IN recent times we have been warned about visiting environments which are hoaching, defined in the Dictionaries of the Scots Language (DSL) as: “to swarm, to be infested, to seethe, to be overrun with”. Whether you pronounce it “hoachin” or “hotching”, to be in a place that is hoaching is decidedly unpleasant for some folk.

An early example in the DSL relates to seething, as in this from Dougal Graham’s Collected Writings of 1779: “Our Sannock’s head is a’ hotchen, and our John’s is little better.” And even in modern times, we would recognise this dance floor described in the Edinburgh Magazine of 1797 as: “… just a hotchin’ thrang”.

Skipping over the next 100 or so years to the mid-20th century, a character in John J Lavin’s Compass of Youth (1953) observes: “An’ ye ken, Mrs Muldoon, what some hoaspitals are like … hoatchin’ wi’ students.” In 1990, Traveller writer Betsy Whyte, in her autobiographical Red Rowans and Wild Honey, described the preparation for war around her family’s camp: “Even the woods around were hotching with soldiers, all training and preparing for invasion.”

A more recent example from the Scotsman of April 2019 records: “When the ‘Beast from the East’ paralysed Britain … Sally was in London and phoned her husband to report there were just eight people out and about in the normally-hotching Leicester Square”.

Research suggests that the more popular 21st-century spelling, and presumably pronunciation, is hoaching. A romantic example comes from the Sunday Post of September 2021, describing a walk in Dollar Glen: “The classic fairy glen in central Scotland, positively hoaching with water spirits, reeking of ozone and euphoric after rain”.

Scots Word of the Week is written by Pauline Cairns Speitel, Dictionaries of the Scots Language https://dsl.ac.uk.