Thursday, 19 November 2015

Ulster Scots, Hay

Having reason to research something in a dusty old file recently, the Blether Region came across a letter from the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. Anyone receiving mail from the Department (and not just the recently discussed trilingual kind) will know from its letterheads that the "Ulster-Scots" version of its name nowadays is "Männystrie o Fairms an Kintra Fordèrin".

The letter in the file, however, was from the early years of this century, and boasted a quite different version, "Depairtment o Agricultur an Lannart Oncum".

Now, readers will have their own idea of what the best translation is, and the chances are that it will diverge from both the above. It is the case, however, that the more recent and more common version is inferior on three counts: the employment of diacritics not native to Scots and used in a manner wholly foreign to any widely used language; the reductive equation of "fairms" with "agriculture"; and the use of "Männystrie" for "Department" — not in fact a translation at all but obsolete "Old Stormont" terminology retained by certain age cohorts (more controversially, the same translators have been known to refer to "Northern Ireland" as "Ulstèr").

The older translation, which dates from a time when the Internet was not what it is today, can now hardly be found on the web, and turns up only a few hits even when entered in inverted commas.

Further proof, if such were necessary, that not everything improves over time.

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