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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.

JOHN, prop.n. Dims. John(n)ie, -y; Johndie (Abd.), Johndag (Cai.). Sc. usages in combs. and phrs.: 1. John Barleycorn, a personification of barley, specif. as the grain from which malt liquor is made, ale or whisky itself. Gen.Sc., poet. First found in Eng. ballad poetry in 17–18th c. and popularised by Burns. Also Barleycorn; John Barley (Knr. 1852 G. P. Boyd Poems 4), John Barleycorn's bluid (m.Lth. 1870 J. Lauder Warblings 71) and reduced form Johnnie, a drink of whisky (wm.Sc. 1869 St Andrews Gazette (27 Nov.)); ¶2. John Dominie, a nickname for a schoolmaster. See Dominie; 3. John Gowkston, see Gowkston; 4. John Gunn, a privy, latrine (Abd. 1910; Bnff., Abd. 1959); 5. John Heezlum Peezlum, the man in the moon, only in the child's rhyme in quot.; ¶6. John Knox's man, a husband whom his wife “knocks” or beats; 7. Johnnie-aathing(s), a general merchant, a shopkeeper who deals in a great variety of small wares; a shop of this sort of merchandise, a small general store. Gen.Sc. Also attrib. Cf. Jennie, 7. (2); ¶8. Johnny Cheats, a cheat, a swindler; 9. Johnnie Cope's salve, see quot.; 10. Johnie Cossar, a large pin (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.), more correctly known as a Willie Cossar. See s.v. Willie; 11. Johnnie Ged, Death, in phr. Johnnie Ged's hole, the churchyard, the grave. See Ged, n., 2.; 12. Johnie-Lindsay, “a game among young people” (Rxb. 1825 Jam.), ? = (13); 13. Johnie Lingo, see quot.; 14. Johnny Mainland, the angler fish, Lophius piscatorius (Ork. 1904 J. M. Campbell Notes on Bell Rock 12, Ork. 1959); †15. Johnnie Napier, a bank-note issued by the Galloway Bank of Douglas, Napier and Co. (1806–21), of which John Napier was manager; 16. John(ie) Nip-nebs, Jack Frost; 17. Johnnie Piper, a daddy-long-legs or crane fly (Fif. 1928); 18. Johnnie Pyot's term day, “the day after the Day of Judgment, a somewhat profane term used to signify never and for ever” (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 91). See Pyot; 19. Johnnie Rover, see Jock, n., 4. (18); 20. Johnnie Scatan, the fulmar petrel, Fulmarus glacialis (Mry. 1911). See Scatan; 21. Johnny-stan'-still, a scarecrow (Ayr. 1825 Jam.); 22. John o' Groat's (House), Johnny —, a house in the north-eastern tip of Canisbay parish in Caithness, according to local tradition built by Jan de Groot, a Dutchman, in the late 15th c., and proverbially the most northerly and remotest part of the Scottish mainland, corresp. to Eng. Land's End.

