from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition
- transitive v. To separate the valuable fibers of (flax, for example) from the woody parts by beating.
- n. An implement used for scutching.
from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License
- v. to beat or flog, especially for extracting the fibers from flax stalks
- n. An implement used to separate the fibres of flax by beating them.
- n. The woody fibre of flax; the refuse of scutched flax.
- n. A tuft or clump of grass.
from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English
- transitive v. To beat or whip; to drub.
- transitive v. To separate the woody fiber from (flax, hemp, etc.) by beating; to swingle.
- transitive v. To loosen and dress the fiber of (cotton or silk) by beating; to free (fibrous substances) from dust by beating and blowing.
- n. A wooden instrument used in scutching flax and hemp.
- n. The woody fiber of flax; the refuse of scutched flax.
from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- To beat; drub.
- To dress (fibrous material) by beating.
- n. Same as scutcher, 1.
- n. A coarse tow that separates from flax during scutching.
Then you 'scutch' it, which requires scraping the last of it away with a dull knife.
Nabokov, of course, would have taken delight in using "scutch"; I suppose I'd go with "I feel in my gut the Fate tugging the thread" for phonetic and associational reasons, but I would regret losing the specificity of the technical term.
Some would chop down the trees; some would measure and cut off the logs; some would "scutch" the logs; and others would come along with a broadaxe, and hew two sides of the logs flat.
There is another verb scutch meaning 'to strike with a stick or whip, to slash, switch,' but although it is "not impossible" that this is "a transferred use of the verb meaning 'to dress by beating',... more probably the present verb is an independent onomatopic formation: cf. scotch vb."
The specific meanings "whip" and "scutch" aren't actual, but something like "Today he has to spend the afternoon messing the hemp" would be a workable idiom if anyone actually used it.
But here, in the context of the Fates and thread, it clearly takes on its primordial meaning, 'to scutch.'
Yes, that's the first definition in my trusty Oxford: to scutch, swingle flax, hemp, etc.
Patches started to scutch about at the strange noise, but I held her in, and as the plane approached, I took off my hat and waved.
She was a shrewd, agile, withered woman, thin as a gnat but indestructible as scutch grass.
V-shaped cutting block, an incision made where desired with the tin saw, and after the bolster and club-hammer have removed the portion of the brick, the scutch, really a small axe, is used to hack off the rough parts.