YESTERDAY was preen-tail day (tailie) – traditionally the day after April Fools’ day, or Huntegowk, in Scotland. The Dictionaries of the Scots Lanquage (DSL) defines preen-tail day as: “the day following All Fools' Day when paper tails were attached to the backs of unsuspecting persons as a joke”. The “tails” were usually inscribed with a message. What sort of message is not recorded, but presumably nothing very flattering as, indeed, is recorded in the Glasgow Bulletin of April 1954: “Tailie Day was always held after Hunt the Gowk Day. The tails carried boldly printed invitations to ‘kick me hard’ or ‘pull my pigtails’..

Some research here at DSL seems to indicate that the term was known and used in Kirkwall and Kirkcaldy, and this is illustrated by David Daiches in his New Companion to Scottish Culture (1982): “April Fool's Day is celebrated on 1 April in Scotland as in England: the old name for the trickery was ‘hunting the gowk' (or cuckoo). The following day is Tailie Day, known only in and around Kirkwall and Kirkcaldy, when children ...surreptitiously pin paper tails on the coats of passers-by”.

The Aberdeen Press and Journal (in December 1990) described the activity as if it was still known and practised: “Taily Day is April 2, when children in Kirkcaldy pin ‘tails’ to other people’s backs with messages such as ‘Kick me hard because I’m soft’."

Who knows, perhaps when lockdown is over, we might take to reviving preen-tail day again.

Scots Word of the Week is written by Pauline Cairns Speitel, Dictionaries of the Scots Language