AskDefine | Define Sawney

Extensive Definition

Sandie/y or Sawney was an English nickname for a Scotsman, now obsolete, and playing much the same linguistic role that "Jock" does now. Variations included Sanders and Sannock. The name is a Lowland Scots diminutive of the favourite Scottish first name Alexander (also current as Alasdair, Alistair in a Gaelicised form) from the last two syllables. The English commonly abbreviate the first two syllables into "Alec". In the days after the accession of James VI to the English throne, under the title of James I, to the time of George III, and the Bute administration, when Scotsmen were exceedingly unpopular, and when Dr. Samuel Johnson - the great Scotophobe, and son of a Scottish bookseller at Lichfield - thought it prudent to disguise his origin, and overdid his prudence by maligning his father's countrymen, it was customary to designate a Scotsman a "Sawney". This vulgar epithet, however, was dying out fast by the 1880s, and was obsolete by the 20th Century.
Sawney was a common figure of fun in English cartoons, and one particularly racist example was called Sawney at the bog house showing a stereotypical Scotsman using a communal toilet by sticking one of his legs down each of the pans. It has also been suggested that the south western cannibal Sawney Bean may have been a fabrication to emphasise the alleged savagery of the Scots.
"Jock" is the term commonly used today, and fulfils much the same role. "Porridge wog" and "Sweaty (Sock)" (rhyming slang for "Jock") may also be heard sometimes.


The main text of this article is derived from -
  • MacKay, Charles – A Dictionary of Lowland Scotch (1888)
With additions from -
  • Pittock, Murray - Inventing and Resisting Britain: Cultural Identities in Britain and Ireland, 1685-1789
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