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February 28, 2011 1:58 AM   Subscribe

Can you speak Scots? As part of this year's census people in Scotland will be asked to say if they can understand speak, read and / or write Scots.

There's mair tae it than bairn, wean, dreich, brae, heid, doon, aboot, cooncil, hoose, lang, eejit, glaikit, bonnie, ken, fitba, lad, lass, stooshie, stramash, faither, mither, maw, paw.
posted by Lezzles (101 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

 
I can speak Scots. Or rather, I can slur Scots every New Year as I try to drunkenly mumble the third verse of Auld Lang Syne*:
We twa hae run about the braes,
and pu’d the gowans fine ;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
sin auld lang syne.

posted by twoleftfeet at 2:22 AM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I tell you what - if you can get past the lady from Caithness, you're probably Scottish.

Note to idiots the world over - do not call someone from Scotland "Scotch".
posted by awfurby at 2:23 AM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


twoleftfeet: Just so long as you get the s/z distinction right in the chorus of ˈɔːld lɑŋˈsəin
posted by Lezzles at 2:31 AM on February 28, 2011


Man goes to the dentist, lies down on the chair. The dentist asks, "Comfy?" The man replies, "Govan."
posted by daveje at 2:33 AM on February 28, 2011 [16 favorites]


Whale oil beef hooked is the usual phrase used to train the ear to Irish. What's the phrase for Scot?
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:36 AM on February 28, 2011 [34 favorites]


That's a pretty interesting site. One thing it does manage to convey is just how regionalised either a word or the nuance of its meaning might be. An extract form a recent email from my brother to illustrate:
And after 3 days of no post at all, we finally got 4 days worth of mail today. It was the orra postman as our postie is off sick. What do you mean, you don't know what orra means?

Not so long ago, when the Courier advertised for molecatchers on the front page, which was totally classified ads, you would see adverts for an orramen, usually agricultural. An orraman was not quite as good as a tractorman or stockman, but would lend a hand feeding stock, working the calf catching crate, and would drive a tractor for a not too skilled job like rolling and so on. So our orra postie appears on our route when someone is sick or on holiday - he is a really nice man, just very very slightly not the full shilling, and a monumentally insensitive driver. Orra describes him well, and is not really meant as derogatory. Although like rat-catchers and dustbin men (now pest controllers and refuse collectors, or waste operatives) things have moved on.

But orra in a derogatory sense is used in appearance - someone looking 'gey orra' is not smartly enough turned out - a rough looking beater at a smart shoot, people the worse for wear the following day after a big party, or just badly turned out folk in the street - I suppose orra would mean "a bit too ordinary". An orra-looking car might not get you to Glasgow. Or Crieff.

posted by rongorongo at 2:56 AM on February 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Scotland, where being unable to speak properly becomes the cultural heritage.
posted by fire&wings at 2:57 AM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Scotland, where being unable to speak properly becomes the cultural heritage.

Really? Was that supposed to be a joke? Or are you trolling?
posted by awfurby at 3:01 AM on February 28, 2011 [14 favorites]


I suppose orra would mean "a bit too ordinary"

The DSL has a long entry for "orra" and this great quote from Sheena Blackhall:
Ither weel-meanin bodies
Jump oot frae ahin the curtains
Wi a speenfu o English pheesic
Tae purge the Scots spikker
O aa orra idioms,
Aa non-standard spikks
An Tom Leonard winnerfu wordies.

posted by Lezzles at 3:10 AM on February 28, 2011


Man goes to the dentist, lies down on the chair. The dentist asks, "Comfy?" The man replies, "Govan."

I speak no Scots. Can I please get an explanation of this joke?
posted by molecicco at 3:18 AM on February 28, 2011




Man goes to the dentist, lies down on the chair. The dentist asks, "Comfy?" The man replies, "Govan."

I speak no Scots. Can I please get an explanation of this joke?
posted by molecicco


Comfy sounds very like "come Frae?" or in english "where do you come from?"
posted by Lanark at 3:20 AM on February 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


fire&wings: "Scotland, where being unable to speak properly becomes the cultural heritage"

Hamish: Where are you going?
William Wallace: I'm going to pick a fight.
Hamish: Well, we didn't get dressed up for nothing.
posted by bwg at 3:47 AM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Scotland, where being unable to speak properly becomes the cultural heritage.
posted by fire&wings at 10:57 AM


This is a problem the scottish language has had for a long time, because the Scottish language is so close to English and because most of the speakers are working class and because there are so many regional dialects, many people just assume it's slang or not a "proper" language, Rabbie Burns be damned.

For years Scottish school children would attend school and be expected to pick up, what for some of them was practically a foreign language (English.) In recent years the pendulum has swung in the other direction with children being taught scottish words and poetry. There is some debate about how valuable this is in a world dominated by English, thats probably why this is being asked in the census.
posted by Lanark at 3:53 AM on February 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


I learned most of my contemporary Scots from reading James Kelman; How Late It Was, How Late must be one of the best novels published in the UK in the 20th century. So, erm, good luck to those preserving the language.
posted by Abiezer at 3:57 AM on February 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


I love the site!

Most of the Scots accents I can understand fairly well, although of course tons of local words would escape me until I learned them.

Foo's yer doos?
posted by bwg at 4:00 AM on February 28, 2011




Scotland, where being unable to speak properly becomes the cultural heritage.
posted by fire&wings at 2:57 AM


Just knew you'd appear in this thread to squeeze out a skittery wee keech.

