The official Scot may do a gracious thing, but some hard instinct of discipline in his nature forbids him to do it in a gracious way. (S.R.Crockett)
As is the nature of our modern information superhighway – blink and you miss it – the time for reflection is limited and looking back is a virtual impossibility (unless you have much better organisational and archiving skills than I do).
Something happens – the launching of the Scots Language Policy – Leid Policie tae you n me. To embark upon a fishing analogy – a line is cast into the water. A feeding frenzy ensues. It’s shared/liked everywhere. Comments come thick and fast. And then, a couple of days later, if you try to find that comment you thought worth a second look – the shoal has moved on.
That’s my excuse for why I haven’t found all the things I wanted to talk about that got ma goat if ye will – I couldn’t respond immediately (not just for lack of time, but because I’m still a believer in the notion that some things require time for reflection) and now just a week or so later when I try to ‘research’ the issue, I find that it’s an uphill battle. We’ve all moved on.
There’s scant comfort in the fact that all life is like this. That we all have about 5 seconds of fame at a time – as long as the life of a tweet or a FB post. Social media often strikes me as a sort of bottom feeding pond life activity – don’t get me wrong, sometimes you get gems on there - but maybe I’m just not attuned to the range of skills you need to get social media to work for you. For me it’s very much a tower of babel which causes confusion more than anything else, which I cannot ‘manage’ in any sensible way and where information floats around my head like so many midgies, nipping me then running away leaving me bleeding and in pain.
But back to Scots Language. I (sometimes) get stuff through from the Scots language Forum. It’s one of the (too) many groups I’m signed up to. I don’t quite get what they are doing there – so many of the comments I read seem to be from people who are (to put it blankly) up their own arses, or should I say ‘gie’n it laldy’ aboot how ye spell Scots. (I see according to some I’ve mis-spelt laldy – should be laldie?!) An’ hoo ye scrieve Scots is a veritable battle zone.
I consider myself a writer in Scots (sometimes) and when I’ve done it I didn’t pore over a Scots dictionary (I own one and do use it from time to time, as one does use any dictionary, but I don’t use it to check every single spelling). I write Scots how it sounds in ma heid an’ it comes oot kinda phonetically. I dinna sit hinking should I write (scrieve) dinnae or dinna or hinkin oar thinkin’, or hoo for how or kinna instead of kinda or cams instead o’ comes. I write as it sounds to me if I speak it out loud – an’ there’s the rub (or a rub anyway/onyway/) I have a number of ‘dialects’ to my name having lived in various parts/pairts o’ Scotlan’. I’m familiar wi’ Embra, Fife, Gallowa’ an noo Aberdeenshire Doric (note, 100 years ago the Gallovidians described/cried themsel’s/theirsel’s as Doric speakers). Ma point? Language is mutable. And ‘the’ Scots language – well, ah’m/ am nae sure that it exists as wan/one thing/hing. Mebbe it is n’ ah’m juist an ignoramus. (Quite possible) But even if so, that’s part o’ ma jib/ gripe/demented wee linguisitic daunder. Plenty o’ fowk speak/spikk varieties o’ Scots language/leid each and every day (though maist o’ us compromise wi’ the English fer wur/oor everyday/ivverday communications. An’ a’ they speakers dinnae fret on wither/whether they are spellin’ it correctly. I kinda hink (when I’m fae Embra) that if ye try n’ consolidate an’ mak’ rules fer fowk tae write/screive it correctly, ye may juist be ignorin’ a potent force which is the oral culture. It seems a bittie bizarre tae me that one micht try tae ‘teach THE Scots leid’ tae fowk wha speak it an’ hae spoken it a’ their lives. I hae the spectre o’ a French Academy o’ Grammar in ma mind’s eye. Ah’m no tryin’ tae be difficult bit/but it seems tae me as we micht be hittin’ babies ower the heid wi’ their chantie pots in oor attempt tae mak’ wur leid clean.
That said, ah’ve read the ‘policy’ document wi’ interest. O’ course something/sumhing is better as naethin eh? Ah should say ah hae a bit cynicism o’ policy in general tae. It rarely, in ma opinion/ opineeon ? converts brawly or doucely intae practice. An’ ah cannae see how (note how not why, that’s Scots grammar not poor English) Scots Leid Policy will be ony/any different. Nothing on Scots Language Forum convinces me. An’ even less ae the Scots Language Society. Ah cannae believe ‘lallans’ IS Scots language n’ that’s a’ aboot it. It often seems tae me we hae too many/mony fowk too concerned wi’ trumpeting their ain version o’ the Holy Grail o Scots.
