Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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BITTLE, BEETLE, BEATLE, BITTIL, BITEL, n.1 and v. [bɪtl, bitl]

1. n. Bittle is the most common form in m. and s.Sc. for Eng. beetle, n. and v. The form beetle is illustrated only where the meaning is exclusively Sc. [bɪtl m. and s.Sc. + bitl; bitl n.Sc.]

(1) A pestle-shaped mallet or pounder for kitchen use, for bruising barley, mashing potatoes, etc. Sc. 1737  Ramsay Proverbs 28:
He that gi'es a' his Gear to his Bairns Take up a Bittle and ding out his Harns.
Sc. 1821  Scott Pirate I. vi.:
“Aroint ye, ye limmer,” she added, — “out of an honest house, or, shame fa' me, but I'll take the bittle to you!”
Dmf. 1925  W. A. Scott Vern. of Mid-Nithsdale in Trans. Dmf. and Gall. Antiq. Soc. 17:
Bitel, wood mallet for champing potatoes.

(2) A flat or round piece of wood used by dyers or by washerwomen to beat clothes. Sc. 1834  Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) IV. 91:
You micht as weel . . . hae bate the kitchen-dresser wi' the lint-beetle.
Sc. 1861  E. B. Ramsay Reminisc. (Second Ser.) 164:
I thought, when I read the petition, that the Beetle or Bittle had been the thing that the women have when they are washing towels or napery . . . things for dadding them with.

(3) Transferred to mean a foot or leg. Lnk. 1893  J. Crawford Sc. Verses and Sangs 11:
Jist a wee kennin' boo'd in the bittles.

Phr.: riding (on) the beetle. (See quot.) Gall. 1824  Auld Sang in
MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 409:
Those who are on foot, or shanks naigie, with a party on horseback, are said to be riding the beetle. “War ye at the fair, saw ye mony people, Saw ye our gude man riding on the beetle?”

(4) A beating, pounding. Edb. 1822  R. Wilson Poems 41:
An' wadna care a spittle, To gie their maister's nose a dight, An' eke his banes a bittle, For that this day.

2. v.

(1) To beat, to pound barley or corn. e.Lth. 1883  J. Martine Reminisc. Royal Burgh Haddington 353:
The ancient custom of “bittling” sheaves and singles on a hard floor or a doorstep.

(2) To beat linen, clothes, etc. Lth. 1825  Jam.2:
To Bittle, Bittil. To beat with a beetle; as, to bittle lint, to bittle singles, to beat flax, to beat it in handfuls.
Edb. 1872  J. Smith Jenny Blair's Maunderings (1881) 49:
Ane o' the warriors cloured him owre the head twa-three times wi' his baton, like a wife bittlin' claes.
Ayr. 1821  Galt Ann. Parish xxxii.:
Often could I have found it in my heart . . . to tell Mrs Balwhidder, that the married state was made for something else than to make napery, and bittle blankets.
Rxb.(D) 1927  E. C. Smith Braid Haaick 5:
A've been oot bittlin thae rugs; thay war fair stoor's sel.

Comb.: bittling-stane, beetlin' stone, the stone on which clothes were “beetled.” Sc. 1838  H. S. Riddell in Chambers's Jnl. 1st Ser. VII. 24:
He set himsel' down on our auld bittling-stane.
Abd.(D) 1871  W. Alexander Johnny Gibb iii.:
Tam . . . was seated on the big “beetlin'” stone by the door cheek.

(3) To thrash, to pound. Edb. 1876  J. Smith Archie and Bess 17:
That preached an' prayed at nicht an' beetled his wife in the mornin'.
Edb. 1915  T. W. Paterson Auld Saws 101:
See them bittlin ane anither, Birzin for a place.
centr.–w.Rxb. 1923  Watson W.-B.:
Bittle. To trounce (a person).

Hence beatlin, vbl.n., a thrashing. Kcb. 1914  W. A. Stark W.-L.:
She gied him a beatlin.

(4) (See quots.) Fif. 1934 1 ;
8 :
Beetle-aff, be off.
Rxb. 1923  Watson W.-B.:
Bittle. Also beetle (n.). To run with speed or vigour: “An ran as hard as A could bittle.”
[See 1 (3) above. Cf. colloq. Eng. foot it, leg it.]

[The ancestor of the beetle form is O.North. *bētel (W.S. bīetel, from bēatan, to beat). In the pl. W.S. bītlas the ī was shortened to before two consonants and this explains the Eng. and Sc. dial. bittle. The corresponding short form of bētel is represented in Sc. by Bettle, a stroke.]

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"Bittle n.1, v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 15 Dec 2017 <http://www.dsl.ac.uk/entry/snd/bittle_n1_v>

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