Hugh MacDiarmid

Some interesting discussion on FB;

“The language didn’t need to have life breathed into it. In the 1920s, the language as exemplified by e.g. “McGinty’s Meal an Ale” was the living language of hundreds of thousands of people, and was (and still is) a language different from English. Grieve could have immersed himself in it and its speakers, and developed a proper command of it during his time away from the Central Belt in Montrose. The best thing he could have done would have been to have been involved in a campaign for a place for the language in the emerging medium of radio. For whatever reason, Grieve didn’t do this. It may have been because of snobbery toward working-class language, or because of laziness, or something else. His Synthetic Scots seems to be based on the false idea that English and Scots differ only in their vocabulary, whereas in fact the difference also lies in idiom, turn of phrase, and grammar. Synthetic Scots shows incorrect usage such as “…singin till a bairnie that was nae langer there” whereas, if Grieve had learned the language properly, he’d have known it should be “…singin till a bairnie that wisna there onie mair”.That isn’t “breathing life”, and you still see the same tendency in the items in Bad Scots we see in The National, which don’t do anything for the language either. George Bruce Thomson (of New Deer) wrote “McGinty’s Meal an Ale” around the time of the First World War, but the song was still widely known decades later and I remember my grandmother’s lodger singing it in the 1960s. I don’t remember anyone quoting McDiarmid in those days, or even hearing about him before I was at secondary school.

I wrote:The problem was by the late 1920s the Scottish middle-class arts establishment was so alienated from the language of the streets and villages that Scots seemed exotic. MacDiarmid was not especially interested in ‘colloquial Scots’ and pushed the written language in a more exoticised direction. This was of course ‘little practical use in the development of language policy and planning for the language’ according to Robert McColl Millar in his 2018 ‘Modern Scots: an analytical survey’. He explains; ‘The capriciousness of lexical choice – indeed its very novelty and quantity – made it a dead letter in terms of genuine corpus planning’. You could argue that far from ‘breathing life’ into Scots, MacDiarmid did more harm than good and began the (often wildly exaggerated) claim that written and spoken Scots were two different things.

Here’s the sang mentioned above.

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