Ah dinnae need a ‘clean’ language wi’ fancy rules – if that’s whit we’re tae huv then ah’ll juist remain an illiterate ‘bad’ Scots writer. But ah dinna/dinnae hink this is ony/any better nor worse than pursuin’ a kinda/kinna purist stance which wreaks o’ the worse excesses o’ nationalism (used in its non friendly sense – a thing I’m rarely minded tae dae because in general ah hink the Scots Nation is aboot a guid kind o’ nationalism no one wan step affae Fascism.) Ah’d hate tae hink that cleanin’ up wur leid wi’ a policy/policie (or by ony ither means – sic as fowk cryin’ agin we who scrieve as we speak) led tae a place where ye hud tae hink twice afore ye could express yersel’ in yer native tongue n’ where ye wis accused o’ non Scottishness fer no’ followin’ the ‘rules.’
That gets ma goat. As much as the idea that simply using loads of canny Scots words – couthy, scunnered, beezin’ etc, mak’s one a Scots writer (or speaker/spikker). Ah hink Scots is bigger as a’ that (again, that’s a Gallovidian grammatical construction to say ‘as’ where English might say ‘than’). Our language/leid is multifarious n diverse, riddled wi’ accents n dialects n words which hae been picked up fae ither places, n idiomatic phrases n a’ sorts of grammatical variants n aye, ah suspect a wheen o’ ways tae spell hings. As sic o’ course this may mak’ it mair nor less unreadable tae juist aboot onywan, an’ that’s a richt issue if we’re tryin’ tae get mair interest in the language.
I’d like tae cite wan Angus Shoor Caan. (fellow McRenegade). He scrieves in his ain Ayrshire – it’s hard tae read bit if ye’ve heard theym talk in Ayrshire, n’ ye read his wurk oot loud in that accent – it’s easy as proverbial pie. Anither native Ayrshire spikker ah ken is the poet Rab Wilson (ah’m hopin’ he micht end up as scriever in residence) wha as lang as ah’ve kent him hus written hus emails n the same tongue he speaks/spiks – Ayrshire. He’s a chancy guy an’ no a fawse bane in his body (as far as ah ken.)
A lot o’ the spellin’s ah see in the Forum, n other places, seem tae me tae be holdin’ on tae an historic notion o’ Scots language. But surely we’ve moved on from the ‘classical’ period o’ written Scots n have tae embrace a more modern (moderen if ye’re fae Dundee) n diverse way o’ hings. Fer me, there seem tae be some basics (and mind ah’ve a’ready said ah’m ignorant oan the finer points) o’ Scots language which comes doon tae vowels. Speak is spik, (ea becomes i) one is wan (o becomes a) and fer me its that transience o’ vowels which holds the key tae language (at least that’s whit ah wis tocht ,taught become tocht au becomes och, when ah wis learnin’ hoo tae dae ae kinds o’ accents at ma drama schuil) school becomes schuil oo becomes ui. N’ ah dae believe that fer spoken Scots accents n’ dialects the transience o’ vowels plays a large part. Bit hoo dae ye render this intae wan ‘rule’ fer ane Scots written language? Surely ye cannae? Surely we cun a’ (see how a has become u) juist (u becomes ui) scrieve as we speak n’ that’s guid enough? Of course then we huv tae look (luik?) at the words themsel’s an the grammatic construction. Ah’m poor at grammar in ony language, ah work on a kinda intuition basis but ah believe that ah ken mony differences between English n Scots grammar. An’ mebbe there are rules oan that which we cud a’ learn? (note ou becomes u) As fer the words. Unless these pure Scots words are there as pairt o’ yer natural ken, ye shouldna try tae wheedle theym intae sentences juist tae gie a flavour o’ the language. Scots words are not seasoning, they are the meat o’ the sentence. But it seems tae me that in modern days ye cannae juist either only use (yase? Yaise??) Scots words or English.
Ah studied Gaelic fer a while (should ah say ah studied the Gaelic fer a bittie?) n a’ ah really learned wis that fer so many/ mony words fae policeman tae internet – we’d constantly be told ‘it’s not a Gaelic concept’ so you huv a language which, when spoken in modern contexts, often uses the English word. Ah hink we huv tae accept this as standard when speakin’ Scots tae.
