Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)
MOWS, n. Also mowse, mowes; mous(e), mouze; ¶mawse. [mʌuz]
1. A joke, a jest, a laughing matter (ne.Sc. 1963). Used adv. in 1768 quot.
Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 254:
Mows may come to earnest. Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 16:
Nae billie like him sell a' round about. That mows or earnest durst gee him a clout. Bnff. 1787 W. Taylor Poems 63:
I'm come to wooe your Dochter Tib To lie alane is far frae mows. Abd. 1809 J. Skinner Amusements 80:
And gin ye had her a' your ain Ye mightna find it mows to guide her. Bnff. 1847 A. Cumming Tales 45:
She wasna mows. Ags. 1891 Barrie Little Minister viii.:
It's hardly mous to think how uncanny they are. Abd. 1931 Abd. Press & Jnl. (18 Feb.):
Wid it be mowse, think ye, to gang in aboot wi' yon gurly tyke aff the chine?
Phrs.: (1) in mows, in jest, joking; (2) nae mows, no joke, no laughing matter; hence as adj. phr., serious, dangerous, uncanny (ne.Sc., Ags. 1963).
(1) Sc. 1720 A. Pennecuik Helicon 79:
Sae tell me, are ye in mows or earnest? Sc. 1737 Ramsay Proverbs (1776) 10:
Affront your friend in mows, and tine him in earnest. (2) Abd. c.1700 J. Maidment Sc. Ballads (1859) 20:
Wae Aberdeen fat did ye mean, Sae young a lass to woo man; I'm seer to her it is nae mows. Sc. 1725 Ramsay Gentle Shep. i. ii.:
Troth, 'tis nae Mows to be a marry'd Wife. Abd. 1754 R. Forbes Journal 25:
Ye may laugh at me fan ye read this, bat I wat it was na' mows. Ayr. 1790 J. Fisher Poems 63:
To die an be laid i' the till, Indeed's nae mows. Ags. 1841 in J. Paul Up Glenesk (1894) 71:
Should ye refuse, 'twould be nae mowse, 'Twould stain your name. Kcd. 1900 W. MacGillivray Glengoyne I. 171:
Pyets are nae canny beasts, and it's nae mouze middlin' ether wi' them or their nests. Rs. 1949 (Avoch) Gsw. Herald (7 Feb.):
He has “skaff” (mashed potatoes) for his dinner, and if it is bad it is no mous. Abd. 1957 Bon-Accord (24 Jan.) 8:
Weemin are nae mowse.
¶2. An extraordinary feat, a masterpiece.
Ags. 1833 J. S. Sands Poet. Effusions 84:
“My faith,” said James, “this, weel I wot, Is no far frae a mows o' a shot.”
3. From the usages illustrated under 1., the word came to be employed attrib. and construed as an adj. = safe, harmless, prudent, circumspect, respectable (ne.Sc. 1963).
Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 115:
That's nae a mowse ploy it the bairns are at. Abd. 1871 R. Matheson Poems 45:
‘Twas nae a mows disease we took. Abd. 1897 N. Roy Horseman's Word x.:
Wi' this curdooin' that's a' the fashion noo we'll hae to be mawse gaun about the toun. Ags. 1932 Barrie Farewell Miss J. Logan ii.:
The glen folk were too mouse to call the hunted ones Jacobites. Abd. 1955 W. P. Milne Eppie Elrick ii.:
Dinna be fleyt at Mains. He's maybe mowser nur'e lyooks.
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"Mows n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jan 2020 <https://www.dsl.ac.uk/entry/snd/mows>
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