- Paul Anthony Jones
(n.) a heavy fall of snow; (v.) to labour through a pile of unpleasant work
On Monday, the Scots dialect word murg popped up on HH defined both as “a heavy fall of snow”, and, as a verb, “to labour perseveringly through a pile of unpleasant work”. And as it ended the week as our most popular tweet, here’s a bit more about it.
That definition comes from the Scottish National Dictionary, which not only credits the word specifically to the Shetland dialect of northern Scotland, but adds that that “pile of unpleasant work” could include the likes of “cleaning fish, potatoes, etc.” Personally, I’d go with the et cetera.
The SND also gives a more general meaning for murg, namely “a mass or conglomeration ... of dirty or messy material”—and it’s that definition that points us to its origins.
Like a lot of words from the far north of Scotland, murg has its roots in Scandinavia and likely derives from an old Norwegian dialect word, morke, meaning “a mass or clump”. From there, it’s easy to see how the word might have come to refer to a heavy fall of snow—with the sense of unpleasant work perhaps alluding to the act of trudging laboriously through a snowfield. ’Tis the season, after all.