What's your problem with Scotland?
posted by the cuban at 4:17 AM on February 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


Just so long as you get the s/z distinction

Sounds like a job for Roland Barthes.
posted by Wolof at 4:20 AM on February 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


This is interesting. I grew up in the North-East of Scotland, and always spoke Doric with my family, and with my community. Until I went to school, that is, and we were constantly punished for using slang whenever we spoke Scots. I vividly remember feeling incredibly stupid, and really ashamed of my family for not teaching me the "proper" way to speak. By the time I reached university, I had taught myself to always speak "The Queen's English", even when around my family and others who spoke Scots, because I had been taught that Scots was little more than slang, and only stupid people spoke that way.

Liz Lochhead wrote a poem about the experience of a Scots speaker in school, and it's quite wonderful.

Kidspoem/Bairnsang

it wis January
and a gey driech day
the first day Ah went to the school
so my Mum happed me up in ma
good navy-blue napp coat wi the rid tartan hood
birled a scarf aroon ma neck
pu'ed oan ma pixie an' my pawkies
it wis that bitter
said noo ye'll no starve
gie'd me a wee kiss and a kid-oan skelp oan the bum
and sent me aff across the playground
tae the place A'd learn to say

it was January
and a really dismal day
the first day I went to school
so my mother wrapped me up in my
best nay-blue top coat with the red tartan hood,
twirled a scarf around my neck,
pulled on my bobble-hat and mittens
it was so bitterly cold
said now you won't freeze to death
gave me a little kiss and a pretend slap on the bottom
and sent me off across the playground
to the place I'd learn to forget to say
it wis January
and a gey driech day
the first day Ah went to the school
so my Mum happed me up in ma
good navy-blue napp coat wi the rid tartan hood,
birled a scarf aroon ma neck,
pu'ed oan ma pixie and' ma pawkies
it wis that bitter.

Oh saying it was one thing
But when it came to writing it
In black and white
The way it had to be said
Was as if you were posh, grown-up, male, English and dead.

posted by Joey Joe Joe Junior Shabadoo at 4:23 AM on February 28, 2011 [65 favorites]


bwg: Foo's yer doos?

Chavin awa, loun, chavin awa.
posted by Joey Joe Joe Junior Shabadoo at 4:25 AM on February 28, 2011


I can't see how to count the number of Scots speakers. Nobody in Scotland speaks Scots and no native speaks English. Everyone speaks something somewhere on a continuum between the two. What is close enough to one extreme or the other to count as Scots (the language) or Scots (a generic term for the several Scottish dialects of English) varies. Sometimes it's and has been political, sometimes its more to do with social context.

(Isn't it "loon"?)
posted by GeckoDundee at 4:28 AM on February 28, 2011


Also, can you understand (the book) Trainspotting?

Opening passage:

"The sweat wis lashing oafay Sick Boy; he wis trembling. Ah wis jist sitting thair, focusing oan the telly, trying no tae notice the c---. He wis bringing me doon. Ah tried tae keep ma attention oan the Jean-Claude Van Damme video.
As happens in such movies, they started oaf wi an obligatory dramatic opening. Then the next phase ay the picture involved building up the tension through introdusing the dastardly villain and sticking the weak plot thegither. Any minute now though, auld Jean-Claude’s ready tae get doon tae some serious swedgin.
- Rents. Ah’ve got tae see Mother Superior, Sick Boy gasped, shaking his heid.
Aw, ah sais. Ah wanted the radge tae jist f--- off ootay ma visage, tae go oan his ain, n jist leave us wi Jean-Claude. Oan the other hand, ah’d be getting sick tae before long, and if that c--- went n scored, he’d haud oot oan us. They call um Sick Boy, not because he’s eywis sick wi junk withdrawl, but because he’s just one sick c---."


I found it hard at first, but after a few pages I was fluent.
posted by DanCall at 4:32 AM on February 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


(Isn't it "loon"?)

We always spelled the words as loun/quean, but I've seen them spelled as loon/quine, and I don't know which way is right. I think the difference is because none of us were taught how to write Scots and so very few know the standardized spelling. Or it's entirely possible the different spelling is just a Doric vs. Everywhere Else thing which would not surprise me (see, for example, the standard joke about the Aberdonian with furry boots).
posted by Joey Joe Joe Junior Shabadoo at 4:35 AM on February 28, 2011


As an ex-pat Scot who's been out of the country for about 15 years, I was real chuffed tae see that ah could still understand some ae the patter!

Robert Burns was held up as a near hero at my primary school - his birthplace was close by. There were yearly competitions where we were expected to recite his poetry (my zenith in the competitions was aspiring to a reading of 'To a Mouse'). But that paled when compared with my classmate who memorised and recited (word perfect and unassisted) all of 'Tam O'Shanter'.

But saying all that, in general the Scots portion of our curriculum was sadly restricted, and I still feel to this day that there could have been much more offered in that space. So it's great to see that there is a bit of focus on the language - I hope it leads to more visibility and celebration of the diversity of the Scottish people and their languages.
posted by KirkpatrickMac at 4:37 AM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Whale oil beef hooked is the usual phrase used to train the ear to Irish.

That's not even wrong.
posted by kersplunk at 4:41 AM on February 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


And for anyone who still thinks Scottish people speak as if they're from the set of Brigadoon here's a wee dose of Ned culture [NSFW] to set you right.
posted by KirkpatrickMac at 4:54 AM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ack Crivens I cannae speak the Scots, but I ken the Feegle.

