Monday 12 August 2013


I've just come back from the Edinburgh Book Festival, where I had a lovely Scottish time drinking whisky and balancing books on my head. If you like, you can hear me on the Guardian Books Podcast chatting to the lovely Claire Armitstead. Yet what intrigued me most was a lady at the book signing who told me about the word flype.

Flype, she said, was a Scots word meaning to roll back a sock or stocking prior to putting it on one's foot.

Well, I have to say, that I didn't quite know whether to believe her. It sounded too good to be true, and I was away from my dictionaries. So the first thing I did upon hurtling back down to London was to look it up. And yes: flype (or flipe) means just that.

Merriam Webster has this:

chiefly Scot : to strip off by or as if by peeling
chiefly Scot : to turn or fold back (as a stocking)
The OED, though, shows that, though flyping is now chiefly Scots, its earliest citations are English. We fools south of the border threw away a jewel.
You've no idea how elated I felt.


  1. First of all, Mr.Forsyth, let me congratulate you on The Etymologicon.
    I spotted the book in a bookstore in St.Andrews and my BF took one look at the synopsis and decided to buy it. Needless to say, we are still chuckling over panties/pants being all-compassionate Christian martyrs.

    Since I have been brushing up on my Scots, do you know where "drookit" comes from? It means drenched but will be very interested to know what its origins are!

    Your book is going down a treat!

  2. Flype (verb) is also used to describe the action of taking two socks and folding one inside the other.

    In mathematical knot theory, flype (noun) refers to a knot that has been rotated by 180 degrees.

  3. The only usage I am aware of and I'm from Edinburgh.