain loaf atween them tae their tea.
(2) Ayr. 1842 Children in Trades Report ii i. 23:
Father is a plain-middle weaver, and mother winds his pirns.
Ayr. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 V. 612:
Hand-loom weaving is the chief branch of manufacture carried on in the parish. The principal kinds of work done, are harness-shawls, plain-middles.

2. Flat, smooth, level (Sh. 1966). Obs. in Eng. Deriv. planner, a person who has flat feet, gen. thought to be unlucky. Cf. (1) and (2) below.Gsw. 1877 A. G. Murdoch Laird's Lykewake 28:
Fair play, an' plain roads to the 'fore.
Cai. 1891 D. Stephen Gleanings 70:
[He] was better known by the name of “Planner” than by his proper name, James Miller. His feet were extremely flat, and his motions when walking were calculated to make one look and wonder.
Sh. 1901 Shetland News (2 March):
Ane o' der ain calf kye lyin' stark dead apo' da plain green.

Combs. and phrs.: (1) plain-footed, having flat feet, flat-footed. Cf. above and (2); (2) plain-soles,, flat feet. Hence plain-soled, = (1) (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B. s.v. Platch). Cf. above; (3) plain-stane, n. gen. in pl., flat-topped paving-stones, flag-stones. Hence (i) a paved side-walk, pavement (Sc. 1782 J. Sinclair Ob. Sc. Dial. 167, 1808 Jam.; Per., Ayr. 1915–1923 Wilson; Lnk. 1930; Ork., Cai., Bnff., Ags., Fif., Slk. 1966). Also curtailed form plainies, plennies, id. (Ags. 1958). Also attrib., = paved; (ii) a paved area surrounding a town's Mercat cross or Town House, the main square of a town (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Bnff. 1930).(1) Sc. 1781 Caled. Mercury (23 May):
John Smith . . . ruddy faced, plain-footed, with his right-hand thumb thicker and shorter than the other.
Slg. 1903 E.D.D.:
The superstition here is “red-headed or plane-footed is an unlucky first-foot”.
(2) Sc. 1808 Jam. s.v. Platfute:
Platfute seems to have been a term of reproach, originally applied to one who was plain-soled.
Rxb. 1825 Jam. s.v. Platch:
If you are going on a journey, on Monday morning, and meet a man who has platches or plain soles, it is necessary, according to the dictates of traditionary superstition, that you should turn again, because it is an evil omen. The only way to prevent the bad effect of so fatal an occurrence, is to return to your own abode, to enter it with the right foot foremost, and to eat and drink. Then you may safely set out again on your journey; the spell being dissolved.
Rnf. 1861 J. Barr Poems 37:
Plain-soled Jenny Bullock, As rich as ony Jew.
Arg. 1907 N. Munro Daft Days iv.:
He said he was plain-soled . . . and wasn't a lucky first-foot on a New Year's morning.
(3) (i) Sc. 1702 R. Wodrow Analecta (M.C.) I. 33:
On the plain-stones beneath the red land nixt the Tolbooth.
Sc. 1716 Ho. Bk. Lady G. Baillie (S.H.S.) 48:
For laying the plain stons before the door.
Sc. 1738 W. Maitland Hist. Edb. (1753) 336:
None of the Chair-bearers go within the Pales, or on the Plain-stones, (at the Sides of the Streets), with their Chairs.
Ags. 1759 Arbroath T.C. Rec. MS. (8 Aug.):
The Stair of David Thomsons House and the Plain Stones laid by James Scott and John Mitchell before their Houses stops the Current of the Water and makes it stagnate.
Sc. 1770 Scots Mag. App. 713:
That no nuisance shall be laid down in any strand or water-run, or upon any part of the pavement or plain-stones, under the penalty of half a crown for each transgression.
Sc. 1815 Lockhart Scott xxxiv.:
Better walking on the beach at Worthing than on the plainstanes of Prince's Street, for the weather is very severe here indeed.
Rnf. 1840 J. Mitchell Wee Steeple's Ghaist 108:
An' your bare-footed weans Creep alang the plane-stanes.
Ags. 1894 J. B. Salmond My Man Sandy (1899) xvi.:
Keep on the plennies, 'oman.
Fif. 1896 D. S. Meldrum Grey Mantle 251:
Mony's the time I've played the pallaldies bare-fit wi' 'm on the plainstanes at his feyther's door.
Rxb. 1919 Kelso Chron. (14 Feb.) 2:
“Wattie, my mannie,” admonished the mother, “dinna make sae muckle noise on the planestanes”.
Ags. 1962 D. Phillips Lichty Nichts 62:
Ye'll git the jile fur chaulkin' on the plennies!
wm.Sc. 1987 Anna Blair Scottish Tales (1990) 65:
Enoch was a wealthy tobacco lord, pompous, disdainful and mighty self-important and, much as all the others of his trade and status also enjoyed strutting the plainstanes of the Trongate in their scarlet coats and cocked hats, he was the peacock of them all.
(ii) Dmf. 1706 Session Papers, Dunbar v. Irvine 1:
What is alledged against the Bailie, was at the Plain Stones.
Ags. 1710 J. M. Beatts Hist. Dundee (1873) 101:
Ordains the said Barbara Baitt and Janet Clerk to be tyed to ane post at the end of the plainstones.
Abd. 1827 Aberdeen Star (27 April) 75:
On the plain-stones, in Castle-street, about 7 o'clock, a bonfire was lighted up.
wm.Sc. 1837 Laird of Logan 109:
An uncommon clatter amang the Corks of the Causeyside as weel as upon the plainstanes at the Corse.
Sc. 1879 Stevenson Deacon Brodie ii. iv.:
Keep the plainstanes side o' the gallows.

3. Honest, free from guile of duplicity, candid, frank (Uls. 1966). Obs. in Eng.Edb. 1798 D. Crawford Poems 84:
By my trogs, I'm plain to tell, I wish you rightly ken yoursell.
ne.Sc. 1952 John R. Allan North-East Lowlands of Scotland (1974) xxiv:
I am reminded that when she [Lady Aberdeen] first came to Haddo House one of the farm servants in the district said "a very plain body that". He was speaking to a farmer's wife who had forgotten the language.
"Plain" said the farmer's wife, "she is one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen".
"No, I mean she stands up and speaks to you as if you were as good as she is".
Edb. 2003:
My mother wis plain wi awbodie.

II. adv. As in Eng., in comb. plain-gaun, -going, straightforward, honest, plain-dealing.Ags. 1880 J. Watt Poet. Sk. 127:
Whar plain-gaun fouk, like you or me, Tint sicht o' Symon Soupletree.

[O.Sc. planestane, pavement, 1616.]

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"Plain adj., adv.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jun 2024 <>



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