Now there’s a word that has even the OED a bit puzzled, at least over its etymology:

Etymology:  Of obscure origin; the identity of the senses with those of Old Germanic *þlaihan and its derivatives (Gothic ga-þlaihan to treat kindly, console, Old High German flêhôn , flêhen to fondle, flatter, beseech, Middle High German vlêhen , modern German flehen to beseech, Dutch vleien to flatter) suggests that the word may represent an Old English *flǽcean < Old Germanic type *þlaikjan , related to *þlaihan , as Old English tǽcean teach v. to téon( < *tîhan).
Sc. and north. dial.
To beguile, cajole, coax, wheedle; to entice, wheedle into going, to a place. Also, in good sense: To beseech, entreat. Also absol. and intr. (const. onwith), to speak coaxingly or beseechingly; to flatter, fawn.

My interest is the Sc. and north. dial. bit.

Burns has the words:

Duncan fleech’d, and Duncan pray’d,
         Ha, ha, the wooin o’t!
Meg was deaf as Ailsa Craig,
         Ha, ha, the wooin o’t!
Duncan sigh’d baith out and in,
Grat his een baith bleer’t and blin’,
Spak o’ lowpin owre a linn;
         Ha, ha, the wooin o’t!

Time and chance are but a tide,
        Ha, ha, the wooin o’t!
Slighted love is sair to bide,
         Ha, ha, the wooin o’t!
“Shall I, like a fool,” quoth he,
“For a haughty hizzie die?
She may gae to—France for me!”
         Ha, ha, the wooin o’t!

From Burns’s Ayrshire — as one would expect — it was transported into the Ulster dialect:

When fleechin winna do, you’ll even
Attempt to frighten them to heaven!

And that fleechin/frighten contrast, to be honest, is where this post originated. Somehow that quotation came to mind with Gordon Brown’s stomping performance today:

Mr Brown urged the silent majority “to be silent no more” and to “let no narrow nationalism split us asunder”.

“Have confidence, stand up and be counted tomorrow,” he told the final Better Together rally in Glasgow. “Say to your friends, for reasons of solidarity, sharing, pride in Scotland, the only answer is vote No.”

“What sort of message would we send out to the rest of the world, we who pioneered a partnership between nations, if tomorrow we said we’re going to give up on sharing, throw our idea of solidarity into the dust?” he said.

“This is not the Scotland I know.”

An earlier speech by Brown:

… criticised Mr Salmond’s followers.

“They dine out on Scottish ideas of equality. They talk as if they actually believe it,” Mr Brown said.

“But when you look at the actual policies of the SNP, there is not one measure in their document that suggests there would be a higher rate of income tax for those at the very top, or a millionaire’s tax at the top of council tax, or a mansion tax at the top of stamp duty, or even the bankers’ bonus tax that is proposed for the UK.

“They have no way of raising the money to pay for all the expensive promises they have made.”

Mr Brown said Nationalists’ proposals to cut corporation tax would benefit large companies, including energy firms.

“The biggest beneficiaries of the SNP’s tax policy are the shareholders and directors of the privatised energy companies in Scotland,” he said.

“The beneficiaries of an independent Scotland are not the ordinary people of Scotland but the richest directors of the most profitable, privatised companies in Scotland.

“When you look at the Scottish National Party policies, inequality and poverty will survive until doomsday if 
Alex Salmond is all that confronts it.”

I look at the sheer potency of that, and the last sentence in particular, and wonder if any other public speaker could get away with it. When Britain gained its most powerful political voice, the Scottish Kirk lost a magnificent preacher.

And thence to America

The Federal Writers Project was part of the New Deal’s WPA. It generated the American Guides Series,  and one document of that was The Ocean Highway, from New Brunswick to Jacksonville, Florida. Again, it is not surprising that these Guides have enjoyed a revival, been republished or adapted for modern media. Once Michael Portillo has finished with his Bradshaw (if ever), those Guides might offer him another prospect. Somehow, though, I cannot see the bold Michael hoboing:

There’s a lonesome freight at 6.08 coming through the town
And I feel like I just want to travel on
Done laid around, done stayed around
This old town too long
And it seems like I’ve got to travel on.

— Another lyric Bob Dylan “acquired”.

The authors of The Ocean Highway,  by page 189,  get to Hatteras, North Carolina:

The people of this section are weathered and bronzed, and have unusual independence and self-reliance. They speak in broad Devon accents. Many of the older families believe they are descended from English sailors who were shipwrecked on this lonely shore. Most are members of well defined clans. Archaic words and phrases have survived, and the distinctive banker enunciation gives them a special quality.

“Couthy” is the local word for capable; “heerd” is the pronunciation for “heard.” “Don’t fault  me if I’m scunnered” means “Don’t blame  me if I’m disgusted.” The mainland is usually referred to as “the country,” and day begins at “calm daylight.” “Disremember and “disencourage” are frequently used. “Fleech” means to flatter, not a complimentary term since the native is sparing with his praise. His pocket is “a poke,” a kiss is a “buss,” and a man’s sweetheart is his “may”.

Not Devonian, more County Downian.


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Filed under Gordon Brown, Literature, Northern Ireland, politics, Scotland

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