Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: Scotch, adj. & n.; Scottish, adj.; Scots, adj. & n.

Scotch, adj. & n. ; Scottish, adj. ; Scots, adj. & n. As adjectives, “Scots” generally applies to people {Scotsman} and Scottish to things {Scottish golf}. But the distinction is far from rigid. Some things, usually those associated with people, have names that use “Scots” instead of “Scottish,” e.g., “Scots law,” “Scots Guards,” “Scots goose,” “Scots pine.” And there are many things with fixed names, such as “Scottish Rite” and “Scottish Rifles.” The noun “Scots” usually refers to the form of English spoken in Scotland {speaks a lilting Scots} or to the people {the Scots of the Highlands}. “Scotch,” an adjective of English origin, is a contracted form of “Scottish.” Although it was used for a long time in Scotland, and appears in the writings of eminent figures such as James Boswell, Robert Burns, and Sir Walter Scott, it is now often considered offensive. Limit its use to set phrases such as “Scotch broth” and “Scotch egg.” But even some of those names are undergoing change. For instance, *"Scotch terriers" are now called “Scottish terriers” or even “Scots terriers.” And a “Scotch bonnet” pepper is more often called a habanero pepper. As a noun, “Scotch” refers only to whisky distilled in Scotland. *Invariably inferior forms. For information about the Language-Change Index click here. ——————– Quotation of the Day: “Chapters, sections, and subsections should all have headings descriptive of the subject they are treating. This has three advantages: (1) it keeps the writer honest by forcing him to think functionally about his subject instead of just rambling on; (2) it relieves reader anxiety by breaking up long pages of text into manageable modules; and (3) it gives the reader needed orientation. He can anticipate what he is about read and set up the proper mental attitude.” Ernst Jacobi, Writing at Work: Dos, Don’ts, and How Tos 98 (1976).
Scroll to Top