In combs. (1) John o' Gro(a)t's buckie, John-a —, Johnny Grott's buckey, the cowrie shell, Trivia monacha (Cypraea Europaea), found in large numbers in this district. Gen.Sc. See Buckie, and Groatie-Buckie; (2) John o' Groat's nightcap, a cap-shaped sea-shell, Capulus ungaricus (Ork. 1954 Ork. Miscellany II. 56; Cai. 1959); 23. John Sheephead, a doltish fellow, a ninny; 24. John Tamson's bairns, see Jock, n. 4. (35); †25. John Thomson's man, a hen-pecked husband, a proverbial expression found in O.Sc. from c.1500 and of uncertain orig. Some explain John as = Joan (Mid.Eng. Jone), in which case Joan Thomson may be taken as a generic name for womankind, the feminine equivalent of Jock Tamson s.v. Jock, n., 4. (35), but an alternative explanation is that the genitive is descriptive not possessive, as in John Knox's man (see 6. above), Aberdeensman, etc.; 26. John Wobster, see Jock, n4. (39); 27. puir John, see Puir.1. Ayr. 1790 Burns Tam o' Shanter 105–6:
Inspiring bold John Barleycorn, What dangers thou canst make us scorn!
Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality viii.:
“I like ale better,” said another, “provided it is right juice of John Barleycorn.” “Better never was malted.”
m.Sc. 1991 William Neill in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 50:
... yon puir gowk staucherin aboot the Gressmercat
slitterin an boakin his saul oot in the siver
inspired nae doot bi bauld John Barleycorn.
2. Sc. 1787 W. Taylor Poems 66:
Whan Tib an' I 'ad made market, An' to the scuil in haste we gaed, An' gar'd John Dominie clark it.
5. Sc. 1847 R. Chambers Pop. Rhymes 157:
I lookit owre my rumple routie, And saw John Heezlum Peezlum Playing on Jerusalem pipes.
6. Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 72:
Better to be John Tomson's man, than Ring and Dinn's or John Knox's. John Tomson's Man is he that is complaisant to his Wife's Humours, Ring and Dinn's is he whom his Wife scolds, John Knox's is he whom his Wife beats.
7. Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin xxx.:
Mr John Davidson keepit a sma' shop . . . wherein he retailed a miscellaneous assortment o' nick-nacks . . . everything, in short, ye could think on or gie a name till, insomuch that he was generally kent by the nick-name o' “Johnny A'thing.”
Ayr. 1896 J. Lamb Annals Ayr. Par. 233:
Only one shop in the village kept by a Johnnie a'things.
Lnk. 1923 G. Rae Langsyne in Braefoot i.:
Deil kens hoo mony mair wee “Johnny-a'-thing” shoppies in Braefit.
m.Sc. 1950 O. Douglas Farewell to Priorsford 181:
He keeps a shop, a kinna Johnny-a'-things.
Edb. 1990 James Allan Ford in Joy Hendry Chapman 59 Jan 44:
He had General Merchant written above his door, but most folk called him Johnnie A'thing.
Sc. 1995 Scotland on Sunday 26 Mar 20:
Last time I crossed trolleys with Sir Alistair [Grant], he was (rightly) fighting food imports and conceded switching Safeway's 'Ayrshire style' Polish bacon back to Scottish. Until he does much more I'll pass up Sir A. for my Johnny a'Thing. Johnny has proportionately more of what I want; Scots food feeding the Scots job chain.
Edb. 1998 Edinburgh Evening News 31 Jul 32:
Back in 1902 it was a quieter Morningside that saw the opening of Scott and Henry, plumbers, which ended up nearly a century later as one of the last remaining "Johnny a'thing" shops in town.
And I mean a'thing.
Sc. 2002 Herald 6 Apr 6:
On holiday mornings their bake-houses are filled with customers - street-vendors and small "johnny-awthing" shopkeepers, who have come for the day's supply of ha'penny cakes and tarts.
Sc. 2003 Press and Journal 27 Sep 5:
Letham Pensioners group are holding their annual Johnny a' thing sale in the village hall tomorrow from 2pm.
8. Ayr. a.1878 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage (1892) 188:
Kytching his pack, our Troker said . . . he'd fin' He was to Johnny Cheats nae kin; Nor mell'd wi' sic as lee'd an' blether'd.
9. Sc. 1745 J. Mitchell Scotsman's Library (1825) 461:
He obtained for his share of the booty the carriage of Sir John Cope, the [Hanoverian] Commander-in-Chief. . . . On examining its contents he found, amongst other things, several rolls of a brown colour, which as they were in a soldier's carriage, were believed to be specifics for wounds, and were sold as “Johnny Cope's Salve.” They proved, upon trial, to be chocolate.
11. Ayr. 1785 Burns Dr. Hornbook xxiii.:
“Waes me for Johnny Ged's Hole now,” Quoth I, “if that thae news be true! His braw calf-ward whare gowans grew.”
13. Fif. a.1838 Jam. MSS. X. 183:
A ring is formed by them: one sits in the middle while another on the outside runs round the circle. He in the centre says: “Who is this going round my little stony waws?” This is answered “None but Johnie Lingo.” He in the centre says, “Take care and not steal one of my good fat sheep.” Johnie Lingo replies “Neither shall I do so, Unless I steal them one by one, And whip Johnie Lingo.” He who runs round, as Johnie Lingo, still tries to carry one off, and when he has taken them all, the game is ended.
15. Kcb. 1814 W. Nicholson Tales 39:
[She] first thought it was Johnnie Napier, Then deemed it Betty's curling paper.
16. Rxb. 1871 H. S. Riddell Poet. Wks. II. 201:
Some ca' him John Nip-nebs, and some Johnie Frost.
22. Ayr. 1789 Burns Grose's Peregrinations i.:
Hear, Land o' Cakes, and brither Scots Frae Maidenkirk to Johnie Groat's.
Edb. 1828 D. M. Moir Mansie Waugh (1898) xvii.:
Determined to find them out, though he should follow them to the world's end, Johnny Groat's House.
Sc. 1847 R. Chambers Pop. Rhymes 157:
Rain, rain, rattle-stanes, Dinna rain on me; But rain on Johnnie Groat's house, Far owre the sea.
Ork. 1700 in J. Wallace Descr. Ork (1883) 186:
Concha Veneris exigua, alba, striata. Nuns; call'd in Orkney, John-a-Groats buckies.
Cai. 1760 R. Pococke Tours (S.H.S.) 156:
There are on this strand a great number of the small striated Buccinum shells, and some of the very small shells striated likewise, of that kind which are called the porcelain shell, and are here named “Johnny Grott's Buckeys.”
Sc. 1823 Scott Letters (Cent. ed.) VIII. 14:
If Johnie Groats buckies should in the least [be] interesting the excellent Provost may have a barrel of them.
23. Sc. 1803 The Earl of Errol in Child Ballads No. 231 A. xxiii.:
To make my father sell his lands, It wad be a great sin, To toucher ony John Sheephead That canna toucher win.
25. Peb. 1715 A. Pennecuik Tweeddale 329:
And women here, as well we ken, Would have us all John Thomson's men.
Edb. 1816 Scott O. Mortality xxxviii.:
D'ye think I am to be John Tamson's man, and maistered by women a' the days o' my life?
Abd. 1873 P. Buchan Guidman o' Inglismill 37:
You're grown John Tamson's man — a' in a fizz, Or else your mither's milk is i' your nizz.

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"John prop. n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 22 May 2024 <>



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