WORD OF THE WEEK: Scowth
scowth (n.) a period of time off from work; scope or freedom to focus on other things
Admittedly, showbiz gossip isn’t exactly a Haggard Hawks strong point, but bear with me. If I understand it correctly, this week it emerged that (a) someone has been leaking stories about Coleen Rooney to the press; (b) the leaker had to have been lifting the stories from Coleen’s private Instagram account; and so, (c) to get to the bottom of the problem, she systematically blocked her Instagram followers until only one name remained. And that name was ………. Rebekah Vardy.
If you want to know the answers to difficult questions like how an “Instagram story” works or what a “Rebekah Vardy” is, let’s just say you’re not going to find them here. What I can tell you, however, is that HOLY MOLY, this story blew up.
But with parliament temporarily out of session and Brexit essentially on ice for a day or two, wasn’t it nice to have the room to think about something else?
There were headlines. There were hashtags. (Hands down, #WAGathaChristie was the best.) Even good old Liz Truss managed to work what just about passes as a joke about it into her WTO speech this week. (No, she really did.) Happily for us, it turns out that Liz Truss’ comic timing is precisely as good as we would have expected it to be. Happily for her, “pork markets” is no longer the most embarrassing thing she’s ever said in public.
So why exactly did the WAGgate drama explode this week? Well, perhaps it’s because the one thing that we’ve been flogging ourselves to death with for the past three years is on an (albeit somewhat flimsy) hiatus. I mean, isn’t it always the same? You wait ages for a prorogation of parliament, and then two come along at once.
After Boris Johnson’s seedy attempt to prorogue parliament was overturned a fortnight ago, this week parliament entered into its second prorogation inside a month and thereby brought to a close (legally, this time) the longest parliamentary session since the Civil War. As it turns out, you really only need five days to prepare for a Queen’s Speech, not five weeks. It’s almost as if that wasn’t what the previous prorogation had been about…
Despite the closedown, though, the Brexit juggernaut has still been rumbling onwards in the background. Private talks between Boris Johnson and Leo Varadkar tantalizingly ended with a “pathway” to a deal being glimpsed earlier this week, and just today Donald Tusk admitted to receiving “positive signals” regarding Brexit from the Taoiseach. The UK “has still not come forward with a workable, realistic proposal,” however, and No Deal remains fixedly on the table. Still, it feels as if some wheels have turned at least. And a lot can happen in the 20 days we have left, of course. Hell, there could be another prorogation at this rate.
But with parliament temporarily out of session and Brexit essentially on ice for a day or two, wasn’t it nice to have the room to think about something else? It was almost like those heady days, pre-2016, when we didn’t have to worry about things like the potential deportation of 3 million EU nationals, or a prime minister flagrantly acting outside of constitutional norms every day.
Naturally, of course, there is a word for this: a scowth is a release or period of time off from work—or, by extension, the scope or freedom, away from one’s ordinary duties, to focus on other things.
Etymologically, scowth is likely nothing more than a local corruption of scope, modelled on similar-sounding North Country coinages like drouth (a period of unseasonable dry weather) and fouth (a Scots word for an abundance or plenty). Head even further back into its history, and the final –th common to all of these words is an ancient Germanic suffix, long used to form nouns from verbs and adjectives; the more eagle-eyed among you will recognise it as the same suffix you’ll see in words like truth (from true), strength (from strong), and depth (from deep).
Alas, despite its obvious usefulness as a word, scowth is a regionalism seldom encountered outside of a handful of isolated Scots and northern English dialects. That being said, however, once this entire Brexit debacle is put to bed and we can finally start concentrating on the WAGathaChristies of this world again, it may well prove a word worth embracing.