Monday, 25 January 2016

Lose my Mind and Dance Forever

The Londonderry Sentinel reports on some obvious, though apparently controversial, points made by poet Wilson Burgess about the Ulster-Scots Agency's spending priorities — which, he says, have left the dialect "on the verge of extinction".

According to Mr. Burgess, "They have put their talents to other things like marching bands and, as I say, Highland Jacobean (sic) dancing, and I just wonder is that one of the things that should have been on their agenda."

Presumably the word "talent" is here being used in the biblical sense.

In a response also reproduced in the article, Agency CEO and former DUP councillor Ian Crozier, who is apparently an ally of Nelson McCausland in north Belfast, has recourse to some dodgy statistical sleight of hand:
"Interest in Ulster-Scots is growing all the time, in schools and community groups all over Ulster. At the last census in 2011, more than 140,000 people (about eight per cent of the population) indicated that they could speak, read or write in Ulster-Scots. Just a year later, the Continuous Household Survey found the figure had almost doubled, to 14 per cent of the population."
Relatively dramatic differences of that kind can of course often be found when comparing apples with pears. The extreme unlikelihood of the speaker population doubling in a single year should have set the alarm bells ringing. Even if that didn't happen within the Agency on this occasion, it surely will have done so among readers of the Sentinel.

It seems that the Agency has defaulted into the kind of batten-down-the-hatches mode more associated with sectarian point-scoring than genuine debate with a critical friend.

But perhaps its sympathies are more Orange than linguistic.

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