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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 Alasdair in Scottish Gaelic form, anglicised into Alistair) 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,[1] 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 in the bog house by James Gillray, 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 Galloway cannibal Sawney Bean may have been a fabrication to emphasise the alleged savagery of the Scots.

Sometimes also used in the term "Sawney Ha'peth" = Scots halfpennyworth = fool

At the time of the political union of Scotland and England in 1707 the Pound Scots was worth 1/12 of the Pound Sterling, thus a Scots halfpennyworth implies worthlessness.

The word "sawney" survives in the current Official Scrabble Player's Dictionary (OSPD), which validates the word in Scrabble tournament play, and is defined as "a foolish person".

See also[edit]


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
  1. ^ "Quotes on Scotland: The Samuel Johnson Sound Bite Page". Retrieved 11 August 2010. The noblest prospect which a Scotchman ever sees, is the high road that leads him to England!