Nai Laird Nae Quin mbmbmblmbmlmbmelbmmble we wont be fooled again.
posted by koolkat at 4:56 AM on February 28, 2011 [9 favorites]


> a skittery wee keech

We had a couple of Polish exchange students in my postgrad course at Strathclyde. They wanted to see some of Scotland, so a few of us got together for car tours. On the day we went to Stirling Castle, they were badgering me in the car for Scottish swear words. So I taught them ‘keech’, thinking little harm could come of it.

As soon as we got to the castle, Przemek and Igor burst out the car, ran to opposite sides of the ramparts, and bellowed “KEECH!” loud enough to be heard down the whole carse.

Cultural exchange, people. Be proud.
posted by scruss at 4:56 AM on February 28, 2011 [9 favorites]


Furry boots? Sounds comfy.

The whole business of spelling in Scots always struck me as strange. I wonder if people were pretending that Scots didn't exist when English spelling was being standardised.
posted by GeckoDundee at 4:58 AM on February 28, 2011


oh, and: A Brief Lesson in Braid Scots from the Absolutely crew.
(declaring minor self-linkage: I posted it, didn't make it.)
posted by scruss at 5:02 AM on February 28, 2011


My second favorite conversational Scottish phrase was: (and apropos to Metafilter)
"Can I Owe it to you, all I got's a fiver?" second only to: "That's my marmalade." Angus Crock was fantastic at instruction.
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:08 AM on February 28, 2011


I don't speak Scots. In college, I had a roommate who was from Glasgow, though. On a couple of occasions, his father called for him. I don't know if he spoke Scots, or just heavily accented English. About all I could ever understand was that this was someone who Franc needed to talk to. My roommate did tell me that his father had grown up in the slums of Glasgow, and that his accent was sometimes hard for other Scots to understand.
posted by Shohn at 5:18 AM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's a weird old thing this desire to enforce a "scots" language. I've no doubt that there, as well as in Wales, there was historically a concerted effort to wipe out the language, and that's inexcusable. Cultural genocide for sure. I'd apologise again, but you'd probably just want to headbutt me.

However, it seems dangerous to me to respond to imperialism and cultural genocide by strongly enforcing a stagnating "Scottish Language" which is free from contamination by those Inglish Basterds.

Here, in England, I'm damn proud of my Norman-Danish-Celtic-Anglo-Saxon-Latinate mongrel language. I love the fact that I can live in a Bungalow safe in the knowledge that the words I use are laissez-faire. I don't care that perfectly good words are being replaced with words from every other country in the world.

I'm also really happy that every time a new word is needed, it just evolves naturally instead of being passed on from high via some nameless angry committee. (e.g. French, Irish, Welsh & Scots).
posted by seanyboy at 5:18 AM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: squeeze out a skittery wee keech.
posted by Segundus at 5:23 AM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]




Scots is the collective name for Scottish dialects such as 'Glaswegian', 'Doric', 'Buchan', 'Dundonian', or 'Shetland'. Taken altogether, Scottish dialects are called the Scots language.

Taken altogether, they're still dialects rather than a language. Scottish Gaelic is a language.
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:49 AM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I remember my granddad recalling how he and a mate of his (both from Buckie, a fishing village on the Moray Firth) were on holiday in Spain.

They were just chatting away over a few drinks, kept getting looks from a posh English couple on a neighbouring table. Just as they were leaving, saying "guid nicht" to one another, they overheard the English couple say, "God, those Germans get everywhere, aren't they?"
posted by TheAlarminglySwollenFinger at 5:56 AM on February 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Taken altogether, they're still dialects rather than a language.

Actually, linguists cite dialect variation (along with linguistic distinctiveness, individual history, a remarkable literature etc.) as one of the arguments for Scots being a language rather than a dialect.
posted by Lezzles at 6:07 AM on February 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


Taken altogether, they're still dialects rather than a language.

I'd always read that it was a language that grew in parallel to English, sharing many of the same roots but still distinct, though I realise it's the subject of debate. You could as well say Gaelic is a dialect of Irish, where the Scots came from, bringing q-Celtic to a region where previously p-Celtic/Pictish had prevailed. It definitely had its own heritage, and was the first Germanic language in which a full modern translation of one of the Greek classics was made, for example.
posted by Abiezer at 6:08 AM on February 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


Great to see this discussed here. I'm an academic working on Scots, and I really could talk about this all day (but I'll try not to!)

The reason modern Scots sounds like it's a patchy, non-standardised, geographically mixed-up language that seems more comfortable with speech than writing is because... it is, really. But there's an awful lot of reasons for that, and they don't add up to Scots being some bastardised, improper form of English.

Scots and standard English both originated in Old English, and before 1100AD we don't really distinguish between them. They branch off afterwards, via different routes: Scots developed out of old Northumbrian dialect, and what became Middle English developed out of Mercian. From what we can tell, not all medieval Scots would have seen themselves as speaking a language separate from English, but a significant portion would. And the language they spoke was a complete language, with its own grammatical systems, its own spelling conventions (not standardisation, but this was long before standardisation in English, too), and of course, a great deal of its own vocabulary. Literature was written in Scots, legal documents, acts of Parliament (from the late 1300s); this wasn't the informal, working-class dialect it's often thought of today.

