A besom, prononced bizam,is the Scottish word for a broom. You know, the sort of broom which is made up of twigs which are gathered together and tied around a handle. The favourite mode of transport for any self-respecting witch!
So why is the word besom used as a term of abuse? I haven’t got a clue but I do know that as the youngest child in a large family I was commonly called ‘a cheeky wee besom ‘. And I was such a good wee girl, honest!
For some reason it’s only females who are ever described as being a besom. Chamber’s Dictionary says it is: a term of reproach for a woman, implying general slatternliness, laziness and impudence.
I think that over the years the word has almost developed into a term of endearment, or is that me just being charitable? It was certainly the closest thing to a term of endearment uttered within my family anyway.