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  • Paul Anthony Jones


(n.) the act of wasting time in bad company [Scots]

Three hen's eggs on a wooden table

If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a hundred times. Scots has all the best words.

And if eggtaggle doesnt’ prove that point to you, we don’t know what will.

But egg? Taggle? Where does that come from? That’s a good question. A very good question, in fact, because we kinda don’t really know.

The dictionary that we lifted that entry from, John Jamieson’s 1808 Dictionary of the Scottish Language, certainly doesn’t provide any clues. (In fact, a later supplementary edition went so far as to say that “this word is doubtfully authentic.”) But the Volume 2 of the English Dialect Dictionary, published a century later, put more faith in the word and postulated that it might be related to another Scots word, taigle, which can be variously used to mean “to engage in conversation,” “to delay, or hold up,” “to harass,” “to confound,” “to bamboozle,” and—most important to us here—“to dally in the company of.”

There’s a clear negative streak running through that potpourri of definitions there, but that final explanation shows a clear parallel to the meaning outlined above: if you’re “dallying in the company” of people you should be, perhaps you’re eggtaggling as well as taigling?

If that’s the case, then, where does the “egg” come from? That too is a good question. Because we’ve got even less idea about that than the “taggle” bit.

There is, however, another word knocking around the Scots dictionary that might at least offer a clue: the verb eggle, meaning “to incite” or “to quarrel with.” It’s derived from the more familiar use of the word egg as a verb, meaning “to coerce” or “to encourage” (which oddly has nothing whatsoever to do with chickens. and is instead an English corruption of an Old Norse word, eggja, literally meaning “to urge”).

Perhaps, then, eggtaggle is meant to be “eggle-taigle”—which could be said to have the implication of dallying in the company of people who might be up to no good, and moreover, might encourage you to get up to no good with them. (Tellingly, that might help explain why the definition we posted to Twitter is followed up by a second sense meaning “immodest conduct.”)

Is that the case? It’s certainly plausible, and a nice guess at the very least. But with one dictionary throwing shade at this word by doubting its authenticity, and another offering no etymological clues whatsoever, it’s probably the best explanation we can muster.


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