Editors of the Dictionaries of the Scots Language
are kindly supplying us with a Scots word of the month. This month, the word is:
the first shoots; to sprout
The Oxford English Dictionary
says of this word 'Properly Sc[ots]... but now sometimes used by English writers: the first shoots of grass, corn, or other crops'. In Older Scots it appears in The Knightly Tale of Golagros and Gawane
to denote the surface of the earth: 'I wil noght turn myn entent, for all this warld brerd'.
It is also used for the soil of the earth and we find it in this meaning in Henryson's retelling of Aesop's Fables
: 'As throw a bustewous erd [as through a fertile soil]... Spryngys the flowris & the corne on brerd'. This joyous manifestation of spring is reflected in John C Shairp's Kilmahoe
(1864): 'On the birk comes the leaf at the glad cuckoo cry, And green braird to upland and hollow'.
The importance of weather is well-attested. H Fraser in The Border Magazine
(January 1935) extols: 'The haars and "drappin shooers" that "slockened the neeps" or brairded the corn' but, after a sudden cold or wet spell, as W Thom tells us in Rhymes and Recollections of a Handloom Weaver
(1844): 'The tremblin' breird fa's sodden an' sear'd'.
Soil conditions are important too. James Kelly's Collection of Proverbs
(1721) claims: 'There is no Breard like Midding [i.e. midden] Breard'. However, C A Cameron in Chemistry of Agriculture
(1879) warns: 'It sometimes happens that overdoses of lime are applied. In such cases... the plants may braird satisfactorily, but they will hardly produce seeds, and... perish about June'.
We also find breard used figuratively. A Scots speaker from Fife informed a researcher for the Scottish National Dictionary
in 1946 that it was used of a baby's first teeth and gave the example 'It's his teeth brearan'. The origins of this word probably lie in Old English 'brerd' meaning 'brim, margin', with the sense influenced by Old Norse 'broddr' meaning 'a spike, point'.
Scots Word of the Month is written by editors of the Dictionaries of the Scots Language. You can sponsor a word from this national archive as a special gift for a loved one or friend. More information about word sponsorship is here.