On Fakeness “I’m from Scotland, trust me, nobody talks like this.”

Ayont the Fake and the Leal: Let’s Free the Leid

“This guy is faking it and I literally am struggling to listen to it.” “I’m from Scotland, trust me, nobody talks like this.” “The boy doesnae sound like he’s speaking Scots naturally he makes it sound pure put-on and that’s the point that folk start to take the piss and laugh at you for it.”

Paul Malgrati responds to Alistair Heather’s viral video, and the accusations of fakeness. The issue, he explains, is that all languages are to some extent fake, in that it they are by necessity constructed.

Modren Scots, it seems tae me, drees fae a deep conterdiction atween its linguistic claim o authenticity (that o bein the true —leal— leid o the Scots people) an the unavoidable superfeeciality o ilka linguistic ettle. Like ony ither tongues that hiv ivver attempted at gainin a national or international rank, Scots necessitats tae bring wirds fae sindry airts an times thegither intae a pithy hail. Adeed, “Synthetic Scots” (itherwise kent as “Lallans”, “Braid Scots”, or “Re-Integrated Scots”), as it cam tae be caad ootthrou the twentieth century, means that preceese strive fir tae creaut a muckle national an literary medium wi wirds fae ilka Scottish dialects. Na’hin unco here. This is hou maist European tongues were draftit in the seeventeen an eichteen hunerts. We ken that. 

Malgrati identifies three problems.

  • The first is postmodern knowingness. “….the problem wi Modren Scots is that it is a linguistic biggin seekin a national staunnart in the post-modren era o national an linguistic deconstruction. Aa the myth-makkin an romantic blaflums that gang thegither wi leid politics is weel kent tae us the day (parteecular bi contemporar linguists wha hae lang waukent fae the dwam o their forebearers). Aye, it’s nae canny meddlin wi national linguistics whin aabody kens the auld tricks an scances ilka flaws o yers in braid daylight”.
  • The second is lack of power. “Scots daesna hae ony offeecial backin —fae naither the Scottish state nor ony muckle trust or cultural institution. We fin’ oorsel in this orra place whaur Scots, lackin baith strength an poo’er, canna be forgaithert wioot bein immediately pit doon bi a crood o angry flyters”.
  • The third he calls the myth of genuineness. Scots is promoted as ‘the voice of the (1.5 million) people’, but “whit kind o Scots is that aboot? Fu on Lallans as yaised bi Scots makkars an Bella scrievers? Eh jalouse na”. So using ‘fu on’ Scots (or something perceived as ‘fu on’ Scots) can backfire as it appears ‘fake’. Hence, “I’m from Scotland, trust me, nobody talks like this”, but also the staunnart stooshie. “Here agin, the ayebidin fecht atween whit’s fake an genuine is kenspeckle. Makkars scorns Scots labbyists fir proponin artificial rules that micht hinder the freedom o their art. Scots labbyists sneer at poets fir bein ower plastic wi the leid an pittin ither fowks aff”. 

So, “…can Scots still fin’ a wye tae connect wi the feck o the kintra —wi aa thae fowks that say “aye” an ‘’cannae”, fae time tae time, tho “dinnae tawk like that in real life”?”. Malgrati is not convinced by the traditional ‘tapdoon’ approaches (a standard, a Board, an adequately-funded education policy, Scots-positive media etc). “Nae ainly Scots hisnae sic moyen, but e’en gin it hid, yon wad face evendoun ill-will fae baith Scots makkars an artists (wha’d want tae keep Scots a fykie an rebel medium) an ither Scots speikers (wha wadna relate the wye they tawk wi ony offeecial artifice)”.

The (I’d say ‘postmodern’) alternative, Malgrati suggests is to think of Scots as a ‘happenin’. “Whit we aa need tae learn —an learn agin—, aa o us, houivver little or muckle Scots we speak, is that Scots is aa’hin but a pure medium. There isnae yin set o texts or yin wye o speakin that can possibly accoont fir the leid as a hail…Scots isnae fake or genuine; Scots happens —fae time tae time, fae phrase tae phrase, fae line tae line”. According to this thesis,

It is nae a definition, nae a model, nae a Scots Bible that we need fir the leid. It is a consciousness. Scots maun mak its wye up fae hame tae hert an heid. Ilka platform, ilka wird is wirth promeuvin. Ilka happenin o Scots can be a door tae a new ward.

But there isna need tae push people ben. Onybody wha lives in Scotland aareadies his a foot in the door. Onybody wha’s ivver said “dinnae” —e’en yince— his aareadies makkit Scots happen. We needna drag fowks tae the Lallans kitchen, but we maun lat them ken whaur they staun. Whaurivver ye are, whamivver ye be, gin ye said “aye” whin eh said “nae”, syne, AYE, ye belang…

Malgrati concludes “Weel syne, oor lang ettle fir Scots revival shudna be tae mak whit’s improper proper agin. Insteid, Scots is aboot gittin rid o propriety aa thegither. Radical stuff, aye”.

He makes a well-put and timely argument, which frames the post-modern tropes that overshadow any attempts at a real Scots revival, but is it really so ‘radical’? I’m not so sure.

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