Sunday, March 25, 2012

For Three-Word Wednesday, Magpie 110 and ABC Wednesday


("K" is for "Knockout"}
What springs to mind as I gaze at this week’s prompt?
Why, the work of Roberrt Burrns, of course.
“O would some Pow'r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It would from many a blunder free us,
An' foolish notion.”

And that causes something else to spring to mind.

If you ever find yourself with a convivial group of Scotsmen knocking back a few at a local bar-room, and you’d like to win an easy bar bet, ask them – ask any patriotic Scot – “What does ‘Cutty Sark’ mean?”
You’ve got to establish ground rules, right off. No checking with Google. They’ve got to come up with the meaning by themselves. After all, it’s a remnant of Scottish history.

They’ll begin by saying it’s a brand of whisky, of course. (Maybe they’re even aware of the original Scotch name for the fragrant beverage: Whisky in Scottish Gaelic, "uisge beatha," literally means "water of life".)
All true, but that’s just a start.
Then they’ll mention the vessel on the bottle: “Cutty Sark” is the name of a ship, they’ll cry.
True again, but why is it the name of a ship? What does it mean?
Again, no checking with Google.
At this point you’re able to step in and dazzle everyone with the actual meaning.
Believe it or not, “Cutty Sark” means “mini-skirt.”
Here’s the story.

Surely you’ve heard of the tam o’shanter, the Scottish brimless cap. Well, that cap was named after a guy, Tam, who came from Shanter.
In a famous Robert Burns poem of the eighteenth century, Tam has had a few drinks at a local public house and he mounts his horse Meg to ride home.
On his way, he sees something astonishing. There’s a bizarre dance taking place on a local field, something involving witches and warlocks and other such types dancing about and jostling each other.
Tam is terrified; he knows they’ll kill him if they see him.
But he stays in place; he is beguiled by one beautiful young witch – as we might phrase it today, she was a knockout – who was dancing about in a skirt (a “sark”) that had been cut short – a “cutty sark,” in other words.

Suddenly the witches spot Tam on his horse Meg and come after him. He takes off as fast as he can go. He knows if he gets to the bridge over the local river he’ll be safe because witches, as everyone knows, cannot cross running water.
He just barely makes it. One of the witches grabs poor Meg’s tail and it comes off.
The poem ends like thusly:
“Now, who this tale o' truth shall read,
All man and mother's son, take heed:
Whene'er to Drink you are inclin'd,
Or Cutty-sarks run on your mind,
Think ye may buy the joys so dear;
Remember Tam o' Shanter's mare.”

35 comments:

Margaret said...

ha ha! I shall forward this to my 19 year old son! :)

Kathe W. said...

hahah I am sending this to our friends outside of Inverness!

ninotaziz said...

simply marvelous tale! Thanks!

Tess Kincaid said...

I want one of those tams! And a wee nip too please!

Roger Owen Green said...

Hoist one to the miniskirt!

Little Nell said...

Well, there's a thing, I never expected to find myself learning something new here! Great stuff!i

Wander said...

Tiz a good tale you spin there Berowne!

Wander

Karen said...

Learned something new today!

kaykuala said...

How very interesting, Berowne! Witches in mini skirts are still around, I think! Oops! Hilarious!

Hank

Leslie: said...

I am sending this to my daughter who is so very very proud of her Scottish heritage! I'm sure she'll enjoy the tale (tail) as much as I did!

Wayne Pitchko said...

i will drink to this.....nicely done

Other Mary said...

Hahaha - that's great! I'm going to find a Scott and test him! Oh, and I think I'll do the same as Margaret and send this on to my son too! ;-)

Helen said...

Delightful! Cutty Sark is my sister's favorite scotch .. me ?? ~ J& B!

Berowne said...

Kathe W: "I am sending this to our friends outside of Inverness!"
If they live outside of Inverness, in the Heelands, they're probably pretty familiar with Tam o'Shanter. :-)

Berowne said...

Scots wha hae! My sincere thanks for such fine comments to Margaret, ninotaziz, Tess K, Roger O G, Little Nell, Wander, Karen, kaykuala, Leslie, Wayne P, Other Mary and Helen.

Doctor FTSE said...

Not often we can add to your erudition, Berowne. But have you come across THIS? It was in the program of the first live orchestral concert I ever went to as a student. Tickets were about 35 cents!

izzy said...

R'member tam o shanters mare- I will!
thanks :)

Berowne said...

"But have you come across THIS?"
Doc FTSE is referring to the
Tam o'Shanter Overture. The famous cap is very much with us today. Scottish regiments still wear the tamoshanter as part of their regular uniforms. I wonder how many are aware they're paying homage to Tam, a guy who lived a couple of hundred years ago.

hyperCRYPTICal said...

Excellent and educational as usual Berowne - thank you!

Anna :o]

photowannabe said...

A very entertaining tale. I love finding out the history behind names and sayings. Thanks for sharing.

Sharp Little Pencil said...

Good Lord, Berowne, you know more than most people of my acquaintance. You are to history buffs what I am to old movie buffs! So many details. As my dad used to say, "Learn a new thing every day and you'll never grow old." Thank you. Amy (PS I only drink beer. Cold beer.)
http://sharplittlepencil.com/2012/03/27/what-we-need-3ww/

Tony Noland said...

This was terrific!

ChrisJ said...

Such a great post! Reminders of almost forgotten school poems. I certainly didn't know what a cutty sark was. I won't forget now.

Tumblewords: said...

Who knew? Wish I'd known this when I was tippin' a few. :)

Rinkly Rimes said...

So long as the mini-skirt was tartan I suppose it's all quite moral! Thanks, again, for fascinating facts.

christopher said...

Poor mare!

Ellecee said...

Wonderful write. I will certainly share this with my Scotch loving friends. The liquid kind that is. So entertaining and educational too. Great combo. Thanks so much.

Berowne said...

Amy: "(PS, I only drink beer. Cold beer.)"
Good. I'm a Stella Artois person myself. :-)

Berowne said...

HyperCRYPTICal: "Excellent and educational as usual, Berowne."
I couldn't ask for a better comment - thanks.

Sheilagh Lee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sheilagh Lee said...

great post.

Kim Nelson said...

An hilarious take on the curse of the drink

oldegg said...

It is always a pleasure to visit and get the back stories on people and other things that we take for granted.

SweetTalkingGuy said...

Great story, I'm wearing a Tam O Shanter hat on my STG blogger profile picture!

Di Eats the Elephant said...

You had me avidly reading onward. How this instantly drew you to Roberrt Burrns, I'll never known, but jolly well put, mate! (No Scotsman was mauled in the writing of this comment, but a bit of Scotch would have helped it.)

 
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