Word of the Week

Week eighty-five: SICCAR (probability 16964), by David Sutton

SICCAR is a Scottish word that means sure or certain. It has variants SICKER and SYKER. SICKER is also, of course, the comparative of sick, but it is this variant sense that gives rise to the adverb SICKERLY.

The most famous historical use of the word allegedly occurred on 10th February, 1306 when Robert the Bruce met John 'the Red' Comyn at Greyfriars Church near Dumfries Castle, to discuss an attempt to usurp the throne of Scotland. Bruce wanted Comyn's support, but Comyn was loyal to the present incumbent John Balliol, despite the fact that Balliol was in exile, having been stripped of all his powers by Edward I, thus earning himself the disparaging nickname 'toom tabard': toom means empty, so this is likening Balliol to an empty suit.

Now, Scots in those days were a truculent, treacherous lot, quite unlike the amiable and honourable Scots so many of whom grace our Scrabble scene today, and Bruce in a fit of frustration or temper stabbed Comyn, then ran out of the church calling to one of his retainers, Sir Roger de Kirkpatrick, that he thought he had killed Comyn. Fitzpatrick, saying 'Ye think? I mak siccar', drew his sword and running into the church did just that. And 'I mak siccar' has been the motto of the Fitzpatrick family to this day.


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