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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1971 (SND Vol. VIII).
This entry has not been updated but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

SPANGHEW, v. Also -hue, -whew, spanhew (Slk. 1825 Jam.), spung-; and with different second element spang wheezle, spanwhig. [spɑŋ′hju, -′hwizl, -′hwɪg]

1. To jerk or catapult violently into the air, specif. applied to a mode of torturing frogs and birds by placing the animal, sometimes tied by the neck, on one end of a board, the other end of which is then sharply struck downwards (Slk. 1825 Jam.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Abd. 1928, spanwhig; wm.Sc. 1931 Glasgow Herald (21 Aug.), spangwheezle; Bwk., Rxb. 1971). Also fig. Hence deriv. spang(ie)-hewit, spung-hewet, n., see 1808 quot. (s.Sc. 1899 Colville 125, spung-hewet), also in reduced form spangie. Ppl.adj. spangwhiggit, used fig. = at one's wit's end, in complete perplexity (Abd. 1948).Sc. 1808 Jam. s.v. Yeldring:
Children hang by the neck all the yellow-hammers they can get hold of. They often take the bare gorbals, or unfledged young, of this bird, and suspend them by a thread tied round the neck to one end of a cross-beam, which has a small [stone] hung from the other. They then suddenly strike down the stone-end, and drive the poor bird into the air. This operation they call ‘Spangiehewit'.
Edb. 1822 R. Wilson Poems 26:
Break our eggs, or kill our young, Wi' cruel spangie owre a rung.
Rxb. 1845 T. Aird Old Bachelor 74:
Harrying and spangwhewing the gorlings of the pretty yellow-hammer.
Ayr. 1890 J. Service Notandums 61:
They'll spanghew ye like a yellowyite.
Kcb. 1891 R. Kerr Poems 40:
Wha pelted ilk' cuddy an' spanghu'd ilk' toad.
Dmf. 1920 D. J. Bell-Irving Tally-Ho 92:
A' wad spanghew thae wee yellow deevils the Japs like paddocks on the en' o' a stick.
Lth. 1928 S. A. Robertson With Double Tongue 44:
At guddlin troots, spang-hewin birds.

2. To bend back a flexible stick and then suddenly release it so as to strike a person.Gall. 1904 E.D.D.:
A man taken before the Session for wife-beating promised ‘never to lift his hand' against her again. She was soon black and blue again. Latterly he admitted that though he kept his word, he spanghew'd her.

[Found earlier in n.Eng. dial. From Spang, v.2, + variant second element, imit. of a whizzing sound, as whew, etc.]

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"Spanghew v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 3 Oct 2023 <>



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