Not late, or belated, but blate, another guid Scots word – and a useful one at that!
It means shy, bashful, timid or unpromising and, when applied to crops, backward.
In a late or cold spring when crops are slow growing after brairding they are said to be blate. Also when young animals are slow growing or stunted-looking they’re said to be, “Gey blate to thrive”.
When at school, pupils were slow at answering because they had not done their homework my primary teacher would say they were blate at learning.
The proverb “a blate cat maks a prood mouse” is a good example of the pithiness of our Scots words and phrases. Fortunately there are not many blate cats about in Scotland, especially the farm felines, for many a time I have seen a muckle rat meet his fate from one of these. Farm cats are certainly not blate.
The warring barons we read about in history books are good examples of proud mice when, as so often happened, a minor was on the throne and the regent was blate at keeping control of these gentry.
I once heard an old friend remark about a man who had remained single until middle life that he had been, “Gey blate at the courtin”, and of a lass given to flirting that she “wasna blate wi the men”.
When used in a positive sense the word blate could be just as forceful. If someone was venturesome in business to the extent of taking risks it was said that he was no blate in his dealings.
We Scots are lucky. With words like blate we don’t need to be blate at expressing ourselves.