I conducted this interview over the phone, the subject was born and raised in Scotland before moving to England, Canada, the United States, then to Northern Ireland, and, finally, back to the United States. I knew she continued to practice certain traditions which were heavily present in her childhood and wanted to ask her more about them.
Interviewer: “Growing up, did you have any sayings that were thrown around your home in Scotland?”
Subject: “Well my mom used to yell ‘Haud yer wheesht!’ at us all the time, she still does. [Laughs] She even does it to you guys, it’s just become part of everyday language for her. It basically means ‘shut up’ but it’s in Scottish. I try not to say it, but when I do people give me a weird look and then I have to explain, and it basically ruins the point of the phrase since we’re talking so much now.”
I’ve found that this is an extremely common phrase in Scotland. According to the Scotsman, “First used in the 14th century, ‘wheesht’ has the handy bonus of being very adaptable. It can be used as a verb, a noun, and an interjection as in asking someone to ‘haud their wheesht’.”
The word ‘wheesht’ comes from adding more sounds to the command ‘Shh’. Many have found that the saying is more dramatic and demanding than the usual “Shut up” and is therefore more effective, especially when said with the seething tone of the wonderful Scottish accent.