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Apparently, my ancestors had very weak stomachs

I have a Google search for “boak” that sends me updates whenever it finds a new web page that mentions the word. Mostly, I’m just curious about other people named “Boak”, because it’s just not that common of a last name. There are a few people that come up fairly regularly: a writer for the Chicago Tribune named Joshua Boak, a senior designer for Martin Guitars named Dick Boak, and a few others.

The last couple of days, there has been quite a bit of activity on the website of The Herald Online, “the website digest of Scotland’s leading quality newspaper”; read ’em & weep (for me, from laughing, whatever floats your boat):

War of words

Sick joke

Dutch boak

The Full spectrum of boakery

Did you read ’em all? Comments, too?

Now, I can’t say I’m at all surprised by this, though that was really a whole lotta boak in those pages! Over the years, I have heard tell that my last name, “Boak”, meant “to retch” in Scottish – mostly an old usage, from what I was told. A few years back, I even heard a friend of mine from Pennsylvania say “oh, I don’t drink Rolling Rock anymore – I drank too much and boaked behind the barn at parties way too many times in high school” (at the time, she didn’t know my last name). However, until I read those pages from The Herald, I’m pretty sure I had never seen quite so … umm … colorful a discussion of the word.

I leave you with excerpts from the wikipedia dictionary entry for “boak”:


From Proto-Germanic (not attested in Old English); cognate with Dutch bulken (“bellow”) and German bolken (“to roar”).


to boak (third-person singular simple present boaks, present participle boaking, simple past and past participle boaked)

  1. (obsolete) To burp.
  2. (Scotland) To retch or vomit.

addendum, October 23, 7:05 pm:

But wait! There’s more discussion of “Boak” at The Herald:

Enough to give you several boaks

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