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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1968 (SND Vol. VII). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.

PLOWTER, v., n. Also plout(t)er, ploughter, plyowter, ‡peowter, pyowter; pl(l)euter, plewter, plooter, plu(i)t(t)er, plutter, and metathetic form pulter (Ork.); and with variant diphthong (esp. in ne.Sc.) pl(e)iter, pl(e)yter, plighter, plither, ploit(t)er. [Sc. ′plʌutər, m.Sc. ′plut-, ′pløt-, ′plɪt; ne.Sc. + ′pləit-, Ork. ′pult-]

I. v. 1. intr. (1) To dabble with the hands or feet, gen. in a liquid, to splash aimlessly in mud or water, to wade messily through wet ground (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 129, plleuter; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., plouter; Ork. 1929 Marw., pulter); “to walk feebly” (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928)). Gen.Sc.Sc. 1826 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1863) I. 234:
Plouterin in the dubs, or brastlin up the braes.
Sc. 1833 M. Scott T. Cringle's Log xvii.:
I found a score of Crusanos, all ploutering in the water, puffing and blowing and shouting.
Ags. 1840 G. Webster Ingliston xxix.:
She plowtered aye and wuish at a pickle claise as she could get them.
Abd. 1874 W. Scott Dowie Nicht 37:
The auld boy's plyouterin throw the slush an snaw, an a'm feart he gets his deed o' caul.
Cai. 1909 D. Houston 'E Silkie Man 8:
Plowteran' awa' 'mang 'e ebb steins, makan' straicht for 'e mooth 'e cave.
Dmf. 1912 J. L. Waugh Cracks wi' R. Doo i.:
[He] as a boy, ploitered diligently amang my lime.
Arg. 1914 N. Munro New Road xxix.:
Drimdorran looked uneasy, plowtering with his ladle in the glass that tinkled to his shaking.
Ags. 1920 A. Gray Songs from Heine 69:
What ploiters aboot in the water sac late?
Rxb. 1925 E. C. Smith Mang Howes 7:
The flichterin burdies daibbelt an dookeet; an A fair ill-wulled thum o ther plowtereen an ther swattereen.
Kcd. 1932 L. G. Gibbon Sunset Song 26:
Old Sinclair had gone pleitering out to the byres.
m.Sc. 1947 Scots Mag. (May) 141:
I'm real pleased to tak' my rod and ploiter awa' up the Docherty on a summer's nicht.
Mry. 1956 Northern Scot (7 April):
Young Kirsty was washin', she did for us baith, She plowtert an' plasht tae her elbuks in graith.
Abd. 1964 Abd. Press & Jnl. (25 July):
Plowtering home over the uneven terrain.
wm.Sc. 1985 Pat Gerber in Alexander Scott New Writing Scotland 3 28:
We ploughter thigh-high through tangled heather clumps to reach the bronze strip of bracken.
Sc. 1991 Roderick Watson in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 103:
Ye micht jalouse he could really see
the waas dung doun at the end o the tale,
ar Achilles' triumph in his gowden cairt
wi michty Hector pleitered in the sharn,
an mebbe he could.

Comb. and deriv.: plouterdeuk, n., a dish made of oatmeal and hot buttermilk (Abd. 1900). See Deuk; plowtery, pl(e)yterie, ploiterie, adj. of the weather or the like: wet, showery, rainy, puddly (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 129, plleutrie); of work: messy, dirty, disagreeable (Ib.).Abd. 1916 G. Abel Wylins 39:
“But min',” said Mains, “the ploitery roads.”
Bnff. 1957 Banffshire Jnl. (14 May):
The winter an' spring hed been pleytery an' caul'.
Abd. 1961 Buchan Observer (21 Feb.):
Wi' the bygane weet an' peowtrie time I was fairly haudden agen wi' the plooin' on yon soor clay lan' o mine.

(2) to work or act in an idle, aimless way, to potter or fiddle about (Per., Fif., Lth. 1915–26 Wilson; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., plouter, pluitter), to idle away time (Watson). Gen.Sc. Ppl.adj. plowterin, ploitterin, feckless, ineffectual, useless, worthless. Deriv. ploiterer, a poor aimless worker.Sc. 1824 Scots Mag. (May) 530:
The body has been plowtering in law-books a' the days o' his life.
Sc. 1832 Tait's Mag. (July) 424:
That . . . pechling, pingin, plouterin, potherin, asthmatical rotten body, Borrowstoun.
Sc. 1836 Michael Scott The Cruise of the Midge II. 243:
... I swam out to the reef, and there plowtering about in the dead water, under the lee of it, enjoyed the most glorious shower-bath from the descending spray, ...
Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 129:
She's a plleuterin', hanless lassie.
Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr. Duguid 286:
I haenae time to byde, but maun awa and plowter in the sun awee mair.
Edb. 1893 W. Stevenson Wee J. Paterson 76:
It disna look weel to see a man plouterin' aboot an' dain' women's wark.
Per. 1895 I. Maclaren Brier Bush 233:
What are ye ploiterin' aboot here for in the weet?
Kcb. 1897 S. R. Crockett Lochinvar xxxviii.:
Plowtering discontentedly in the red embers with a burned stick.
Arg. 1910 N. Munro Fancy Farm 142:
Plowterin' at the garden till their faces are like sodger's coats.
m.Sc. 1946 R. G. Nettell Rum & Green Ginger iii.:
She . . . kept him pluttering about to clean the windows, and wash the damp step in the early morning.
s.Sc. 1947 L. Derwent Clashmaclavers 21:
She never tires, and shows a loud contempt for those who do, referring to them scornfully, as: “Peeliewally ploiterers”.
 m.Sc. 1986 Colin Mackay The Song of the Forest 211:
True, there were no carrots in Scotland - indeed there were none anywhere in Britain - in those days for folk to pleiter with, making a Domhnach Curran, Carrot Sunday, as they would do of a Michaelmas in centuries to come, ...
m.Sc. 1988 William Neill Making Tracks 68:
Yince mair I scouk up tae the auld year's turnin
an luk back skelly on the twalmonth gane,
ma saul a-swither atween joy an shame
that here I pleiter on for aw ma girnin
when better men hae pit thair freens tae murnin.
Per. 1990 Betsy Whyte Red Rowans and Wild Honey (1991) 148:
' ... I had a darlin' wee hoose, wi' a big back green, and a wash-house, and sheds. I could plouter aboot there and keep an animal, and nobody ever bothered me. ... '
Gsw. 1995 Alan Spence Stone Garden (1997) 212:
God bless you. Plowter on, and it helps it definitely helps. At least for a couple of hundred yards.
Abd. 1996 Sheena Blackhall Wittgenstein's Web 5:
The sun wis bleezin hett ower the rigs, as the fairmhauns plytered an tcyauved wi the tractor, finally cowpin it ooto the soss o the bog.