For illustration, here's some lines from Gavin Douglas's 1513 translation of the Aeneid:
And thus he sayd: Forsoith I have deserve
The deith, I knaw, and or thy hand to sterve
Ne wyl I not beseik the me to spare,
Use furth thy chance, quhat nedis proces mare?
Bot gif that ony cure or thocht, quod he,
Of ony woful parent may twiche the,
Have reuth and mercy of King Daunus the auld:
Thou had forsoith, and I have hard be tauld
Okay, so it's not exactly the Scots you'd see and hear today. But that might have looked a lot more similar if Scotland's political situation had gone differently a few hundred years ago.

Scots started to become more and more Anglicised throughout the 16th century, as England became increasingly powerful. You can see influential Scottish figures like John Knox skipping back and forth between Scots and English in their writing. (There's a great line from a Scottish correspondent to Knox criticising him for this: "gif ye hes forget our auld plane Scottis quhilk your mother lerit you, in tymes cuming I sall wryte to you my mind in Latin, for I am nocht acquyntit with your Southeron" [if you've forgotten our old plain Scottish your mother taught you, in future I'll write to you in Latin, for I'm not acquainted with your English]. Ouch.) And then in 1606, King James VI of Scotland became King James I of England, and he and his court moved south to London.

James was a poet in his own right - he'd already produced a short guide on writing poetry in Scots at the age of 19 - and his court poets were some of the best-known names of Scottish literature in the period remembered today. But when the court moved down to England, the poets started producing work in English rather than Scots, and even revising their older Scots work to standard English. There was still a small, token parliament in Edinburgh, but most administrative material was now produced in England - and in English. The growing printing industry was based in England. The Bibles that every well-off Scottish family owned were written in English. And as a consequence of all of this, written Scots just started to die.

For the next hundred years or so, very little was written in Scots. It still existed as a spoken language, but a written language, a literary language? Not so much. And then came the Act of Union in 1707, which dissolved Scotland's parliament and its status as an independent nation. This was hugely opposed in Scotland, to the level of riots in the streets (although not by everybody - the lawyers of Edinburgh, who'd held an awful lot of power since the 1603 Union, were generally in favour of it, and were rewarded with a clause in the act that let Scotland keep its own legal system. Scots law today is full of Scots words that have fallen out of use in all other areas). There was a huge demand for retaining Scotland's own cultural identity, and the writers of the Vernacular Revival in Scottish literature - of whom Robert Burns is the best-known today - were answering that need.

But, writers like Burns (and Allan Ramsay and Robert Fergusson before him, and a whole host of generally-forgotten others) had a tough job. Scots was still spoken, but it hadn't really been a written language for a hundred years, and it had been dying before then. So how do you develop a written Scots, that your audience will find familiar enough to read, but that still echoes its past? Well, you develop a kind of hodge-podge of traditional written Scots, Anglicised grammar, spelling systems designed to indicate how Scottish accents sound, and a geographical mish-mash from all over the country. And that's what they did.

So yeah, it's a language, not a dialect or an accent or an inability to Write Properly. It's just had a very interesting history.
posted by Catseye at 6:11 AM on February 28, 2011 [203 favorites]


Best Scottish lines ever:

O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us
It wad frae monie a blunder free us
An' foolish notion
What airs in dress an' gait wad lea'e us
An' ev'n Devotion

[From Burns - To a Louse]
posted by MuffinMan at 6:18 AM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


And read by Robert Carlyle...
posted by MuffinMan at 6:19 AM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Second year engineering, 1992 and I am taking a course in Engineering Materials. The professor rolls in this tired old projector to play a reel on stress and strain with lots of nice visuals. This is great, most people are visual learners. I am not. I like to hear things, even if it's my internal voice as I read. There is an audio track, which would probably have been good enough except the lecturer spoke with a thick and phlem Scottish brogue. It was English, I could pick out maybe 1 word in 6, but the accent was impenetrable.
posted by substrate at 6:22 AM on February 28, 2011


"Here, in England, I'm damn proud of my Norman-Danish-Celtic-Anglo-Saxon-Latinate mongrel language. I love the fact that I can live in a Bungalow safe in the knowledge that the words I use are laissez-faire."

I'm pretty sure that's all the Scottish are asking for as well.
posted by Eideteker at 6:23 AM on February 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


I find the 'Do you speak Scots' question an interesting one. Having lived here for ten years I think that I speak a rather posh English accent (I lost my original accent as people had difficulty understanding me, and went rather RP to compensate). But when I talk to friends in England I'm told that I have a distinctly Scottish accent, along with some dialect words.

If there's a box for 'speaks some weird mongrel dialect of own making' I'm ticking that one.
posted by Coobeastie at 6:25 AM on February 28, 2011


It's a weird old thing this desire to enforce a "scots" language.

How is counting the number of Scots speakers indicative of a desire to enforce anything?

[English] evolves naturally instead of being passed on from high via some nameless angry committee. (e.g. French, Irish, Welsh & Scots).

Can't speak for French, Irish and Scots/Gaelic, but this doesn't happen in Wales, although the myth persists, even here. There is no committee, angry or otherwise, just people using their own language and making new words up (or borrowing from other languages, like English speakers do) when they need to.
posted by ceiriog at 6:30 AM on February 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


I love looking at/reading Scots version of Wikipedia.

