Fear of Scots

The anti-Scots people should try to get over their fear of Scots.

Scots was never learned in classrooms but from other children who were exposed to it in families and communities that were considered a bit rough. Thus it was deemed to be slang and indicative of poverty or stupidity. In the households of the aspiring working class, there was a constant vigil kept for any evidence of these unkempt and rascally words.

Dropping consonants and changing vowels was greeted like the appearance of head lice. It wasn’t so much fear of the language but fear that your children may be judged harshly if they used it. “Ah’m away hame fur ma tea, see yiz the morra” would soon be corrected and you would be urged to “speak properly”. Some of us simply liked to speak like this from time to time because it gave you the thrill of doing something forbidden.

That fear still seems to exist among those of the revitalised Scottish hard right. Any manifestations of this rough and untutored language are often greeted with howls of outrage, and entire opinion and comment articles are penned disdaining and ridiculing those who seek to promote the Scots language. They politicise it and regard it as a tool of Scottish nationalism, though quite how it could be deployed as such and for what purpose is never explained.

Only bampots will girn about BBC’s poetic delight | Kevin McKenna

t won’t be long now before BBC Scotland is assailed by the sentinels of right thinking over the content of Thursday’s morning radio news show. What on earth was the national broadcaster thinking of? To mark National Poetry Day the station asked its new poet-in-residence, Stuart A Paterson, to read a poem he had written for the occasion.

In the comments section a couple of quite poignant contributions on this theme.

Saorsa Like others, I disagree with “in families and communities that were considered a bit rough”. My Doric is that of my grandfolks and family in the fishing villages of the Moray Firth – it was just what people spoke. It was my parents generation, the first off to university, who learned to be ashamed; and in my own school years it was thick Aberdonian at school (or be bullied) and The Queen’s English at home (or be skelped). Add starting abroad, and I quickly became a chameleon. It makes me sad now to think how I unquestioningly stripped out the Doric for university in the south, then flattened my accent again for life in England. The linguistic versatility is a gift; but the feeling that it is we who must give up parts of ourselves to fit in: that is wrong. Though, reading the poem, then thinking on some of my more impassioned comments – I may be writing in English, but the rhythm and roll of the language perhaps contains the Scots still 🙂

Dandyhurl  Saorsa I can wholly identify having had to cope with the different registers required for social intercourse on the fringes of the New Town in Edinburgh as a child/adolescent. Home and (fee-paying) school were strictly – very strictly! – SSE, whereas playing in the street or parks (I’m going back to the fifties and sixties when we still played in the street!), or going to the fitba’, required a much earthier variant. This was normally done automatically, sub-consciously, though of course there were awkward moments when you had to stop and consider if, for example, “Ah cannae dae it” or “I can’t do it” would be more appropriate. A skelp on the lug could very well have been at stake!. I’m afraid I can’t remember where now, but I seem to recall having read about someone coming up with the theory that this code-switching was an inspiration to RLS to explore the implications of duality, which, of course, he did most successfully in many of his works.

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