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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1974 (SND Vol. IX). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

TAM, prop.n. Sc. form and usages of Eng. Tom. See P.L.D. § 54. Hence tam-cat, tamfeelery (Abd. 1932 D. Campbell Bamboozled 33), tam-tit (Rxb. 1942 Zai). For the dim. forms see Tammie.

1. A kind of small haggis or pudding of chopped meat. Cf. tammie puddin, s.v. Tammie, 5. (16).Dmf. 1875 J. Paton Leila 208:
Had ye seen my reekin' table When glorious Tam lay like a cable.

2. A small fresh-water fish, a stickleback (Kcb. 1972). Cf. n.Eng. dial. tom-barsey, id.Gall. 1933–5 Trans. Dmf. & Gall. Antiq. Soc. 264:
Various small fish which I only know by local names, such as “Miller's Thumbs”, “Tams,” and “Cadalick.”

3. A bite, a morsel of food. Cf. Eng. dial. or soldiers' slang tom(my), id., army bread. Comb. Tam Gray, see quot. For knotty tam, see Knot.Rxb. 1913 N.E.D.:
A hunk of grey bread distributed at Minto House, as part of a Hogmanay gift to the village children, used to be called Tam Gray.
Ork. 1930:
“Never a tam got I,” said in reply to a query whether food had been offered.

