“A girl on her arrival was asked whether she had had the smallpox. ‘Yes mem, I’ve had the sma’pox, the nirls, the blabs, the scraw, the kinkhost and the fever, the branks and the worm.’” - Dean E.B Ramsay, Reminiscences of Scottish Life and Character (1864)
If you recognised any of those terms then you, or your family must be Scottish, for those of you that didn’t here’s a handy guide to Scots terms for diseases:
Ablepsy - Blindness
Apoplexy - Paralysis due to a stroke
Bellythraw - A common term for Colic.
Blabs - Chickenpox or nettlerash (A blab is a bubble or a drop of liquid)
Boat cough or stranger’s cold - Terms used on St Kilda for either the common cold or influenza, outbreaks of which would follow the arrival of a vessel from the Outer Hebrides.
Branks - Mumps
Canine Madness - Rabies, hydrophobia
Chilblain - Swelling of extremities caused by the cold
Croup - Laryngitis, diphtheria, or strep throat
The good wife - Smallpox
Grandgore or glengore - Syphilis (From Old French, grand gorre - great pox)
Gulsoch - Jaundice (gule for yellow and suht for disease)
Haingles -Influenza (to haingle is to hang around feebly)
Inbred fever - Various chest diseases, including bronchitis and tuberculosis
Jaw pish - Urethitis
Kinkhoste - whooping cough (to kinke is to suffer a coughing fit)
Knot in the pudding - a strangled hernia
MacDonald’s disease - A kind of chest infection that was supposedly only curable by the touch of a member of the MacDonald Clan, it is not understood where these mythical healing powers came from or where the legend arose.
Meserlie, meselne or messall - Leprosy (from the Latin miser meaning wretched)
Mort Cauld - A severe cold
Nirls - Measels (A nirl is a small lump)
Phtisik or teesick - Any wasting disease
Ripple - Gonorrhoea
Rose Cold - Hay fever or allergy
Rush fever - Scarlet fever (A rush is a rash)
Scaw - Any scaly skin disease.
Screws - Rheumatism
Scrumpox - Skin disease, impetigo
Stourie lungs - Name given in Fife and the Lothians to pneumoconiosis, aka black lung, a disease miners suffered from exposure to inhalation of coaldust.
Sweating Sickness - Infectious and fatal disease common to Scotland in 15th century
Worm Toothache, colic or any other ailment believed to be caused by a worm.
Ydrope or ydropesie - Dropsy.