Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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CAFF, CAUF, CAUFF, Cawf, Calf, Kaff, n. Chaff; the outer husks of oats or other cereals, separated from the grain by winnowing, much used as a filling for bedmattresses. A familiar old Edinburgh cry was “Cauff for beds!” The form kaff is found in Sh., Ork. and Cai. Also used attrib. Gen.Sc. [kɑf Sc., but m.Sc. + k(:)f] Sc. 1728 Ramsay Poems II. 94:
For you I labour'd Night and Day . . . For you on stinking Caff I lay And Blankets thin.
Sc. 1874 A. Hislop Sc. Anecdotes 95:
No, mem. Pigs are only for gentlefolks that lie on feather beds; I sleep on cauf, with my neighbour lass.
ne.Sc. 1884 D. Grant Lays and Leg. of the North (1908) 109:
Scatterin' foes o' a' description, Just as win' wad scatter cawf.
Hdg. 1885 “S. Mucklebackit” Rural Rhymes, etc. 26:
Folk hae nae mind, when barns are bleezin' Tae riddle caff!
Ayr. 1787 Burns Address to the Unco Guid (Cent. ed.) ll. 5–6:
The cleanest corn that e'er was dight May hae some pyles o' caff in.
e.Dmf. 1912 J. and R. Hyslop Langholm as it was 636:
When the beds had received their annual replenishment of new, clean “cauff,” a chair was frequently required before one could mount into them!

Proverbial uses: 1. caff and draff is gude eneugh for aivers (Sc. 1862 A. Hislop Proverbs 42), “coarse meat may serve people of coarse conditions” (Kelly (1818)); 2. every Land has its laugh, and every Corn its ain Caff (Sc. 1737 Ramsay Proverbs 17), nothing is perfect, there are faults in everything; 3. King's Caff is worth other Fowk's Corn (Sc. 1737 Ramsay Proverbs 42), “the perquisites that attend kings service is better than the wages of other persons” (Kelly); known to Abd.2 1938; 4. “ower aul' a hen tae be trystit ben the barn wi' caff” (Abd.4 1928), too experienced to be deceived by mere show; cf. Eng. too old a bird to be caught with chaff.

Combs.: 1. caff-bed, cauf —, “a bed-tick filled with chaff” (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); Gen.Sc.; 2. caff-hoose, cauf-, a compartment connected with a corn-threshing machine, which receives the chaff as it leaves the fanners of the winnower (Cai.7, Bnff.2, Abd.2, Ags.17, Fif.10, Kcb.9 1938); 3. calf-pyle, a palea (husk) of chaff. 1. Mry. 1830 T. D. Lauder Moray Floods (1873) 100:
There was a cauf bed and some claes there, and that keepit huz some warm.
2. n.Sc. 1931 A.K. in Abd. Press and Jnl. (5 Dec.):
The initiation of the halflin into the mysteries of the craft and of the “horseman's word” in the cauf-hoose was merely the foundation of a liberal education.
3. Ags. 1826 Bass Drama of John o' Arnha' 32:
I've nae mair brains than a calf-pyle.

[O.Sc. caf(f), calf, cauf (D.O.S.T.), n.Mid.Eng. caf, caffe, O.North. *cæf; O.E. ceaf, cogn. M.L.Ger. and Mid.Du. kaf, chaff, prob. from a Gmc. root kef-, meaning “to gnaw.”]

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"Caff n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 25 Jun 2021 <>



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