Ah ken whit chappit means. An’ ah ken hoo tae cook (cuik?) chappit tattie/totties. But ah dinnae use the word unless ah hae a need fer it, unless it cam’s oot naturally fae ma thochts tae ma mooth. That’s hoo ah speak Scots, anyways, n while ah’m happy tae learn mair aboot the history an’ grammar o’ ma ain tongue, ah’m no that stoked aboot hinkin’ that ah’m aboot tae be shoehorned intae (intil) a whale new way o’ writin’/scrievin’ because ah canna/cannae see hoo that’s gonna help the livin’ language – huvin’ a new, improved and maist o’ a’ ‘consistent’ or ‘uniform’ language. There’s niver been anyhing/nuthin’/a’thing/ consistent aboot the way fowk speak Scots n so how can we force a diverse nation intae a straight jacket when they write n expect it tae dae us ony guid?
Mines is o’ course only a personal opinion. Like ah said at the beginnin’ ah read loads o’ hings which ah cannae noo fin’ agin. Here’s wan fae Bella Caledonia (ah’m in twa minds aboot that tae) which ah read while tryin’ tae batter this oot in ma heid.
Ah also read, but canna find again, a posting where someone ripped intae the policy comin’ up wi’ ower 30 spelling mistakes in the Scots language version. It made me hink o’ an English poet Robert Browning and his ‘Grammarians’ Funeral.’ Fer me the maist important hing is that we speak n’ write fae the heart an’ hoo we hear oor ain voice when we speak, nae that we follow a wheen o’ rules set doon by those n sic as those wha huv staked their claim tae be wur literary elite. Div ye ken them? Did we ask theym tae be the custodians or gatekeepers o’ wur tongues? Ah didnae.
Bit ah’ll remain open minded fer as lang’s ah cun oan this new policy hing. Let Scotland sing, ah say. ‘I can tell the difference between margarine and butter, but I can’t understand why we let someone else rule our land – cap in hand.’ Word worth holding in mind as we make the first tentative policy into practice steps.
Ah definitely think it’s a conversation worth hae’in n’ ah’m mair as happy tae hear ither’s views oan this matter…
For those interested in the past, this is a debate which has raged for quite some time already actually. S.R.Crockett wrote aboot is mair as a hunner year ago. Crockett wrote Gallovidian (and ither accents sic as his Irish) phonetically sae that if ye read them oot loud (lood?) ye can hear the particular accent. Ah dinna ken whit a pure Scots accent wid soon’ lik tae be honest bit ah ken that if ye read Scots written phonetically in a dialect oo loud, ye’ can get a guid idea o’ hoo fowk sound. Seems tae me if we standardise hings we’ll get either a central belt accent as standard (God help us, already all the English thing ‘Scots’ is a Glaswegian accent) or somethin’/sunhing which nae wan recognises as the way/wey they speak/spik themsel’s. Ah ken nae wan wha cries spik when they speak. Mebbe ah juist keep the wrang company?
Lets nae forget whit Crockett said ‘English is an awesome language for whaup-nebbit, pheasant-tailed words.’ Dae we want tae dae the same wi’ Scots?
Policy aye soon’s braw n bonnie, bit if a’ we git is a load o’ language officials tellin’ us hoo tae spik. (Tellin’ us we ‘spik’ no speak in the first place) ah’ll get aff the bus.
Just click HERE for free PDF Crockett on Scots Language and Humour
Click HERE to download Scots Language Policy/Scots Leid Policie. N’ on that same page ye can doonload Dr James Robertson’s speech fae the Launch event. He’s on ma shortlist fer the Scriever’s joab but ah hope tae be proven wrang n’ it gangs tae Rab! Ah warn ye, it cun become a kinna obsession wantin’ tae tak’ oot yer red pen when readin’ ony ither scriever in Scots. How did he not scrieve fowk but folk? When did a’ become aw? N’ that’s juist a beginnin’. A hink we may a’ be a bittie mair illiterate in written Scots than we lik’ tae admit. Though, fer me, as it’s primarily an oral culture it disnae get ma goat as much as ither fowks it seems!
An’ o course we a’ have tae face the spellcheck afore we press publish sae wha kens whit garble this will cam’ oot as!