Gallus adj. wild, unmanageable, bold;

impish, mischievous, cheeky etc

A FEW weeks ago, readers of Glasgow's Evening Times learned that "the proposal to build Scotland's tallest skyscraper in the east end reflects the gallus, can-do attitude of the country's most stylish city". But gallusness is not restricted to Glasgow, and readers of an Edinburgh evening papermay recall the comment that "as the wine flowed . . . the guests got gradually more gallus" at last year's Radio Forth Awards. The north-east hasn't escaped, either - Aberdeenshire writer Sheena Blackhall also refers to a "gallus lusty loon" in her poem, The Merriege o Convenience.

The word gallus, in its modern sense, has been around since the early twentieth century, but it had a rather different meaning prior to that. Gallus has undergone amelioration, shifting from the negative sense of "villainous", first recorded in the late eighteenth century, to the more positive senses in which it is most commonly used today. Its earliermeaning also reveals its origins, gallus having developed from "gallows".

An early example of this criminal sense occurs in Robert Burns's poem, The Author's Earnest Cry and Prayer (1786), where he complains of Scotland being "plunder'd o' her hindmost groat, By gallows knaves".

As an adjective, Scots gallus took on its less lawless and more assertive guise in fairly recent times, and continues to evolve. In 1950, an informant from Perth contributed the following example to the Scottish National Dictionary: "She's a gallus lassie, aye fleein aroond wi the sodgers."

But beware the false friend.

During my weekly investigations, I learned from the Times that "a gallus" (no relation) could also denote "one of the transvestite followers of the goddess Cybele who castrated themselves in her honour"; whether they were gallus remains unclear.

Scottish Word of the Week is written by Maggie Scott of Scottish Language Dictionaries www. sldl. org. uk, 27 George Square, Edinburgh EH8 9LD (0131) 650 4149 mail@sldl. org. uk Visit www. dsl. ac. uk to consult the 22 volume online Dictionary of the Scots Language.