Hiya, it is I, Bruce. Today I am here to tell you about the history and meaning of a very common Scots word which, it seems, very few of you outside Scotland are aware of. That word is jag.
In Scotland, the word jag is often used in reference to pretty much any sharp or spiky or pointy thing. Here, for example, I present to you a small and jaggy shrub.
A jaggy fence is one that is formed of that awful stuff otherwise known as barbed wire. This fence, happily, has no jags. But I still have to warn Bobby to be very careful around gates and fences, just in case.
Many different types of tree around here can be rather jaggy.
And sometimes the ground beneath one’s feet is jaggy too – watch out for sharp thorns and thistles, Bob!
Other jaggy things include Kate’s knitting needles, pins and scissors (all of which are definitely best avoided), the broken objects that I’ve occasionally seen fall on the kitchen floor, and ICE – the mysterious substance that I’m showing you above — a thing whose mercurial abilities to be both super smooth and very jaggy simultaneously are both surprising and concerning (to a philosophic dog like me).
Now, what many people do not realise is that jag has a long and august etymology. Likely deriving from the Middle English dag, it’s a word that appears in its sharp and pointy sense in Mallory’s Morte D’Arthur, and which remained a feature of many northern English dialects for many hundreds of years, and at least until the eighteenth century. Here in Scotland, it’s a word that’s still in frequent use in reference to anything from our national flower (“Thou jaggy, kittly, gleg wee thing / Wha dares to brave the piercing sting / O’ Scotia’s thistle.” James Ballantine (1843) ) to that powerful Christian symbol, the crown of thorns (“An daur ye dout that thon’s the heid / That round wi jaggie thorn wis thirlt?” James Robertson (1999) )
From everything I’ve said so far, you might think that jag, with all its different associations of sharp and pointy , was a word with merely negative connotations – but this is definitely not the case! For in Scotland, the word jag is perhaps most often used in reference to an injection – most especially a vaccination – and these are very good things indeed.
Myself and Bob, for example, have happily received our protective jags against many dog diseases. Today I learned that protective jags are an important thing for humans too, because my good friend Wal (who also happens to be Kate’s Dad) received his first Coronavirus jag! HURRAH FOR JAGS! So, please join myself and Bobby, while we leap and celebrate and say . . . .
If you, like Wal, are in an at-risk group, I hope you are able to receive your Coronavirus jag very soon.
love Bruce x