Monday, 6 January 2014

Lowpin the Sheuch
















Issues of bilingualism exercised the Blether Region during its festive travels. First, it couldn't help but notice on a visit to the Falkirk Wheel that the Scottish Gaelic "welcome" sign was actually in Irish, i.e. the word displayed was not Fàilte but Fáilte. That may be a minor point, and aficionados of the tongue will point out that Scottish Gaelic once happily employed both graves and acutes before, relatively recently, adopting a reform whereby only the former would be used. However, that does not discharge the public authorities in Scotland from a duty to get right what is, after all, a fairly basic word. The episode underlines the low base from which the Gaelic revival is starting ower the Sheuch.

Then, upon returning to Norn Iron, Blethers was flabbergasted to read of the latest case of Ulster-Scots whitabootery, a police officer "threatened with being reported after posting a greeting on the PSNI Newry and Mourne Facebook page in Irish, Polish, Russian and Lithuanian, but not Ulster-Scots." The officer later explained that he had included only languages a) that he had encountered during the previous year and b) that came under the purview of Google Translate — the latter hardly likely given that Scots is unstandardised, largely untaught and, in the case of Ulster, riven by amateurish factionalism.

Newry and Mourne, the most Catholic of Northern Ireland's 26 local government districts at the time of the 2011 Census, is unsurprisingly also far from any core Ulster-Scots area. Joseph Carson of Kilpike (a Catholic) and Hugh Porter of Moneyslane (an Anglican) were notable County Down Scots-language poets in the first half of the nineteenth century, but both Kilpike and Moneyslane are in the Banbridge District Council area (Carson was evidently born in Lurgan, but that is in the Craigavon Borough Council area). Notwithstanding Carson's Lurgan heritage, the bulk of (barely) English-settled Armagh, as far as the Blether Region can ascertain, has never produced an Ulster-Scots poet, and Scots may never have enjoyed the status of community language in the county.

Although the UUP's Ross Hussey correctly identified the threat to report the PSNI member as unreasonable, in the same breath he referred to his actions as a "genuine oversight", from which the Blether Region infers that the all-pervading rationale of the zero-sum game has been suspended in this case out of respect for the forces of law and order.

A Guid New Year tae ye aw.

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