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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1941 (SND Vol. II).

CAT, n.3, v.2

1. n. ‡(1) “A handful of straw, with or without corn upon it, or of reaped grain, laid on the ground without being put into a sheaf” (Dmf., Rxb. 1825 Jam.2; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., obsol.).Rxb. 1821 A. Scott Poems 27:
Now some mak bands, some cast in cats, Some wi' their heuks they snod.

‡(2) A handful of straw, mixed with soft clay, used in building mud walls. The bundles were placed between the laths and the walls, or between the wooden posts used in constructing the walls. The word is most commonly used in the phr. cat and clay. Mostly attrib. Given as obsol. by Watson (1923) in Rxb. W.-B.Sc. 1756 Mrs Calderwood Journey (Maitland Club 1842) 112:
It [the cottage] was very clean, and laid with coarse flags on the floor, but built of timber stoops, and what we call cat and clay walls.
Bwk. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XIV. 8:
An outer house or kitchen made up of cat and clay.
Rxb. 1909 Trans. Hawick Arch. Soc. 78:
In the hamlet of Deanburnhaugh sixty years ago there were twenty-one chimneys, constructed on what is known as the “cat and clay” principle; that is, a wisp of straw mixed with clay, was laid upon a super-structure of wood fastened to the wall, each side about three feet long, the centre piece being about 3½ feet, and on that was laid the pieces of straw and clay, tier upon tier, gradually narrowing until the top was reached.
Uls.2 1929:
Cat and clay: applied to the walls of a building formed of wicker-work plastered with clay inside and out.

2. v. “To build or construct (a house, etc.) by the ‘cat and clay' method” (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., obs.); of a chimney: “to inclose a vent by the process called Cat and Clay” (Teviotd. 1825 Jam.2), see Rxb. quot. under n. (2) above. The adj. catted is also used in this sense in American Eng. (see D.A.E.).

[O.Sc. has cat with meaning (2), usually in phr. cat and clay, earliest date 1561–1562. The v. is also found 1667; but the vbl.n. catting is earlier than either n. or v., 1532 (see D.O.S.T.). The origin of cat is obscure. Jamieson has suggested Ket, n.2, q.v., which may mean either couch-grass or a spongy kind of peat. Either of these may have been used in the original cat and clay bundles.]

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"Cat n.3, v.2". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 May 2022 <http://www.dsl.ac.uk/entry/snd/cat_n3_v2>

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