MENAGE, MENODGE n a kind of savings club

Nowadays this word survives as an observation on how incompetent people or governments manage their affairs as in the following from The Herald of September 12 2017: “We Scots had lacked confidence in the ability of our leaders and institutions to run a menodge.”

Its original use in Scots was: “a kind of friendly society or savings club to which each member contributes a fixed sum weekly for a stated period, the members deciding by lot the order in which each is to receive the total contribution for any given week, subject to various deductions for entertainment, the expenses or trouble of the person acting as banker” (Dictionary of the Scots Language but, at its most basic, it was a weekly savings club which people living near the breadline could save for occasions such as Christmas or children’s return to school.

The earliest example noted in the DSL is from the 1815 the Highland Society’s Report on Savings Banks and shows how menages were more convenient than the Banks: “The disadvantages of Friendly Societies have given rise, in many parts of the country, to institutions known by the name of Menages . . . a certain number of persons agree to pay a certain sum each, periodically, for a certain period.”

In later times even stores ran menages as this wanted ad from the Edinburgh Evening news of September 231959 shows: “Girls wanted to take up menages. — Apply Parkers Stores, Bristo Street.”

Scots Word of the Week is written by Pauline Cairns Speitel of Scottish Language Dictionaries located at 9 Coates Crescent, Edinburgh.

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