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Scottish word of the week: Baloo

Baloo and Mowgli in a Glasgow production of the Jungle Book. Picture: Contributed

Baloo and Mowgli in a Glasgow production of the Jungle Book. Picture: Contributed

THIS week’s word is the answer to an age-old question: how do you get a crying baby off to sleep?

One way to send a boy or girl off for the night is with a baloo. Baloo is the Scots word for lullaby, with one of the best-known examples being Baloo Baleerie.

Baloo Baleerie is thought to have originated in Shetland in the 1100s, with the singer imploring “peerie faeries” to go away and be replaced by “bonny angels”.

Faeries were not symbols of sweetness and light in the 12th century, with the prevalent pagan culture filled with stories of ‘changelings’ - faeries descending from heaven and swapping places with human babies.

As is often the case, the word’s original meaning has been overtaken by popular culture.

Baloo is also the name of the gregarious, jazz-loving bear in Disney’s classic animation The Jungle Book, and his slightly more sedate namesake from Rudyard Kipling’s original book.

However, the two uses of the word might not be unrelated.

Kipling’s mother Alice was Scottish, creating the possibility that a young Rudyard was lulled off to sleep with an old song that one day came to mind when naming one of his most famous characters.

MORE SCOTTISH WORDS

Plook - a spot you can’t get rid of, or an eyesore you wish you could

The Gowk

Our guide to the Edinburgh dialect

 

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