Saw an interview with a Scots speaking politicians talking about how they'll use Scots on the floor of Parliament to get away with an insult and people won't know what they've said, then he said that as hard as it is for some people to understand him, there's another region where he has difficulty understanding some of the more heavier dialects...
posted by symbioid at 6:34 AM on February 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


I remember back in the middle grades, we had a Scot chemistry substitute come in. Only half-way through did I realize that I was the only one without the poleaxed look that blessed the rest of the kinder. So I took up translating. Mah gran'ther spake a wee bet, but I ne'er saw et writ unteel dat trainspottin' book. Needless to say- impenetrable to others if I attempt to write!

On a related note, in that same class, a fellow was bouncing a quarter off his desk, and while casually wandering the rows, The Scot Sub came up from behind said fellow, snatched the coin from the air and hissed in his ear 'ne'er drop a coin in the hearing of a Scot' gave him a gimlet eye, and wandered back to the desk. Almost had fits there.
posted by LD Feral at 6:36 AM on February 28, 2011 [15 favorites]


I don't speak Scots by any means, but I can sing a bit of it after years going to shows by Scottish singers, or just Burns fans.

Talk about the shame of a Scots accent and Scots dialect speech reminds me of a business colleague my father knew in the 80s who had a heavy Geordie accent. Like many Americans, I was charmed by just about any British accent, and I (being a kid) said something about it. He was hideously embarrassed and assumed I was having him on. I just didn't know all accents north of London (Scots included) are apparently considered a bit low-class.
posted by immlass at 6:39 AM on February 28, 2011


I learned most of my contemporary Scots from reading James Kelman; How Late It Was, How Late must be one of the best novels published in the UK in the 20th century. So, erm, good luck to those preserving the language.

Jes' what that feckin' cunt says.
posted by briank at 6:40 AM on February 28, 2011


awfurby: Note to idiots the world over - do not call someone from Scotland "Scotch".

Unless, of course, you are Scotch.
posted by Kattullus at 7:07 AM on February 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


immlass: "Like many Americans, I was charmed by just about any British accent"

This is so funny to me (an American who has spent time in the UK, still completely vulnerable as well). I saw a checkout girl at the grocery store here just about fall down when the guy in front of me spoke in his Scottish accent. It is like American female Viagra for some reason. I hope there are always Scots speakers.
posted by theredpen at 7:23 AM on February 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


If Scots is a separate language, then I have an easy way to become bilingual! it will be like going from Italian to Spanish, only I already read 17th century English, so I'm halfway there. (more than halfway - I can understand 90% of it written).
posted by jb at 7:45 AM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Aye, but can ye speak Glasgae?
posted by Decani at 7:49 AM on February 28, 2011


Ack Crivens I cannae speak the Scots, but I ken the Feegle.

Nai Laird Nae Quin mbmbmblmbmlmbmelbmmble we wont be fooled again.


"Nae king! Nae quin! Nae laird! Nae master! We willnae be fooled again!"
posted by jgaiser at 7:49 AM on February 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


[English] evolves naturally instead of being passed on from high via some nameless angry committee. (e.g. French, Irish, Welsh & Scots).

Haha.

Our 'angry committee' is capitalist but still elite-dominated publishing companies and textbook manufacturers. Organic evolution, right... (for example, in the US, see the '90s freak-out about Ebonics in classrooms).
posted by Salamandrous at 8:13 AM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Burnistoun has recently installed voice-operated elevators
posted by Molesome at 8:14 AM on February 28, 2011 [14 favorites]


One my dad always cracks at the dinner table:

"Is that a puddin' or a meringue? Naw, yer richt, it's a puddin'!"

He's a fun guy
posted by TheAlarminglySwollenFinger at 8:16 AM on February 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


TheAlarminglySwollenFinger, that's one of my dad's faves as well. To the extent that he is often unable to finish saying it before he starts cracking up.
posted by MUD at 8:26 AM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


A few years back the Northern Ireland Assembly put out an advert to seek an Ulster-Scots > English translator. Here's a letter published in the Belfast Telegraph in response.

The salary was £27,764-£30,520.
posted by knapah at 8:34 AM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Is that a puddin' or a meringue? Naw, yer richt, it's a puddin'!"

My Mum's version:
"Will you have a cake, Johnny, or a meringue?"
"No, you're no wrang missis, I'll have a cake."
posted by Lezzles at 8:35 AM on February 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


Really? Was that supposed to be a joke? Or are you trolling?

I grew up in Scotland and speak Scots. Judging by that website I speak 4 dialects. Where are you from and what's your knowledge on this topic? Fit like the day loon? (See I can speak a proper dialect, not Ubiquitous Chip keech Scots.)

Rubbish like this ("If you were brought up to speak a local Scottish dialect, or you have learned to speak the dialect of the area where you have chosen to live, or both, this means that you can speak Scots..") is typical of the habit of dressing up crap as a precious cultural comodity in this dreary, typically Scottish bursary-driven fashion. It ends up sitting alongside all the other highly prized but internationally insignificant cultural deadweights which are so beloved of people who have never spent a significant amount of time in Scotland. They know little of the subject but are happy to pontificate on it because they feel protective of it - on our behalf.

What exactly is a local Scottish dialect? If you speak like the other people in your area you speak Scots? What is Scots? It's a corruption of English and a collection of dialects which were loosely categorised under one name. Today it seems to be any way of speaking anywhere in Scotland which relates to the place you live. These classifications are a nothing, the crap on that website will not be recognised by many people in Scotland, they do not speak "Scots." "Scots" today is an artificial construction and judging by the criteria on the website every single inhabitant of Scotland speaks it. So cancel the census.
posted by fire&wings at 8:37 AM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


To the extent that he is often unable to finish saying it before he starts cracking up.

