Word Confusion: Scotch vs scot/Scots vs Scottish

Posted June 1, 2017 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions

Guilty. Wa-a-a-y back in the day…mine, that is…we had a Scottish secretary who was quite the champion of not being called Scotch. She painstakingly ensured that we all understood the difference.

So, What is the Difference?

Scotch is not a people. It’s a drink, a description applied to various food types, a verb, a tool, or a type of cut. Using Scotch to describe someone from Scotland is incredibly rude and offensive to a Scot.

Scots are people and may also be used for identifiably human matters and institutions. Variations on Scots or Scot (uppercase) include Scotsman, Scotsmen, Scotswoman, and Scotswomen. Yep, there is a scot in both noun and verb form as well, in lowercase. Scots may also be used in a combined forms: Scots-Irish or Scots-Irish Americans.

Scottish is the safe go-to for most purposes, including people, animals, and things in general.

Culture-wise, one would rarely use the term Scots culture, but more commonly Scottish culture.

So it’s handy, as a writer, to know what is preferred and what is rude when writing, as it is part of showing your reader what the character is like.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Scotch scot/Scots Scottish
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com: Scots, Scottish, and scutch

A bottle of Scotch whisky

“Talisker Single Malt Scotch Whisky” is P. Brundel’s own work under the GNU Free Documentation license, via Wikimedia Commons

A ten-year-old bottle of Scotch.


A snowy landscape with a Scots pine prominent

“Scots Pine Utö” is by Arild Vågen (Flickr: Utö, January 2013 IV) under the CC BY-SA 2.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

A Scots pine in the east part of Utö on the Stockholm archipelago.


A bagpiper in national dress with his golden Labrador lying at his feet.

“Piper Busking in Edinburgh” is David Monniaux’s own work under the GNU Free Documentation license, via Wikimedia Commons

Piping is part of the Scottish culture.

Part of Grammar:
Adjective 1; Noun 1, 2, 3, 4; Verb, transitive 2, 3, 4

Plural for the noun: scotches, Scotches

Third person present verb: scotches

Past tense or past participle: scotched

Gerund or present participle: scotching

Adjective 5; Noun 5, 6
Singular noun: Scot
Collective noun: the Scots

A.k.a., Scottish

Adjective; Noun
Collective noun: the Scottish

A.k.a., Scots

Adjective:
[Offensive; old-fashioned] Scottish or Scots 1

  • Decreasingly used to describe foods produced in Scotland

[Usually lowercase; informal] Frugal, provident, thrifty

Noun:
[Upper- or lowercase] Short for Scotch whisky 1

[As a plural noun, the Scotch; dated; offensive] The people of Scotland

[Dated] The form of English spoken in Scotland

[Archaic] A cut or score in skin or another surface 2

[Archaic] A wedge or chock placed under a wheel or other rolling object to prevent its moving or slipping 3

[Masonry] A small picklike tool with two cutting edges for trimming brick 4

Verb, transitive:
[Archaic] To cut, gash, or score the skin or surface 2

Decisively put an end to 3

  • Crush
  • Stamp out
  • Foil
  • [Archaic] Render (something regarded as dangerous) temporarily harmless

Wedge (someone or something) somewhere

  • [Archaic] Prevent a wheel, barrel, or other rolling object from moving or slipping by placing a wedge underneath

[Masonry] To dress brick or stone 4

Adjective:
Another term for Scottish

Noun:
[Uppercase] The form of the English language used in Scotland 5

[Historical; lowercase] A payment or charge 6

One’s share of a payment or charge

An assessment or tax

[Uppercase] A native or inhabitant of Scotland

One of an ancient Gaelic people who came from northern Ireland about A.D. 6th century and settled in the northwestern part of Great Britain, and after whom Scotland was named.

Adjective:
Of, relating to, or characteristic of Scotland, its people, their Gaelic language, or their English dialect

Used in a narrower sense to refer specifically to the form of English used in Scotland

Noun:
The people of Scotland

Examples:
Adjective:
Scotch salmon is so amazingly tasty.

The Scotch bonnet pepper, Capsicum chinense “Scotch Bonnet”, has been compared to habañeros.

Under the rules of scotch doubles, teams consist of two players who alternate shots throughout the game.

To be true Scotch whisky, it must be made in Scotland nor is it ever “Scottish whisky”.

Noun:
Gimme a scotch, barkeep.

It’s naught but a scotch.

Pick up a bottle of Scotch, if you would.

Verb, transitive:
“We have scotched the snake, not killed it.” – Shakespeare, Macbeth, you know, the Scottish play

A spokesman has scotched the rumors.

Damn those leaks! We’ll have to scotch that plan.

Feudal power in France was scotched, though far from killed.

He soon scotched himself against a wall.

Scotch that millstone!

Adjective:
He has the loveliest Scots accent.

The Scots pine is named after Scotland, though not limited to it.

Noun:
Scots is the English language version as opposed to Scottish Gaelic.

MacDuff is free from paying a scot.

Did I mention that MacDuff is a Scot?

The Highland Scots can be fierce warriors.

The Scotswomen more than kept up with their men.

Scots Law is the legal system of Scotland, a hybrid system containing civil law and common law elements, that traces its roots to a number of different historical sources.

Scots speak the Scots language, never “the Scottish language”.

Gordon Ramsay, Sean Connery, Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and William Wallace are some famous Scots.

Adjective:
The Scottish Highlands are so beautiful.

We were invited to a night of Scottish dancing and music.

Noun:
The Scottish are a generous and sociable people.

The Scottish are natives of Scotland.

She’s English, not Scottish.

Derivatives:
Adjective: half-Scottish
Adverb: Scottishly
Noun: Scottishness
History of the Word:
1 Late 16th century as a contraction of Scottish.

2 Late Middle English of unknown origin.

3 Early 17th century (as a noun) is of unknown origin.

4 From the obsolete French escoucher, which is from the Vulgar Latin excuticāre (unattested) meaning to beat out, which is itself from the Latin ex- + quatere meaning to shake.

5 1325-75 as a syncopated form of Scottis, Middle English, variant (north) of Scottish.

6 1200-50, Middle English from the Old Norse skattr meaning tax, treasure. Cognate with the Old English gescot meaning payment.

Before 900 as Old English Scyttisc from the Late Latin Scott(us) from Scot + -ish.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

“Gilbey’s Scotch Whisky” was saved by Whisky Marketplace to Pinterest.


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