Prose & SongCorrespondence & Poetry

Burns and Language: Fidge


You will probably be aware that tomorrow is the Calcutta Cup rugby match between Scotland and England and there is a bit of fidgin’ going on amongst the ranks here in Scotland.

Now Burns obviously didn’t play, or even watch, rugby, but when it comes to talking about the excitement of a nation, Burns had a thing or two to say.

Fidge means to move restlessly with excitement (fidget) (HT), and Burns uses it twice in this sense. Firstly, it appears in ‘The Ordination’ – a satire written on the ordination of an Auld Licht Professor to the anger of New Lichts such as Burns.

However, it also appears in the poem ‘To William Simpson’. Burns, it seems was celebrating the fact the Scotland had her own poets of note:


Auld Coila, now, may fidge fu’ fain,

She’s gotten poets o’ her ain (To William Simpson’)


So Burns writes of the excitement of a nation personified at having writers who could represent her. The delight of this can be felt, as it were, by Coila fidgin’ with enthusiasm.

I think there will be many a Scotland fan fidgin’ in the stands tomorrow, as the England team come to town. But unfortunately I think the entire country would need to come to life, as in Burns poem, for Scotland to pull off a victory!

I hope I have to eat my words (of the week).

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