Ditto. I think that "meringue" joke is like catnip for middle-aged men of Scottish descent...
posted by TheAlarminglySwollenFinger at 8:38 AM on February 28, 2011


re "meringue" joke
I remember Andy Cameron telling it every week on a show . Everyone knew the joke was coming and laughed all the same.

Sort of like the "i want a maroon shirt for ma roon shoulders"
posted by stuartmm at 9:19 AM on February 28, 2011


And then came the Act of Union in 1707, which dissolved Scotland's parliament and its status as an independent nation. This was hugely opposed in Scotland, to the level of riots in the streets (although not by everybody - the lawyers of Edinburgh, who'd held an awful lot of power since the 1603 Union, were generally in favour of it, and were rewarded with a clause in the act that let Scotland keep its own legal system. Scots law today is full of Scots words that have fallen out of use in all other areas).

Sorry, but this is a bunch of nationalistic hooey. While at the time it might have been opposed by Scottish crowds (eighteenth-century people rioted at the drop of a hat), one of the main reasons it was passed in the first place was the Scots' own bungled attempt at colonizing Panama--they lost so much money that the English Crown was forced to bail them out. Over the next few decades the Union became one of the basic building blocks of Lowland Scots identity (as opposed to Jacobitism, which gradually died off as the benefits of Union under the Hanoverians became clear). Thanks to the Union Scottish people began to acquire substantial political power and influence in England and the Empire, to such an extent that they became widely resented by the English themselves, leading to mass anti-Scottish riots. In fact, what we now know as a "British," as opposed to "English," national identity or national consciousness was mostly worked out by Scots who were seeking to define their place in the national community. So these latter-day attempts at making the Scots out to be victims of British imperialism are really misconceived, especially since we have in Ireland a pretty glaring example of what that actually would have looked like.
posted by nasreddin at 9:55 AM on February 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


Crivens! I canna speak the "scots" ya bigjobs use, but me kelder tells me I speak verra good Nac Mac Feegle.
posted by quin at 10:04 AM on February 28, 2011


Ack Crivens I cannae speak the Scots, but I ken the Feegle.

Oh waily waily waily! I've missed me chance to preview

posted by quin at 10:08 AM on February 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


TheAlarminglySwollenFinger: "To the extent that he is often unable to finish saying it before he starts cracking up.

Ditto. I think that "meringue" joke is like catnip for middle-aged men of Scottish descent...
"

Did you say Man-nip?
posted by symbioid at 10:28 AM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sorry, but this is a bunch of nationalistic hooey. While at the time it might have been opposed by Scottish crowds (eighteenth-century people rioted at the drop of a hat), one of the main reasons it was passed in the first place was the Scots' own bungled attempt at colonizing Panama--they lost so much money that the English Crown was forced to bail them out.

I'm not a nationalist (I'm not even Scottish) and, with respect, I think you've misread what I was saying.

The only reason I mentioned the 1707 Act of Union and the resistance to it - which was, indeed, strong at the time - was to ground the Scots vernacular revival in the atmosphere which came about immediately afterwards. There was a great and growing demand for a Scottish cultural identity as a result, and the poetry of people like Allan Ramsay (and later, Robert Burns) is the form that took. Going into detail about the Darien scheme, and the myriad of reasons it failed, is kind of beside the point. (Darien would actually make a fascinating FPP in its own right, though.)

I didn't, and wouldn't, say anything about the Scots being 'victims of British imperialism'. I'm really not sure where you're getting that, or why.
posted by Catseye at 10:47 AM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sorry, but this is a bunch of nationalistic hooey.
Catseye's summary is broadly true, and it doesn't follow from that outline that the Act of Union was seen as British imperialism - you only have to consider popular ballads like Burns' later Parcel of Rogues to know that there were plenty of Scots well aware they'd been sold out by their own ruling elite after the Darien fuck-up. Agree with your subsequent about the creation of a 'British' identity, but again, that was some Scots rather than all.
posted by Abiezer at 10:48 AM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm not a nationalist (I'm not even Scottish) and, with respect, I think you've misread what I was saying.

The only reason I mentioned the 1707 Act of Union and the resistance to it - which was, indeed, strong at the time - was to ground the Scots vernacular revival in the atmosphere which came about immediately afterwards.


I think you're right, I did misread you. My point was just that support for Union was quite strong in the years after the initial passing, and this wasn't inauthentic or confined to "Edinburgh lawyers"--the Union did have tangible benefits for a large chunk of Lowland society, even if, like most things in the eighteenth century, it was weighed to benefit the elite.
posted by nasreddin at 10:55 AM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, support for it did grow in the following years, and the richer parts of lowland Scotland (and some of the Highlands, too...) did quite well out of the whole arrangement. I do think it's a shame that the 1715 and '45 uprisings got somehow ingrained in popular culture as England vs. Scotland - the truth is a huge amount more complex than that.
posted by Catseye at 11:01 AM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


There is no committee, angry or otherwise, just people using their own language and making new words up (or borrowing from other languages, like English speakers do) when they need to.

Just seconding this. My friends and I speak a mix of (mostly) English with Welsh and Wenglish peppered in as needed. No one's come beating down the door yet. Even when I use the wrong form of 'ydy'.

