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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1974 (SND Vol. IX). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

TANGS, Also †toaings (Ags. 1712 A. Jervise Land of Lindsays (1882) 426); taings (Abd. 1825 Jam.; Ags. 1894 J. B. Salmond My Man Sandy (1899) 39, Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 271, Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Fif. 1926 Wilson Cent. Scot. 271; Abd. 1972), tengs (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.), tings (Dmf. 1894 Trans. Dmf. & Gall. Antiq. Soc. 157, Lth. 1926 Wilson Cent. Scot. 271; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Rxb. 1942 Zai); teengs (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Sh., Ork. 1972); teang-; teings (Watson); Fif. 1926 Wilson Cent. Scot. 271); tyangs (Abd. 1905 Banffshire Jnl. (28 March) 13, Abd. 1972); tyangses. Sc. forms and usages of Eng. tongs. [tɑŋz, teŋz, Abd. + tjɑŋz, s.Sc. t(ə)ɪŋz, I.Sc. tiŋz. See P.L.D. §§ 48. (1), 48.1., 107, 141.1., 164.1. and note.]

1. As in Eng. In Sc. the word is freq. construed as a sing. To take an oath on a pair of tongs confirmed its solemnity, hence their use in marriage ceremonies (see 1893 quot.) and to step over tongs was considered unlucky (see 1820 quot.).Rnf. 1708 Caldwell Papers (M.C.) I. 216:
I must also have a tangs and shovel.
Sc. 1718 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 75:
Her Aunt a Pair of Tangs fush in.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 12:
A burning coal with the hett tangs was ta'en An' thro' the corsy-belly letten fa', For fear the wean should be ta'en awa'.
Ayr. 1796 Burns To Col. De Peyster vi.:
Like a sheep-head on a tangs.
m.Lth. 1812 P. Forbes Poems 42:
My curling tings, an' several things.
Sc. 1821 Scott Pirate v.:
When you want a day's wark out of them — they have stepped ower the tangs or they have met an uncanny body, and then there's nought to be done that day.
Bwk. 1876 W. Brockie Confessional 184:
She'll cleek up the tings an' fell the puir dowg.
Uls. 1879 W. G. Lyttle Readings 34:
I tuk up the tangs an' begood to poke amang the greesugh.
Ags. 1889 Barrie W. in Thrums xiv.:
They'll hae but one set o' bedroom fire-irons. The tangs 'll be in anither room.
Sh. 1891 J. Burgess Rasmie's Büddie 7:
He lifts a haet coll withoot takin da tengs.
Kcb. 1893 Crockett Raiders xvi.:
If ye want the bit lass, afore Hector Faa's minnie ties him an' her up ower the tangs.
Ork. 1908 Old-Lore Misc. I. v. 163:
Small cakes of bere meal and water were squeezed between the heated flat points of the teengs.
Abd. 1929 J. Alexander Mains & Hilly 181:
The first time the coo wis latten oot it wis gart gyang owre the tyangs wi' a quile o' fire lyin' on't.
Kcb.10 1955:
I heard of an aith on the tings as lately as 20 years ago. It was a matter of paternity.
Abd. 1995 Flora Garry Collected Poems 38:
Pokers an tyangses in hullicks
An toasters hung up on the waa, ...

2. Combs. and Phrs.: (1) erntings, a pair of iron tongs (see Airn); (2) tangs-legs, teanglegg, an epithet for a person with long thin legs; (3) taings o fire, as much burning peat or coal as can be lifted with a pair of tongs, freq. used as an improvised torch (Sh. 1972); (4) to be made o' the tangs, to be insensitive, thick-skinned or hard-hearted, “made of cast-iron”; (5) to find (something) where the Hielandman fand the tangs, i.e. at the fireside, hence implying to take something from where it rightfully belongs and appropriate it, to steal (Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 192); (6) to get abune the tangs, to escape from poverty. See Pree, v.1, 1. (3) (iii); (7) to send (someone) ben to the tangs, to put one in his place, to settle one's business; (8) to wauk the taengs, to sit up all night. See Wauk, v.1(1) Slk. 1818 Hogg Tales (1874) 234:
It widna be lang till I saw her carrying you out like a taed in the erntings.
(2) Sc. 1822 Carlyle Letters (Norton) II. 30:
Be of good cheer, benighted Teanglegg, day will dawn upon thee.
Dmf. 1905 J. L. Waugh Thornhill 149:
Lay it doon, tangs-legs.
(3) Sh. 1877 G. Stewart Fireside Tales 44:
Axin' fir a taings o' fire some mornin'.
(4) Edb. 1882 J. Smith Canty Jock 7:
I'm no made o' the tangs ony mair than my neebours.
(5) Sc. 1736 Ramsay Proverbs (1776) 81:
Ye fand it where the Highland-man fand the tangs.
Sc. 1818 Scott Donald Caird iv.:
Donald Caird finds orra things Where Allan Gregor fand the tings.
Lth. 1920 A. Dodds Songs 26:
Where the grey mare foaled the fiddler, And the Hielandman fand the tings.
(6) Gsw. 1860 J. Young Poorhouse Lays 39:
When ance in poortith's fangs, It's hard tae get aboon the tangs.
(7) Lnk. 1853 W. Watson Poems (1877) 120:
Aye, that sen's ye ben to the tangs for a wee, Ye hinnie made muckle by meddling wi' me.
(8) Abd. 1881 W. Paul Past & Present 123:
“Ye've surely been up a' nicht waukin' the taengs,” in allusion to the lyke wake which was customary in those times.

[O.Sc. taingeis, 1478, tangis, 1489. The form tangs is the reg. development of O.E. tang(e), corresp. to Eng. tongs; the forms taings, tengs, tings presuppose a lengthened vowel form tāng, corresponding, with later shortenings, to n.Eng. dial. tengs. Cf. Sc. lang, long, and the surname Laing, Leng.]

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"Tangs n. pl.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 13 Apr 2024 <>



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