‘blind scouse’: meaning and origin

The term blind scouse denotes scouse without meat.

The noun scouse is a shortened form of lobscouse, which The English Dialect Dictionary (Oxford: Henry Frowde, 1905), edited by the English philologist Joseph Wright (1855-1930), defined as:

A dish of hashed meat stewed with potatoes and onions; an Irish stew.

—Cf. origin of ‘Scouse’ (Liverpudlian).

The meaning of the adjective blind in blind scouse is unclear. According to Tony Crowley in The Liverpool English Dictionary: A Record of the Language of Liverpool 1850—2015 on Historical Principles (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2017), blind scouse is:

an early-20th century coinage, from the general early sense of ‘blind’ meaning ‘deficient’.

I have noticed that a similar term was recorded in The English Dialect Dictionary (Oxford: Henry Frowde, 1898), edited by Joseph Wright: blind brose denoted brose made without butter—the noun brose denoted, in Scotland and Northumberland, oatmeal mixed with boiling water or milk; porridge.

These are, in chronological order, the earliest occurrences of blind scouse that I have found:

1-: From a letter to the Editor, published in the Liverpool Daily Post (Liverpool, Lancashire, England) of Friday 3rd March 1939:


Sir,—Memories of many a feed of scouse in my old home in the city’s dockside area moves me to tell your Welsh correspondent that his scouse was not as ours, for we added neither oatmeal, leeks nor peas to our cooking-pot.
For us, the ingredients were simply potatoes, meat, carrots, swedes and an onion or two. For the best results we tried to obtain potatoes that would not become mushy or pulpy in the course of cooking, while the meat (beef and mutton) was usually the kind sold as pieces.
The potatoes were cut up into sections about the size of a walnut, the swedes and carrots somewhat smaller and the onions were sliced. These were all put into a fairly large stew-pan, seasoned with salt and pepper to taste, water sufficient to cover them was added and the lot left to simmer and thicken for several hours by the side of the fire.
The dish usually constituted the evening meal for the family and was served piping hot when father had returned from his day’s work at the docks, and I can still remember, delicious as was the scouse in itself, the delightful piquancy that could be added by a penn’orth of red pickled-cabbage from the corner-shop.
Sometimes funds were low and did not suffice for the purchase of meat. On these occasions we made “blind scouse,” by cooking the ingredients, minus the meat but with the addition of a portion of dripping, in a frying-pan covered by a plate.
One remembers also the marked extent to which the word scouse entered into our home-spun speech, even although the relevancy was not always obvious. For instance, a project that turned out futile, a person who was well “lit-up” or a competitor well-beaten was said to be “scoused,” but the nick-name “Scouse” for a boy suggested qualities of self-reliance or daredevilry. “Scouse shops” were the dock-road eating houses, and “Scouse Alley” the line of refreshment booths on the waste ground in Fontenoy Street, known as Paddy’s Market. “Good scouse” was equivalent to the modern “O.K.,” and “cold scouse” denoted something depressive or unpalatable.
A day or two ago the head of a dock-side school met an old woman who after many years’ residence in a slum court had removed to one of the city’s housing estates, and congratulated her on obtaining a nice house with garden, electric-light, bath and other modern conveniences. “What’s the use of it all,” she asked, “when there isn’t a firegrate in the whole place where you can cook a decent pot of scouse?”
Is there a moral?—Yours, &c.,
                              Old Gerard Street.

2-: From Pilot’s Sports Log, published in the Evening Express (Liverpool, Lancashire, England) of Monday 17th September 1945:

There were some exciting moments at Goodison Park on Saturday, where Preston North End forced a 1-1 draw, but, taken all through, it was almost like “blind scouse”—no meat in it. There was much in the midfield play to please the discriminate because the work of the wing half-backs was so good, but the goalmouth thrills; the joy of the quick-fire shot; and the fluent, rhythmic attack which stirs the blood were missing.

3-: From Flotsam’s Commentary, a “rhyming commentary by Flotsam, the world-famous entertainer1, published in Truth (London, England) of Friday 10th November 1950:

“Whackers” Needed . . .
Meanwhile at Liverpool there met
Some gentry who would like
To preserve the phraseology
Of our old friend Frisby Dyke 2.
For there’s nothing like a “meatless stew”
Their tempers to arouse
If it isn’t called by its proper name
Up north, which is “Blind Scouse.”

1 The English singer, songwriter and musician Bentley Collingwood Hilliam (1890-1968) was Mr. Flotsam in the comedy duo Mr. Flotsam and Mr. Jetsam. The Australian singer Malcolm McEachern (1883-1945) was Mr. Jetsam.

2 The Liverpudlian comedian Derek Guyler (1914-1999) played Frisby Dike (a character named after a Liverpool department store bombed in the Blitz) in the radio series It’s That Man Again (1939-1949). The name Frisby Dike came to designate a Liverpudlian.

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