(I, too, will be curious to see the results of the census.)
posted by kalimac at 12:25 PM on February 28, 2011


If someone here really can speak Scots Gaelic, I've got a translation I need done:

"You and I have lived our entire lives for this moment."

I did get someone else to translate that for me, but I need to verify (uhh...before it gets inked on my body permanently). Therefore, I won't post the other translation I have, so I can compare two independent efforts. :)

Thanks!
posted by swimming naked when the tide goes out at 1:12 PM on February 28, 2011


Really? Was that supposed to be a joke? Or are you trolling?

I grew up in Scotland and speak Scots. Judging by that website I speak 4 dialects. Where are you from and what's your knowledge on this topic? Fit like the day loon? (See I can speak a proper dialect, not Ubiquitous Chip keech Scots.)


ok cool so you weren't trolling. I apologise for that insinuation. (Would have been great if you'd posted this comment instead of your first one though.)
posted by awfurby at 1:52 PM on February 28, 2011


It definitely had its own heritage, and was the first Germanic language in which a full modern translation of one of the Greek classics was made, for example.

Virgil wasn't that Greek though. /derail

posted by ersatz at 1:58 PM on February 28, 2011


* hangs head in shame *
posted by Abiezer at 2:05 PM on February 28, 2011


one of the main reasons it was passed in the first place was the Scots' own bungled attempt at colonizing Panama--they lost so much money that the English Crown was forced to bail them out


The English refused all support to the colonists and the bailout was used as a sweetener for the act of union, there was nothing 'forced' about it.

@fire and wings - This programming of scots by the government, i'm not too sure if thats entirely cringeworthy, fanons concept of inferiorisation comes into play here and anything that reduces scottish self hatred is surely welcome.

Also with the 'i'm scared you'd headbutt me' stuff - that's a very crude bit of characterisation there.
posted by sgt.serenity at 3:40 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


And for anyone who still thinks Scottish people speak as if they're from the set of Brigadoon here's a wee dose of Ned culture [NSFW] to set you right.

This seems like an excellent opportunity to post some video from one of my favourite telly programs of all time, Chewin' the Fat: And now, the News; Interpreting for the Neds: Rab McGlinchy.

On a couple of occasions, his father called for him. I don't know if he spoke Scots, or just heavily accented English. About all I could ever understand was that this was someone who Franc needed to talk to.

During my time in Edinburgh I got a job as a bouncer, my first job was at an 'old man pub' which glitzed things up with a karaoke Friday nights. This meant I spent a significant portion of my Friday nights sitting at a bar playing the role of captive audience for some really old, really drunk scotsmen. The first two months I don't think I made out more than two or three distinct words, I spent most of the time guessing when would be the best time to nod, smile or frown.

After that I started to pick it up quite well and got to enjoy many lengthy (but sometimes slightly slurred) expositions on the subject of "why the English are such b*st*rds." Within a few years my Mum was accusing me of having a Scottish accent every time I spoke to her on the phone...

Going into detail about the Darien scheme, and the myriad of reasons it failed, is kind of beside the point. (Darien would actually make a fascinating FPP in its own right, though.)

I enjoyed The Rising Sun, though I've no idea how historically accurate it was. Is there a definitive non-fiction book on the colony? In other words, I'd be quite interested in reading such an FPP.
posted by robertc at 4:07 PM on February 28, 2011


Decani : Aye, but can ye speak Glasgae?

On my first visit to Scotland, last year, I found I had no trouble at all understanding the accent (or language, if it counts as such). Quite pleasant, I thought; and after a few nights of hanging out with the locals in various pubs until the wee hours, I almost fancied I could do a passable version of it.

Until Glasgow.

Couldn't understand a damned word out of anyone I encountered there.
posted by pla at 5:53 PM on February 28, 2011


Okay I know I'm a dumb American but I don't get the meringue joke so will somebody please explain it to me.
posted by pts at 8:51 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's funny because meringues are effete foreign muck and would never be eaten by a Real Scotsman. They'd rather eat oatcakes or am-Ah-wrong?
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:04 PM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


The Darien Disaster by John Prebble was what i started with, Mark Horton did a BBC documentary on the subject also which is pretty unfindable. I've been to the place myself and all thats left is a small cannon and an island called Calidonia. The Kuna indians have a wee tourist centre there and are happy to let you visit the actual site after about a weeks negotiation. Tons of photos of the place but would be self linking.
posted by sgt.serenity at 11:46 PM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Get a link to the photos posted ffs.


I grew up in Scotland and speak Scots.

posted by fire&wings at 8:37 AM on February 28


Really? You must really loath yourself then.
posted by the cuban at 12:45 AM on March 1, 2011


Get a link to the photos posted ffs.

A sound point well made.
posted by Abiezer at 1:31 AM on March 1, 2011


pts: I think the joke is that "meringue" can be heard as "am I wrong?" (As pointed to somewhat obliquely by Joe in Australia.)
posted by dhens at 2:05 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Awww ye fuckers, now I'm gonnae have to go visit Glesga and get blootered with my friends.
posted by By The Grace of God at 2:06 AM on March 1, 2011




From the above link: We want tae mak siccar that as mony folk as possible can finn oot aboot the Scottish Pairlament

Canada does have a large Scottish heritage... and interesting that siccar (similar to the German sicher, for safe/sure/secure) is used for "sure".
posted by molecicco at 3:01 AM on March 1, 2011


I was pleased to learn about foumarts, which have cutty shanks and spreckelt fur.
posted by Rat Spatula at 8:03 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


You're going to really love the Dictionary of Scots Language. It's a real dictionary, not one of those twatful touristy things.
posted by Mo Nickels at 10:20 AM on March 1, 2011


Joe in Australia: "It's funny because meringues are effete foreign muck and would never be eaten by a Real Scotsman"

Surely you meant no true Scotsman.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:27 AM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


So yeah, it's a language, not a dialect or an accent or an inability to Write Properly. It's just had a very interesting history.

