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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1960 (SND Vol. V). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

KETTLE, n. Also kittle; kyettle (Sh. 1957 New Shetlander No. 45. 8). Sc. forms and usages:

1. A large pot or cooking vessel (Sh. 1953 Manson's Almanac 121, Sh. 1959). Obsol. in Eng.; †specif. in Sh. the cooking pot used on a rowing boat.Edb. 1798 in D. Crawford Poems 47:
I thought I'd rung a better [tune] frae A paritch kettle.
Sc. 1821 Scott Pirate xi.:
Triptolemus . . . threw himself upon the good cheer, like Sancho on the scum of Camacho's kettle.
Slk. 1835 Hogg Tales III. 223:
Plunge him wi' his heels upmost into the hottest kittle o' boiling brimstone thou canst find.
Sh. 1871 R. Cowie Shetland 225:
They frequently carry large open kettles [in sixerns], in which they light peat fires.
Sh. 1931 Shetland Times (14 March) 7:
Sinnie o' Saandvoe . . . burnt hir fit athin' a kettle o' haet krappin'.
Sh. 1956 U. Venables Life in Shet. ix.:
Boiling abun the fire in a muckle three-taed kettle.

Combs.: (1) kettle-bellied, having a large, protuberant belly, pot-bellied (Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.; Cai.7, Wgt. 1959); (2) kettle-boiler, also kettle biler. Derogatory term for a house-husband;(3) kettle-brod, a wooden pot-lid (Sh., mn., sn.Sc. 1959); (4) kettle-corner-steen, the first stone laid in building a chimney-head (Ork. 1929 Marw.); (5) kettle-hole, a pot-hole in a bog; (6) kettle-krook, the hook on which the kettle is hung over the fire (Cai. 1959). See Cruik; (7) kettle-pan, a vessel for cooking; ‡(8) kettle-pot, a pot without feet or legs (Mry., Kcd. 1959); (9) kettle sorra, see quot. and Sorra; (10) pottage kettle, a porridge pot (Kcd. 1911). See Pottage.(2)Dundee 1986 David A. MacMurchie I Remember Another Princes Street! 18:
This system persisted in Dundee, that is, work for women but little for men, and gave rise to the charge that Dundee men were 'kettle-boilers' - a grave libel!
Dundee 1980s:
Her man's a kettle biler.
Dundee 1998 Scots Tung Wittins Spring :
Kettle-biler = a byenem gien tae the men o Dundee. No lang syne, maist o the weemin wirkit in the jute mills an the men wirkit in the docks, the Caledon shipyaird or in ither heavy ingineerin wark. Noo the men wisna sweir tae gaun on strike an, wi maist o thair weemin-fowk wirkin in the mills, thai cuid afford tae bide oot a guid while langer nor men fae ither airts. Sae, excepp whan thare wis a fitba match on, thai juist bid in the hoose an biled the kettle tae hae the wife's tea on the table for her comin hame fae the mill. We'r no sayin thai wur aw tarred wi the ae brush but, thare maun hae been a wheen o thaim for the byenem tae stick.
Dundee 1999 T. M. Devine The Scottish Nation 1700-2000 533:
Dundee had a reputation as a 'women's town', where women not in paid employment were regarded as lazy and the men who remained at home were referred to as 'kettle boilers' who prepared the meals.
Dundee 1999 Sunday Times 3 Oct :
For 100 years until the mid-1900s, women outnumbered men in the city's population. More women worked in Dundee than in any other city, eight out of 10 of them in the mills. Their labour was cheap, relative to male rates - though many men dismissed it as women's work. While the girls headed out for their gruelling shifts, the men fought to find jobs. Husbands who failed stayed at home, earning the sobriquet "kettle bilers".
Dundee 2002 Sunday Times 6 Oct 7:
Shift the scene to an overpopulated tenement in jute-manufacturing Dundee. Women work in the jute mills and the men become known as stay-at-home "kettle bilers".
(3) Sh. 11931 Manson's Almanac 189:
We span da kettle brod an' da laek o' dat.
(4) Mry. 1959 Bulletin (14 March) 7:
The sedgy tussocks at the kettle holes.
(5) Cai. 1724 Old-Lore Misc. II. ii. 114:
[She] ties the end of the thread to the kettle-krook, takes hold of the kettle-krook with her own hand and crosses the fire three or four times.
(7) Edb. 1791 J. Learmont Poems 198:
Or whare the steghin' gluttons nauseous dwell, An' mak their wames the kettle-pans o' h—ll.
(9) Abd. 1956:
Kettle sorra is skirlie. Melt fat in a pan and fry onions (sliced), stir in oatmeal, keeping lid off pan.

2. Fig. A contemptuous name for a church bell.Per. 1883 R. Cleland Inchbracken 96:
Every little gathering of impudent seceder bodies is to hang up its kettle and deave the whole parish, whenever it wishes to say its prayers.

3. Specif.: a river-side picnic, esp. on the banks of the Tweed, the special feature of which was salmon caught and boiled on the spot (Lth., Bwk. 1959). Freq. in phrs. a kettle of fish, — of salmon. Now adopted fig. in Eng.Bwk. 1756 G. Ridpath Diary (S.H.S.) 88:
They had been at a kettle of salmon at Seyth's.
Bwk. 1772 Weekly Mag. (3 Sept.) 306:
Ise tak ye up Tweed's bonnie side Before ye settle, And shew you there the fisher's pride, A Sa'mon-kettle.
Sc. 1824 Scott St Ronan's W. xii.:
The whole company go to the water-side to-day to eat a kettle of fish.
Bwk. 1896 Bwk. Jnl. (2 July) 8:
A Tweedside kettle is after the fashion of an up-river picnic, but it has its own peculiar characteristics.

4. A cylindrical or barrel-shaped vessel of wood or iron, used to raise and lower materials and men during the sinking of a pit (Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Sc. Mining Terms 40; Edb.6 1944). Comb. pit kettle, id.Lnk. 1864 St Andrews Gazette (6 Aug.):
By means of a pit kettle a descent was made into the pit.
Sc. 1894 Labour Commission Gl.:
Kettle, a Scotch mining term for the basket or kibble which takes the place of a cage in shafts not provided with “guides” . . . It is like a half-barrel attached to a winding-rope.

5. The game of hop-scotch (Inv. 1959). Also in dim. forms kettlie (Rs. a.1910; Inv. c.1930) and kittlety, the name of the fourth square in the game.Ags. c.1850 A. Reid Regality of Kirriemuir (1909) 400:
The pavement or ground was marked off so: . . . the divisions being termed “Firsty, secondy, thirdy; kittlety, dum scum; Palaly, A' the Warld.”

[O.Sc. kettil(l), a boiling-pot, 15th c., a Tweedside picnic, 1670.]

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"Kettle n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 23 Feb 2024 <>



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