Say Goodbye to Swithering

I saw this word in a BBC News item this very morning, what pray does it mean?

swither v. to be uncertain or perplexed about what to do or choose; doubt; hesitate; dither.

wither is a word that many Scottish people use without realising that it is a relative stranger outwith Scots and Scottish English. My spell-checker has in fact just proven the point, underlining both ‘swither’ and ‘outwith’, which have clearly bemused its limited lexicon. A number of stealth Scots words like these have so comfortably established themselves across all Scottish linguistic contexts, from the formal to the informal, that speakers may only become aware of their exotic character when quizzed about them by puzzled non-Scots. The Official Report of the Scottish Parliament (2000) includes former MP and MSP Winnie Ewing’s account of events when she uttered the word in the House of Commons: “The members all stopped and said, ‘I don’t understand’. I wondered what the English word for ‘swither’ was, and they shouted, ‘prevaricate’ and ‘hesitate’. Neither of those words is exactly the same as ‘swither’ … That illustrates part of the strange experience of speaking Scots”.

More from this source:

I might suffer from Swithering. Another word would, could be, confusion. Which when recognized, I’ve found to great benefit, can be dismissed, said goodbye to. ‘Hello confusion (swithering) goodbye confusion’. Works every time.

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9 thoughts on “Say Goodbye to Swithering”

  1. I often find if I welcome confusion, infact sometimes if I can ‘notice’ my feeling state,(especially if it has moved into the next level which in my case is overwhelm) I can write from there very productively and then the sense of overwhelm has dissolved! Another word that comes up sometimes is ‘discombobulated,’! Thank you for your observations , They are very welcome in my email posts.

    1. Great to know you are still reading here. Thank you for your “Thank You”. I know that ‘dis’ word, I know overwhelm, I know confusion. Well, I know confusion now I know what it is! Once seen, once known, it’s gone – the impetus to get out of a deep ditch ones stuck in is so strong. No judgement, just ‘Oh! Confusion! and I’m out of the ditch with a fighting (frightening) possibility of walking forward. Get your point about writing. I frequently start a post not knowing where it might go and end up quite happy it went the way it has. Overwhelm comes on such occasions by the crowds of thoughts competing for attention.

  2. On the other hand, saying hello to and making friends with uncertainty, hesitation or confusion might also be quite a good and useful thing to do.

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