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

Published by Marian Dougan

Marian is a translator and editor (specialising in web content) currently based in Glasgow, Scotland. Marian previously lived in Italy for over 20 years, working as a language teacher, translator and policy analyst with the British Embassy in Rome. A qualified member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) and its Italian-language and ITI Scotnet networks, she is currently Scotnet's Convenor and Deputy Webmaster. From 2003 to 2006 Marian taught translation skills at the Italian Department of Glasgow University and now gives Master Classes as part of the new Masters in Translation Studies course. She also conducts web-writing and usability workshops to help people improve their websites and communicate more effectively with their readers, users and customers. In September 2014 Marian obtained User Experience Certification, with specialisation in Web Design, from the Nielsen Norman Group. She loves language, especially English, and is convinced that learning languages opens up people’s minds and horizons (and increases their brainpower!). To share her enthusiasm, she advises schools and educational authorities on language skills and enterprise. She gives talks to pupils on how to combine language studies with other subjects and so enhance their potential and increase their career options. Marian is an active member of organisations such as: Scottish Council Development and Industry (SCDI); Association of Scottish Businesswomen; Dunbartonshire Chamber of Commerce and the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Scotland. She also loves architecture, design, fashion (British Vogue!), cities and chocolate. She’s a great fan of Twitter and you can also find her on Linkedin.

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