Reads to me more as though it *was* a language, and is now a set of English dialects and in written form little more than a grimace-inducing set of onomatopoeic spellings with a smallish vocabulary of additional words.

The reason the census question strikes such fear is that if the figures are high enough it'll be used as justification for dual signage and official documentation etc, for a dead language (in written form, at least) that most Scots can parse only by vocalising.

I hate all that Liz Lochead-style complaining about not being allowed to say "wa'r" instead of "water" at school. The point of language is to enable communication. You grow up near Glasgow and you can choose to speak your native consonants-at-war tongue and thus be mostly impenetrable to anyone living more than 100 miles away, or you can retain most of its idiosyncrasies and charming phrasing but soften some of the edges to take part in one of the world's global tongues.

Speaking as someone who has tried and failed to order a hamburger in a McDonald's, I know what I'd pick.
posted by bonaldi at 2:18 PM on March 1, 2011


Get a link to the photos posted ffs.

would be a self link.
posted by sgt.serenity at 7:24 PM on March 4, 2011




Some stories about salmon fishing, and podcasts thereof, in the Morayshire Doric. (This is a self link, and my accent isn't what it was since I moved south, but it might help people understand something about how the Doric sounds.)
posted by johnny novak at 1:04 PM on March 5, 2011



would be a self link.

Plenty of people self link if it's pertinent to the discussion.

Maybe your photos are shite?
posted by the cuban at 2:19 PM on March 5, 2011


I hate all that Liz Lochead-style complaining about not being allowed to say "wa'r" instead of "water" at school.

Well now. I grew up in Lancashire. My parents were from Liverpool; I went to school with people whose families had never left the town we were in. Friends would constantly make fun of me for 'talking posh' by saying things like 'expensive' rather than 'dear' and 'a pair of shoes' rather than 'some shoes'. Yet when I moved south, and joined an industry dominated by very middle-class people, even the well-travelled struggle to understand me. (And I've struggled to order food abroad - I had a speech impediment as a kid that very occasionally pops up when speaking English, and constantly for any tongue that involves rolling the R.) I have a colleague from Ulster - to him, Southern girls all sound the same. Whatever you speak, people who don't speak it too will get confused, and possibly even treat you as a novelty.

My OH is from Fife and his dad has an incredibly strong accent, packed with dialectal words - not sure if he considers himself a 'Scots speaker' though.
posted by mippy at 4:25 AM on March 11, 2011


Wow. Thank you so much for posting this - I just found it.

My dad is from the Borders. I grew up in California, and only visited Scotland once, 20 years ago, and have almost no frame of reference for my dad's childhood or cultural background. He doesn't talk much about himself, which I guess is how it is for men of his era and from that part of the world. And by "doesn't talk much about himself" I mean, says nothing, ever, about his childhood, parents, cultural traditions, education, or anything else.

Very rarely, every few years or so, after a couple beers, I can extract a story or two about his punishing primary school experiences, or how he'd hunt rabbits from the fields as the farmers did their mowing, or his coal miner uncle who was covered head to toe in black dust. But it's not often and it's not much.

I happen to be visiting my parents right now, and when I found this thread and showed my dad the site we listened to some of the Borders speakers together. He got this kind of far away look, and smiled a little listening to the stories. And he told me a little story about how he and his friends used to make fun of the dialects from towns 20 miles from his - he even told the story about spelling e-g-y-p-t that's on the site before we listened to someone say it there. And then he went to his book shelf and got down some Border Ballads and some Hugh M'Diarmid and started reciting poems. Stuff he learned by heart in primary school and maybe hasn't said out loud since, reciting from memory as I read along. It was a really special sweet moment that we don't get very often. Then he went back to his breakfast.

It wasn't much, but it meant a lot to me. So thank you so much for this post.
posted by serazin at 9:37 AM on March 13, 2011 [10 favorites]


awfurby Note to idiots the world over - do not call someone from Scotland "Scotch".

It's a perfectly good word and was widely used. However, it has fallen out of fashion in the UK. You're better off using "Scots" but I hope you'll never find anyone rude enough to think that you, a foreigner, are an idiot for using it.

I hope in return you'll forgive using "Yank" to refer to a Southerner or not realising that watermelon is a racially-loaded food, for example.
posted by alasdair at 11:48 PM on March 13, 2011


My grandmother, who lived with my family the last few years before her death, emigrated to the US from Scotland as a young woman. We lived those years of my early childhood in a small Arizona town and my school had a challenging time with a lot of my special needs - one being that I seemed to have my own "made up" language no one understood, i.e. I was the primary school crazy-girl. I lived the (mild) shame of that for decades until, in my 30s, I again encountered a native Scot and heard my own, long forgotten, "made up" language coming out his mouth.

It never occurred to any authority in my school to check if there was a non-english speaker in the home (other than Spanish).
posted by _paegan_ at 8:36 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


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