Daily Archives: January 28, 2009


Now, here’s a word that has a definite flavour to it! Even people who have never tasted its object are likely to know of it: the great Scottish dish, Scotland’s contribution to world cuisine. Robert Burns wrote a humorous ode to it in language even chewier than its subject. But many people are loath to actually try haggis; they see this bulging sheep gut filled with a mixture that they have long been assured is the culinary equivalent of bagpipe music (certainly both require a good set of lungs). Actually, it is quite savoury, more so than many a sausage, and has a very nice texture, thanks in part to the cut oats that bind it. The word, too, may seem off-putting, but give it a taste and you might like it. Admittedly, it brings notes of hag, haggard, and haggle – words also consistent with stereotypes of Scots – but any word with a gg in the middle is likely to have at least a slight silly or happy overtone (you giggle? bugger off). Huggies is not so far off. It also makes a vocal gesture similar to a kiss and I guess – starting back in the throat, stopping at the velum and bouncing to an alveolar fricative. And it starts with a sigh and ends with a hiss. And then there’s Paul Haggis (no relation), who has certainly written and directed many TV shows and movies that are rather to many people’s tastes. Of course, he’s not Scottish. But, then, neither is the word haggis originally – nor its referent. The word is commonly thought by etymologists to have come from a word meaning “hack” or “chop,” though there is disagreement whether the word it comes from is Scandinavian or Norman French, and haggis was actually a popular dish in England up to around 1800 (as it happens, Burns wrote his “Ode to a Haggis” not all that long before then). In fact, a more native Scottish invention would be the deep-fried Mars bar (a.k.a. Mars bar in batter), which was invented in Stonehaven (where Burns holidayed two centuries earlier) and is well in keeping with the modern Scots tradition of battering and deep-frying almost anything, including pizza… and, of course, haggis.