(3) to fumble about, “to rummage or grope in the dark” (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Per., Edb., wm.Sc., Slk. 1966). Cf. Ploocher.

2. tr. (1) To dabble (something) in a liquid, specif. in linen manufacture: to moisten yarn (Ags. 1900).

(2) To make a mess of in working, to spoil by inept or excessive handling or the like, freq. of a piece of land badly cultivated (Sh., Abd. 1966).Dmf. a.1838 Jam. MSS. X. 245:
To pluter a piece of ground, to injure it by ill management, as by over-plowing it. To pluter out the fire, to put it out by too frequent application of the poker.
Mry. 1833 F. Sutherland Memories 20:
Last Tiseday morn I plied my teckle . . . Roon puir auld Lossie's ploutert tide, Whaur huntit troots in terror hide.
Kcb.4 1900:
Superficial tillage by which a farm may be ploitered oot.
Bnff. 1954 Banffshire Jnl. (23 Nov.):
The grun's nae plooed nor latten aleen — jist fair connacht an' blaudit an' pleytert a' throwe ither.
Sc. 1991 T. S. Law in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 31:
that sweels aroond him lik the groo scaum
o the sperflin stoor
as the heavie ammo buits plowter the saund attoore.

II. n. 1. The act of working or walking in wetness or mud, a splashing about; a wet, dirty and disagreeable task or enterprise, a messy job (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 129); a botched or mismanaged job, an exhibition of slovenliness or inefficiency. Gen.Sc.Sc. 1806 R. Jamieson Pop. Ballads I. 294:
For mony a foul weary plouter She'd cost him through gutters and glaur.
Sc. 1829 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1864) II. 180:
Be persuaded . . . before supper is brought ben, to tak a warm bath. . . . Faith, I think I shall tak a plouter.
Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 129:
The plleuter it they hid amo' the water, ga' thim the caul.
Ags. 1891 J. Geddes Valhalla 61:
Keepin' the hoosie clean, canty, an' trig — He had plenty o' ploiter, had Johnnie.
Kcd. 1932 L. G. Gibbon Sunset Song 81:
The weary pleiter of the land and its life while you waited for rain or thaw!
Ags. 1988 Raymond Vettese The Richt Noise 14:
It's aiblins daft, this ploiter o pursuit
owre bitter acres whaur the braith micht freeze, ...

2. A splash, dashing of liquid, plash (Sh., Ags. 1966); a shower of rain. Phr. to play plowter, to go splash.Sc. 1826 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1863) I. 142:
Sometimes playin plouter into a wat place up to the oxters.
Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 129:
A hard like a plleuter amo' the wattir.
Sc. 1893 Stevenson Catriona xiv.:
The sea was extremely little, but there went a hollow plowter round the base of it.
Arg. 1917 A. W. Blue Quay Head Tryst 70:
Gie us a touslie gale or a plooter o' wat.
Sc. 1943 Scots Mag. (Sept.) 437:
The plouter o' the water in the sheuch.

3. A wet, muddy or marshy spot, a bog, mire (Rnf. a.1850 Crawfurd MSS. (N.L.S.) P. 51, pleuter).Bnff. 1934 J. M. Caie Kindly North 59:
I kent on the hill far the burnie first ran, . . . Till tint in a ploiter o' graivel an' san'.
Mry. 1966 Northern Scot (28 May) 6:
Whit richt had they, the sneesty sneuters, And him wi' roads a' glaur and pleuters!

4. A sloppy or sticky mess of food or the like, a hotch-potch (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 129; Sh., ne., em.Sc.(a), Lnk., Gall. 1966). Also in dim. form plleuterie, id. Comb. plowterlowe, id., gen. in phr. to gae a' tae plowterlowe, to become wet and messy, to go into a mush, freq. of overcooked food (‡Abd. 1948), phs. with punning reference to Waterloo. See also Potterlow, id.Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 130:
She didna yse thim verra weel; for she ga' thim bit a plleuterie o' half-bilet neeps.

5. A messy inefficient worker, a muddler, sloven, botcher (Dmf. 1925 Trans. Dmf. & Gall. Antiq. Soc. XIII. 35; Per., Kcb. 1950; Rxb. 1954 Hawick News (18 June) 7; m.Sc. 1966). Cf. Plowster, n., 2.

[Freq. form of Plowt, but cf. also Du. ploeteren, to dabble in water, to drudge.]

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"Plowter v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 27 Jun 2022 <http://www.dsl.ac.uk/entry/snd/plowter>

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