4. Combs. and phrs.: (1) chitterin Tam, potted head (Ayr. 1972). Cf. (20) (i); (2) gabblin' Tam, the willow-warbler, Phylloscopus trochilus (Ayr. 1929 Paton and Pike Birds Ayr. 58); (3) Tam Faups, a name given to the single-soled shoes formerly manufactured in Selkirk, said to be so-called from the first maker, Tam of Fawhope in Ettrick (Slk. a.1838 Jam. MSS. XI. 183); (4) Tam Gray, see 3. above; (5) Tam McLellan(d), a jocular name for spirits, from the firm of McLelland, formerly distillers at Wigtown (Wgt. 1929); (6) tom-noddy, the puffin, Fratercula arctica (Ork. 1771 T. Pennant Tour 1769 36). See Tammie, 5. (12); (7) Tam o' cheeks, id. (Sc. 1911 S.D.D.). See Tammie, 5. (4); (8) Tom o' norrie, -y, id. See Tammie, 5. (15); (9) Tam o' Reekie, see Tammie, 5. (17); (10) Tam o' Shanter, a man's round flat-crowned broad woollen bonnet, freq. with a pompom on top, once reg. worn by the Scottish peasantry and given this name from the hero of Burns's Tam o' Shanter who is described as wearing such a cap, a Kilmarnock bonnet; later applied to a kind of beret worn by women and girls. Orig. used attrib. with bonnet; A similar khaki bonnet worn, from c. 1915, by other ranks in Scottish regiments, often known as a TOS [ti-o-′εs]. Also fig. Gen.Sc. See also Tammie; (11) Tam o' tae end, a large kind of haggis. Cf. 1.; now referring only to the skin in which a haggis is stuffed (sm.Sc. 1972); (12) Tam Park, a small drinking-glass. The origin of the name is not traced; (13) tam-plain, adj., frank, candid; (14) tam-taigle, a hobble tying the fore and hindleg of a horse or cow together to prevent it straying (Lnk. 1825 Jam.). See Taigle; (15) tam-taileor, -tealyir, tom-, the water-spider, Argyroneta aquatica (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Also in Cmb. dial.; (16) Tam-the-Bam, General term for a daft person, whose first name is not necessarily Tam; (17) Tam-thoom, (i) the wood-wren, Phylloscopus sibilatrix (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); (ii) the willow warbler, Phylloscopus trochilus (Rxb. 1885 C. Swainson Brit. Birds 26, ‡1923 Watson W.-B.); (18) Tam-tit, = (17) (i) (Watson); = (17) (ii) (Lnk. 1950 Scottish Field (Oct.) 17, Lnk. 1972); (19) Tam-tram, in phr. to play tam-tram, to play fast and loose (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 190). Cf. obs. Eng. Tom-Tram, a buffoon, jester; (20) tam-trot(t), a kind of toffee (Rxb. 1825 Jam., ‡1923 Watson W.-B.), also in n.Eng. dial. Comb. tam-trot join, a social gathering of young people to make and eat toffee (Rxb. c.1850 Watson W.-B.). Cf. Taffee; (21) trimmlin' Tam, (i) potted head (Ayr. 1880; Ags., Per., Lnk. 1972); (ii) a sweet jelly (em. and wm.Sc. 1972); (22) tumblin Tam, see Tummle. For nickie-tam, souple Tam, see Nickie-tam, Souple.(1) Lnk. 1895 W. Stewart Lilts 209:
A big feed o' champit tatties, mashed turnips an' chitterin' tam.
(10) Clc. 1848 Sc. Jnl. Topography II. 273:
A “Tam o' Shanter” bonnet, wi a red tap.
Abd. 1881 Bon-Accord (19 May) 12:
Tam O' Shanters — Saxony, Cheviot, and Knitted. Special Colours knitted to order.
Fif. 1894 J. W. M'Laren Tibbie and Tam 80:
Big Tam o' Shanter, sleeved waistcoat.
Ags. 1921 A. S. Neill Carroty Broon i.:
I like ye wi' that reid tam-o'-shanter on, Liz.
Ayr. 1951 Stat. Acc.3 485:
Glengarries, balmorals, tam o' shanters, balaclavas and berets.
Sc. 1988 Times 7 Nov :
In some ways he was a cartoon Scot. He routinely wore a kilt, tam-o-shanter and arty waistcoat, liked a dram two if possible and had a chunky pipe permanently clamped between his back teeth.
Cai. 1992 James Miller A Fine White Stoor 187:
But does he see a horrible sicht, some twisted, deformed craitur wi green een and slevvers running fae a bloody jaw, some further depth o Hades as black as the Earl o Hell's waistcoat, is Auld Nick there himself hotching on the pipes wi maybe a wee tam o'shanter on his heid atween the twa horns?
Sc. 1995 Guardian 12 Jan 4:
To top it off, he would wear a tam-o'-shanter set at a rakish angle across his mop of white hair.
Sc. 2003 Scotsman 26 Sep 9:
There were three types of leader at the SNP conference in Inverness yesterday: the former leader, the would-be future leader, and the current leader, upon whose head the Big Tam o' Shanter sits uneasy.
(11) Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 445:
Tam-o'-tae-end, the prince of the pudding tribe, the haggis being king. It hath but one open end, hence the name Tam of the one end.
(12) Slk. 1817 Hogg Tales (1874) 154:
That's naething but a Tam Park o' a glass: if ye'll fill it again, I'll gie ye a toast ye never heard afore.
(13) Kcb. 1828 W. McDowall Poems 70:
Now to be tam-plain, I dissent from R — n.
(16) Gsw. 1962 Bill McGhee Cut and Run 121:
'Dead loss, Bill,' he groaned. 'Wan three pair for fifteen bob, an' that sody-heided mug Tam-the-Bam loast it on the next toss.'
Gsw. 1985 Michael Munro The Patter 9:
bampot This is often shortened to bam, and any eccentric named Thomas risked being dubbed 'Tam the Bam.'
Edb. 1992:
You don't necessarily have to be called Tam to earn the appellation 'Tam the Bam'.
Sc. 1993 Herald 2 July 16:
Students of rough cricket might be interested in a charity match at Drumpellier in Coatbridge on Sunday afternoon when Tam the Bam from the Diary makes a very belated debut with the bat.
Sc. 1995 Scotsman 25 Jan 13:
Tam Dalyell, the MP for Linlithgow, is the doyen of parliamentary awkwardness. As infuriating as he is single-minded; as irritating as he is honourable, Tam the Bam, as he's known to many of his colleagues, is a one-man riposte to the Nolan committee.
(20) Rxb. 1825 R. Wilson Hist. Hawick 192:
The poorest wretch who exposes for sale, on a wheel-barrow or an empty cask, a few fish-hooks, or thimbles, or sticks of tam-trot.
Rxb. 1874 Trans. Hawick Arch. Soc. 211:
Their wares of gingerbread, tam trott, and clagam.
Rxb. 1909 Trans. Hawick Arch. Soc. 78:
Taffy-shines, or, as they were locally called, “Tam Trot joins.”
(21) (i) Fif. 1938 St Andrews Cit. (29 Jan.) 314:
Roast beef an' tawties, veal an' ham, Wi' butter'd fardles, tremblin' tam.
(ii) Abd. 1922 G. P. Dunbar Whiff o' Doric 15:
Neist rich plum duff an' aipple tairt, An' “trumlin' tam” sae sweetly ser't.
s.Sc. 1933 Border Mag. (March) 36:
“Trimlin' Tam,” braw sweetie cookies.

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"Tam prop. n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jul 2024 <>



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