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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1968 (SND Vol. VII).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

POOSK, v., n. Also pusk, pisk (Jak.); peesk.

I. v. 1. To pick around looking for something, to search or hunt for something (Sh. 1968), to pick or collect something (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl.), specif. to search for or pick off vermin (Sh. a.1838 Jam. MSS. XII. 177, 1866 Edm. Gl., 1908 Jak. (1928)); to pilfer (Sh. 1966). Phr. to poosk girs, to practise a divination rite in which a search is made for traces of human hair in a handful of grass plucked at random (see 1943 quot.).Sh. 1943 M. M. Banks Cal. Customs Scot. IV. 62:
Divination by a hair in grass, “puskin girs”. Another custom at Johnsmas was to pull a handful of grass and examine it carefully to see whether hair was among the grass, if so the colour of the hair would indicate the colour of the sweetheart's hair, or rather the colour of one's life-partner's hair.
Sh. 1950 New Shetlander No. 22. 47:
Dan a sunbeam peeskin' slowly, Fan da peerie grub sae tender.

2. To move around doing odd jobs, to fidget about in an aimless way, to drift around, “to be busy with trifles in a house” (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928), Sh. 1966).Jak.:
To geng puskin aboot de hus.
Sh. 1949 J. Gray Lowrie 82:
Shu reissled da bed ta da waa dan puued him straight, pooskit in aboot da bedspread, an axed me if I wis comfortable.

3. Of the wind: to blow in gusts of increasing violence, to freshen up (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928)). Vbl.n. puskin, a strong gale, a tempestuous wind (Ib.); deriv. pusker, a storm, a spell of bad weather (Ib., Sh. 1966).Jak.:
He is puskin him op, it is blowing up in gusts. He is comin' (wi) a pusker frae de nor'-east.

II. n. A state of excitement or fidgets, a hurry, a confused rush or bustle (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928), pusk). Deriv. peeskie, n., a little spurt of speed, an ostentatious display of haste, a bustle (Cai.91939).Jak.:
To be in a pusk, to be excited, to rush away headlong.

[Orig. somewhat doubtful. Several Scand. words seem to have been confused both in form and meaning, as Norw. dial. p(j)uske, to pick, pluck, pilfer, piska, to whip, whisk, to beat, batter, of wind, Faer. piska, to peck, preen, of a bird, pilfer, and the semantic development is not clear.]

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"Poosk v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 18 Jul 2024 <>



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