‘Ne’er cast a clout till May be out’

‘Ne’er cast a clout till May be out’ is an English proverb which comes from old English (example from @1485: “He had not left an holle clowt, Wherwith to hyde hys body abowte.”)

However many people think of the phrase as something only Scottish people like me say:

“Ne’er cast a cloot till May is oot! Och aye the noo!”

They’re absolutely right. I say the phrase a lot at this time of year, mainly to confuse and annoy people.

In translation the proverb means that we should not discard our clothing (ie. wear less clothes, not run around totally naked) until May is out, but there is argument about the meaning of ‘May’. Some say it means don’t wear less clothing till after the end of the month of May. But others think it means don’t wear less clothing till the hawthorn (or May) is in bloom – which in the UK happens in late April/early May.

This means that some will stay bundled up in balaclavas, overcoats and mittens till June even in a heatwave, while others throw off their cardigans in late April and walk around in tiny vests and shorts despite blizzard conditions.

I, being a hopeful type of person, go for the late April option. Which is why I spent last night bagging up the winter coats, gloves and hats and chucking them into the loft space while singing ‘The Sun Has Got His Hat On Hip Hip Hip Hooray’.

It will probably snow on Friday.


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