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Conning can

Just in time to supplement a recent discussino about modal auxiliaries and their many combinatinos, I see that Scots, at least as Stevenson writes it in Catriona, can do a nifty thing with “can” which I’ve felt the lack of many a time. I’m stuck with the lame “be able to” in these situations… Examples:

“But I will be honest too,” she added, with a kind of suddenness, “and I’ll never can forgive that girl.”

“I canna lee, Alan, I canna do it naitural,” says I, mocking him.

“The more fool you!” says he. “Then ye’ll can tell her that I recommended it…”

“If it is so – if it be more disgrace – will you can bear it?” she asked, looking upon me with a burning eye.

It was Catriona that spoke first. “He has sold you?” she asked.

“Sold me, my dear,” said Alan. “But thanks to you and Davie, I’ll can jink him yet.”


That “jink” in the last quote is awful close to “juke” as in football. Our American dictionaries are losers here. DARE doesn’t even have it, but I guess it’s not Regional so I forgive them. The American Heritage Dictionary thinks “juke” comes from a Middle English jowken, “to bend in a supple way”, but doesn’t adduce a word of support for this. So much for them.

But Merriam Webster must’ve farmed this one out to their most junior lexicographer:

Main Entry: juke
Etymology: probably alteration of English dialect jouk to cheat, deceive
Date: 1967
transitive senses : to fake out of position (as in football)
intransitive senses : to juke someone

It seems much more likely that the source of “juke” is the Scottish “jouk”, which has been around for a huge long time. The first citation in OED is from 1512, Douglas (he’s also the first citation for lots of other Scots words): “And jowkit in vnder the speyr has he.” Aw yeah, that’s how you brawl! In 1894, one “Crockett” has “Every sodger at first tries to jouk the bullets.” And so on.

It would also be a confidence-builder if M-W could get straight on the respective meanings of “transitive” and “intransitive”.

Incidentally, “webster” originally meant “weaver”. Like pollster but with a webs instead of polls. Hooray! “Oh what a tangled web we weave…” And since you asked, no, “spinster” doesn’t have anything to do with “sphincter”.

A word which rhymes with “weave” is “deave”, more Scotticism and yes it’s in Catriona, meaning “to deafen”. It usually shows up paired with “din”, as in, “Eh, shutuppa you face! Yer deavin’ me with yer din!”

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