On a train, earlier today I overheard one Scottish guy say to another: "There's nary a hold chap in that bunch of slordy, poofy freeks. All o' 'em is crank in the head, that's what I say".

I have heard him and also other people use this term from time to time, but I am still not quite sure what it means.

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    You knew what slordy meant? – ab2 Mar 23 '16 at 0:41
  • You can deduce what he means by the context. Any time someone says "<blank> in the head" you can pretty much assume they are referring to their mental state. – Hefewe1zen Mar 23 '16 at 1:17
  • Well, I guess, you could. But sometimes it is hard to come to a correct illation, especially if you have heard the word in question used a couple of times in a few different contexts and did not understand it. It doesn't always work like that. I mean, can you deduce what he meant by the word "slordy" for example (which is sort of fishermen slang)? – user74809 Mar 23 '16 at 1:30

Perhaps not an obvious place to look for the definition of a sense, The Online Etymology Dictionary has:


English retains the literal sense of the ancient root, while German and Dutch krank "sick," formerly "weak, small," is from a figurative use. The 1825 supplement to Jamieson's Scottish dictionary has crank "infirm, weak, etc."

  • Yeah, I think "sick" or "weak" kind of makes sense here. And as far as I understand "crank" is a derogatory term, and it is used mostly to disparage people. It seems to be very offensive. I have encountered it just a couple of times in a couple of decades in phrases like: "that crank fuck" or " come over here you crank bastard". – user74809 Mar 23 '16 at 0:46
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    Remember that modern English usage may be rather or very different from archaic or dialect ones: {M-W} crank [adj]: of, relating to, or being a cranky or eccentric person ... // [noun] 2 ... c: an annoyingly eccentric person; also : one who is overly enthusiastic about a particular subject or activity d: a bad-tempered person : grouch // The older Scottish usage (sick / weak) is unmarked for eccentricity / grouchiness, until coupled with 'in the head'. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 23 '16 at 0:56
  • @EdwinAshworth And a word with an interesting history. The OED makes connections between crank and crook. The latter, curiously, is a common Australian expression for being 'sick' or 'unwell'. Probably another case of British dialects being transferred to and kept in common use in the former British colonies. – John Mack Mar 23 '16 at 10:41

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