Coping with Sandy: Hunkering and coorie-ing

Merriam-Webster’s “Trend Watch” reported a spike in lookups of the word “hunker” in the run-up to Hurricane (Superstorm?) Sandy. They give this CNN headline as an example: “From Maine to South Carolina, states hunker down for storm.”

Here’s the definition of hunker, from the Online Etymology Dictionary:

hunker (v.)

“to squat, crouch,” 1720, Scottish, of uncertain origin, possibly from a Scandinavian source, cf. O.N. huka “to crouch,” hoka, hokra “to crawl.” Hunker down, Southern U.S. dialectal phrase, popularized c.1965, from northern British hunker “haunch.” Related: Hunkered; hunkering.

Here in Scotland we use to expression “to get down on your hunkers”, i.e. to squat. Not a very elegant expression, but then it’s not a very elegant position.

Another word that comes to mind in the aftermath of Sandy is “coorie” (or “courie”). Here’s the (slightly amended) Collins definition:


(Scottish), often foll by doun, to nestle or snuggle

Word Origin

C19: from coor, a Scot word for cower

I’m more familiar with “corrie in”, not “coorie doun” (it’s weird, I use some Scottish words but not “doun”. And if  I did, I’d spell it “doon” – as in “doon the watter”).  So if you’re sitting on the sofa watching TV on a cold winter’s night, for example, you might coorie in to whoever’s sitting next to you (if you’re on friendly enough terms, that is) to keep warm and cosy.

To all readers affected by Sandy, I hope things are getting better for you and yours. And if you’re feeling cold and miserable, I hope you at least have the comfort of a wee coorie-in.

By Marian Dougan

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