Are we hot to trot?

I always love discovering language/word origins.

You know the phrase ‘hot to trot’? I’ve often used it to ask people ‘okay, are we hot to trot?’ as in ‘ready to go’. In the far north of England not long ago, in a place where some of my ancestors once lived, I learnt about the 300 years of border raiding that went on there between warring clans in the Middle Ages. What a long and horrible time it was.

It went on generation after generation.

The Reivers, unrepentant thieves and predators, will have included my forbears.

These marauders were forever attacking their neighbours north and south of the Anglo-Scottish border, burning them out and stealing their stock. Everyone did it. If the people over the hill came and stole your cattle then it was your turn to go seek revenge.

When a clansman wanted to mount a raid, he would ride through the countryside with a flaming torch made of bunched-up straw, known as a “hot trodd”. This personal beacon was tied to a spearhead. It was his call to action as he rounded up supporters to help him commit more mayhem. Thus: hot to trot.

And there was I thinking the term must be something to do with dancing the 1930s foxtrot.

The blokes did the fighting but their women egged them on. Bellies needed to be filled, after all. When food was low the lady of the house would march to the table with a platter that was empty except for a pair of spurs. The clear message: go out and bring back meat.

Here’s the cover of Northumberland history book The Border Reivers, to prove the point. Many thanks to Rothbury genealogist Freda Walker for the heads up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *