English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

It's said in the movie, The 39 Steps.

What does Scotch mean in this case?

"He's our Sheriff Substitute. Scotch for 'a local beak'."

share|improve this question

closed as general reference by FumbleFingers, Andrew Leach, kiamlaluno, Matt E. Эллен, Mahnax Aug 21 '12 at 6:08

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Tip: What research have you done? Have you searched Google for this, or looked in any dictionaries? If so, please tell us what you found and what still didn't make sense. – Hugo Jun 22 '12 at 20:48
General Reference. Scotch = Scottish = the dialect spoken in Scotland. Beak is an old (slang?) word for a magistrate (or schoolmaster). – FumbleFingers Jun 22 '12 at 20:49
Okay, the dictionaries I researched didn't mention about it being equal to Scottish.. Only whisky and so on.. Thanks!! – megaboy1 Jun 22 '12 at 21:01

According to this,

During the bubonic plague, judges visiting prisons used to wear primitive gasmasks, stuffed with herbs or spices thought to ward off the plague - since it looked like a beak... they were referred to as "going before the beak" as they were never seen without it.

Read more: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Why_is_a_judge_called_a_beak#ixzz1yZ9KaNLI

Find more information (including pictures) about this primitive gasmask here: Plague doctor costume (Wikipedia).

More interesting speculations about the origin of the term here.

share|improve this answer

"The beak" is slang for a judge or someone in a position of authority. And scotch has nothing to do with scottish or whisky. And Scotch refers to the whisky not being scottish unless you want to offend that is. Scotch used in this way mean to dismiss an idea. For example if i asked a friend if he fancied a pint and he said he was broke till pay day i might say "Scotch that idea then". This site explains it better:scotch usage

share|improve this answer
In this case, however, Scotch is used specifically to mean Scottish. – Rory Alsop Jun 23 '12 at 13:14

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.