Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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ROW-CHOW, v., adj., n. [′rʌu′tʃʌu]

I. v. To roll, to tumble, esp. in the play of children (Per., Slg., w.Lth., wm.Sc., Kcb. 1968). Lnk. 1924  Bellshill Speaker (14 Nov.):
Whaur doon the bankin' we row-chowed.
Lnk. 1925  Stirling Observer (29 Sept.):
Frae morn till nicht he'll lauch an' greet, he'll row-chow an' he'll fa'.

II. adj. Rolling, revolving; mixed up, tangled, in confusion (Slg. 1947: wm.Sc., Kcb. 1968). Sc. 1884  Scottish Reader (21 June) 39:
It whummlet ower an' into a series o' row-chow kind o' circumvolutions.
wm.Sc. 1947 1 :
Don't leave the drawer all row-chow.

III. n. A child's game of rolling down a slope. Lnl. 1880  T. Orrock Fortha's Lyrics 269:
I climbed its green steeps, played at “row-chow” doon.

Hence comb.: row-chow-tobacco, -tabaca, 1. a game in which a chain of boys with joined hands coil round a large boy called the pin, and then sway to and fro shouting the name of the game until all fall in a noisy heap (Rxb. 1825 Jam., 1923 Watson W.-B.; Per., Fif., wm.Sc., Kcb. 1968). Also in forms row-chow-the-bacca-(wheel) (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.), rowity-chow-o-tobacco, rowity-chowity-bacco (w.Sc. 1880 Jam.; Bwk. 1968); 2. a rolling game played by boys (see quot.). 1. Rxb. 1908  Trans. Hawick Arch. Soc. 74:
A rather rough game was popular at that time [c.1840] entitled “Row, chow, the bacca wheel.” The biggest boy formed a pivot, around whom the other boys, with joined hands, wound themselves till all were in a compact mass. They then swayed backward and forward in all directions till they fell on the street in a promiscuous heap with noisy mirth.
2. Rnf. a.1850  Crawfurd MSS. (.N.L.S.) R.55:
Row-chow-tabaca, another game under this name — amang callans — They mount to the tap of a know, or a smooth brae — lying down flat, — clapping their arms close to their sides, and then rolling down to the bottom of the brae.

[From Row, v.1, + chow, mainly assonantal, but also conflated with Chow, v., n.1, and poss. Chow, n.2]

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"Row-chow v., adj., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 19 Mar 2018 <>



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