Monday, 6 October 2014

"Scots English"

The Guardian has an article on what it originally called "Scots English" that unfortunately regurgitates some of the commonest misunderstandings about the speech variety. For a start, if it's English, as many academics quite respectably believe, the national adjective might just as well be "Scottish". The use of "Scots" in this case is no doubt influenced by the native name, but it all rather puts the Blether Region in mind of those many people here in Ireland who habitually say "Scottish" except for some reason in the case of "Scots Gaelic", i.e. just where it's most liable to confuse.

Of course, not everyone will agree: a lecturer friend said he rather liked "Scots English" as a name because it captured the hybridity of how most Lowlanders now speak and the uncertain status of their tongue. Nevertheless, standard terminology it ain't. In fact, the Wikipedia entry on Scottish English states up front that it is "not to be confused with Scots language".

The difference between dialect and slang is another area where the paper could do with going back to school. The word doo is clearly the former (being a geographically delimited cognate of Standard English dove) but not the latter (i.e., not a jokey or familiar low-register synonym for the initiated).

And then there's the title of the article, which the Guardian changed as a result of comments from readers. Apart from anything else, half of it's not about Scots at all but about Scottish Gaelic — which, as the comments section confirms, had to be re-written. And it's still not right: gràidh should surely be a ghràidh, whether the hearer actually registers the fricative or not. Oh dear.

Of course, at the risk of going off topic, the fact that the Guardian appears to know so little about the languages of Scotland may also go some way to explaining its reporting of the country's recent independence referendum ...

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