Friday, August 24, 2018

What are words worth?


The £10 million Gaelic school has raised questions of “equity and fairness”.

The official language of the Scottish people is English.  That might come as a bit of a surprise to those of you who have actually spoken to me and when I replied thought ‘eh?’ or as I would say, ‘Whit?’
Things have been that way since  1707, and for about 600 years before then most Scots spoke English anyway, or our form of English. There are three official languages of Scotland; English, Scots and Scots Gaelic.
                       Many hundreds of thousands of pounds were spent duplicating the word  police. In case you can't recognise the stripey car with the flashing blue lights. Huge waste of money.

 And a load of tosh is written about the third one, in my humble opinion. The big controversy is raising its head, shown by the fact we have a commonly used phrase – the Tartan Taliban. It shows what most lowlanders think of the massive amount of money and resources that are ploughed into the maintenance of the language, and the fact that it’s pushed upon people who have no desire to use it.
There is a place. It cost the taxpayer £15 million to build. It teaches non-Gaelic speakers to speak Gaelic. The sign posts to it are all in Gaelic so no buggar can find it, neither will your sat nav or your phone google map- unless you switch them to Gaelic.
So very, very roughly, Scots Gaelic is spoken in the Western Isles. It comes from the same root as Irish Gaelic, in the 4th century give or take a fortnight. In the east, there is the language of Scots which I have blogged about before; that gives us shelpit, a word that means bitter tasting or that white colour of kin that goes with a stomach bug, or, as I have used it, when describing the pallor of a  constant heroin user.   Scots is more fluid with English, I use both Scots and Gaelic words myself without realising.
There might have been a time, the time of Picts and Gaels when most of ‘Scotland’ as it was then (not the geographical area it is now) spoke Gaelic. The place names give good evidence for this although there is not much to substantiate its wide use beyond the 1400s. The Western Islands language spread over the north of Scotland and to become Scottish Gaelic, replacing the Pictish tongue, but in the very north the Norse language replaced Pictish.
Just to complicate matters before 1400’s Inglis ("English") was spoken by us lot, with Gaelic being called Scottis by the Gaels on the islands. Then Scottis became known as Erse ("Irish") and the Lowland vernacular, the Inglis became Scots.

Did you follow that? You don’t need to. If you speak Glaswegian nobody has a clue what you are blethering on about anyway. And probably think they are about to be mugged.
Less than 0.5% of scots are fully literate in the Gaelic language; most of them live in the Outer Hebrides.
Despite the fact that the use of Gaelic was at its height in 1000, it is still kicked about by politicians like the proverbial hot potato.  Or ‘teth 'bhuntàta’.  That is a guess!
Lowlanders get tattoos in Gaelic seeing the language as lyrical and romantic, which it is. But it is not our mother tongue and having any tattoo in a language you have no knowledge of is not without its risks.  Instead of ‘my heart sings of happiness’   some poor bugger got ‘My face is the shape of a beetroot.’ Serves them right.
Around the times of the gladiators, we had been called Scotia and our language was Lingua Scotia   and even my limited knowledge about Latin recognises that.
Amo amas amat and all that. Cave Canem Mathilda and pestis furcifer.
Anyway, tempis fugit as only tempis can.
There is now a huge revival effort in Gaelic. We have development boards and Scottish Gaelic schools - schools where kids are taught normally but in the Gaelic language and then we have the schools for adult non-Gaelic speakers to the language, considering it all fell apart when Malcolm the 3rd married a non-Gaelic bride… in 1050.
The wicked peadia lists Gaelic on the Endangered Languages Project as "threatened” status with about 25000 active users.
The big issue is that  the language was banned after the Battle Of Culloden in 1746- that’s the battle that daft folk believe  was English on  one side and Scots on the other ( the indeys have a memory blank spot about it) but it was highlander  versus lowland, French and Italians, landlords and land workers, Catholics and Protestants. It was a bloody time in our history and the atrocities that took place after the battle were as horrific as anything that would go on today. But it was not Scot Versus English.
Of course people want to keep their native tongue alive. I have no issues with that. But it’s not the native tongue of 99.95% of the population and I’ve never met a native Gaelic speaker ( and I know many!) who can’t flip back and forth. Indeed I have met a few, one just last week who went into a huge swearing  tirade about their language being used as a political tool and  describes those English speakers who want to learn  as a bunch of patronising *******.
 She went onto say that she speaks Gaelic in the house to her mum and her kids. When she shops locally on her island, she speaks Gaelic, but in town she speaks English and she’d really like her kids to learn  Spanish or Mandarin  as a third language at school, as they will already be fluent in English and Gaelic.
 And I think she’s right. It’s a big world out there as we bloggers at MIE know.                                                                                      

Oh, and my publisher was approached to put the new novel, as shown below, forward for the Highland Book Award. I think they have asked for it because of the view on the cover..

Caro Ramsay


  1. I love the cover for "The Sideman," and am rooting for you, Anderson, and Costello to be listed in Wicked Peadia as this year's Highland Book Award winner!

    By the way, your road signs had me reminiscing on Barbara and my journey gu Alba. I can't wait to come back and practice my Greegailic--a combination of language understood nowhere in the world.

  2. And we will welcome you back. I bet you wish the Romans had got this far up, then our roads would be straighter....

  3. I'd like to post something sensible, but I'm laughing too hard to see the keyboard properly!