Chitchat.

Clish-ma-claver: Gossip or Foolish Talk, or a Verb Meaning To Gossip

Jim Dee
Jim Dee
May 26, 2020 · 2 min read

Heard it through the grape vine? That’s clish-ma-claver.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

With a word as entertaining as clish-ma-claver, need I mention its origin? Of course it’s a Scottish word. The OED’s earliest usage note is from a 1728 poem by Allan Ramsay, much beloved by the Scots and certainly by the OED editors in search of interesting English words.

I’ve mentioned Ramsay at least twice in these write-ups — once for yamph and again for ayond. In his poem Advice to Mr. — — — on His Marriage, he writes:

It seems odd to attempt to translate English verse to English, but that’s actually fairly normal once we go back three or four hundred years — and perhaps doubly so when, as is the case here, the prose is so rich in old and regional Scottish dialect. My best guess is that Ramsay advises that, if the man’s wife becomes angry or annoyed, he should give her a kiss instead of fighting with her or engaging in today’s word, clish-ma-claver, against her.

While that gets us back to 1718, the OED notes that clish-ma-claver seems to have “echoic associations” with two other words: (1) clish-clash, an onomatopoetic word dating back to at least the 1590s, used to describe battling, and later also used to describe gossiping, and (2) claver, a word dating back to at least 1689 that meant idle, nonsensical chattering or gossip.

I suspect clish-ma-claver is basically a flashier version of claver. Both can be used as nouns (to describe such empty chattering) or verbs (to actually chitchat, gossip, jawbone, or what-have-you — sometimes idly to oneself, sometimes informally with others. I could be wrong, but claver strikes me as a stronger verb and clish-ma-claver a stronger noun. As in the following:

  • Verb: “Stop your clavering.”
  • Noun: “That’s nothing more than clish-ma-claver.”

But, again, either seems applicable in either sense.

And that’ll do it for today’s clavering. Catch you tomorrow.

✍🏻 Jim Dee maintains three blogs — Hawthorne Crow, Web Designer | Web Developer Magazine, and Wonderful Words, Defined — and contributes to various Medium pubs. Connect at JPDbooks.com, Amazon, FB, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Medium, or Jim [at] ArrayWebDevelopment.com. His latest screwball literary novel, CHROO, is a guaranteed good time.

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Jim Dee

Written by

Jim Dee

Web guy at ArrayWebDevelopment.com; author of books & blogs. See: JPDbooks.com.

Wonderful Words, Defined

A celebration of awesome, rarely used, highly novel words in the English language.

Jim Dee

Written by

Jim Dee

Web guy at ArrayWebDevelopment.com; author of books & blogs. See: JPDbooks.com.

Wonderful Words, Defined

A celebration of awesome, rarely used, highly novel words in the English language.

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