8. Introductory handsel
A Scots word and example sentence to learn:
Definition: A sweeping implement.
The spelling besom in Sc. is often deceptive, as the pronunciation in many cases is better represented by bissom or bizom.
Example sentence: “…at the call of the skip, ‘Soop her up’, down came the besoms like lightning…”
English translation: “When the captain of the curling team shouted his instruction to start brushing, the brooms were immediately placed on the ice.”
In the context of the sport of curling, a besom is the long handled broom which Curlers use to brush the ice in front of a curling stone. The stone will have been propelled towards the target, known as the ‘house’. In doing so, the friction of brushing makes the ice melt and allows the stone to keep 'roaring' on. The sound of the stone sliding across the ice gives Curling its nickname of the “Roaring Game”.
Skilled brushing can change the direction of a stone. The word once literally meant the plant from which the besom was made: the broom plant. The branches of the broom plant were tied together to make a broom for sweeping. The word comes from the Old High German brâmo, meaning bramble.
The word is also a popular Scots noun that is used to describe a young woman or girl who is badly behaved or cheeky:
Example sentence: Haud your wheesht, ya wee besom!
English translation: Please stop talking, you cheeky young woman!
[Literally: ‘hold your silence..’]
The Oxford English Dictionary suggests that the two words are entirely unconnected. It is a coincidence that they sound the same. However, in German, the word besen is used as a name for a maid servant or young girl.
Definition: In curling, to sweep (the ice) in the path of a curling-stone in order to assist its progress; to speed up (a curling-stone) onwards by so doing.
Example sentence: …at the call of the skip, ‘Soop her up’, down came the besoms like lightning…
In curling, the stone is thrown towards the ‘house’ or target of concentric circles. Unless the curler is exceptionally gifted and the ice is perfect, a pair of players will have to brush the ice to make it melt. This reduces friction and allows the stone to continue on a straighter path. As it slows, it starts to curve in its trajectory, which may or may not be a good thing. The skip will observe the path of the stone.
Please note that the word soop has no connection to the English noun ‘soup’, even though the latter spelling has been used to describe the act of sweeping. Remember that the spelling of words was less important than the sound, for centuries. It was not until the printed word became so common, that single spellings of words had to be agreed, so that there was consistency across publications.
If you want to learn more about sooping in curling, watch this video published by World Curling TV.
Another related word:
Definition: In curling or bowls: the captain and director of play of a rink or side of players
Go to the Dictionary of the Scots Language for a full definition of the word
The word skip is the shortened form of skipper or captain. This person is normally the best and most experienced curler, who directs the play and is ready with the directions for sooping up the stane or curling stone. Like many other Scots words, skip shares a heritage with the Middle Dutch word schipper, coming from schip: a ship. Therefore, the skip is metaphorically the captain of the ship i.e. they have total control of the members of their curling team.