GUTTIES might not conjure up exotic images of the Orient, but in etymological terms their origins can be traced back to a language spoken in Malaysia.

Guttie has been used since the nineteenth century to refer to anything made wholly or partly of rubber. The word is derived from gutta-percha, itself borrowed into English from Malay "getah percha", the gum of the percha tree.

In March of this year, an article in the Sunday Times related the story of conceptual artist Jim Lambie, who was recently invited to design a pair of trainers. According to the writer, we should "blame James Dean. Ever since the movie pin-up strode on to the set of Rebel Without a Cause wearing a pair of gutties, he helped to cast in stone a whole new fashion in footwear."

From the late nineteenth century, we find examples in both English and Scottish sources of gutta and gutty (or guttie) as a term for a golf ball made with gutta-percha. These golf balls replaced those made with feathers.

Guttie has also been used as a term for a catapult.

Gutties came to be used for rubber-soled shoes in the twentieth century. Although frequently referring to the slip-on black gym shoes many of us wore for physical education in school, gutties can also be of the more fashionable and, indeed, technical variety.

An article in the Daily Record last April described a new, breathable running shoe as follows: "They might look a little like the result of pushing over-ripe tomatoes through a cheese grater, but these gutties are well ventilated to help keep your plates of meat cool when you're working yourself into an exercise frenzy."

Scottish Word of the Week is written by Maggie Scott of Scottish Language Dictionaries: www. scotsdictionaries. org. uk, 27 George Square, Edinburgh EH8 9LD, 0131 650 4149; mail@scotsdictionaries. org. uk. Visit our website to sponsor a word in the new edition of the Concise Scots Dictionary.