I heard thon Billy Kay on the radio this week, once again blathering on aboot the “mither tongue” and the Scots “language”. This stuff is all hairmless enough of course but it now comes with a price tag to preserve what is really an arcane composite museum piece.
I love Burns and many of the old Scots words and expressions. For example the Scots’ lives would surely be poorer if they could not express themselves as being scunnered or describing a day as dreich.
Burns wrote using the rich dialect in use in Ayrshire in the 18th century and very expressive it is too. Many of the words and sayings have survived in the interim and some have not. The tools and machinery used by Burns on his farm are similar. I’m sure spades and shovels haven’t really changed all that much, but the ploughs and larger machinery have developed somewhat.
The old ironmongery may be interesting from a historical point of view, but imagine we had fowk promoting their use in an attempt to preserve a culture which is debatable ever really existed.
To give you an example of what I’m talking about here click on this document from the Scottish “pairlament”. Billy Kay and the tartan taliban have got the Scottish parliament TRANSLATING into Scots. This is as if people who use the Scots dialect are so bone thick that they need a’thing written oot phonetically so they can unerstaun it!
Here’s a wee secret folks, IT’S ENGLISH! OK almost all the vowels have been changed as that is the mark of most dialects, and a few consonants have been dropped but other than the insertion of a few colloquialisms, most people who speak English could decode it fairly quickly.
It all has the air of the haun knitted jumper, the kailyard novel and the Sunday Post circa 1954. If you think I’m being a little harsh then check out the following STV programme starring Billy Kay and a couple of his chums from the 1980′s. For the avoidance of doubt, this is not meant to be comedy.
And talking of 1954….
It has been highlighted in recent weeks that Scotland is lagging in the teaching of languages. German, French and Spanish are the ones put forward as being the most helpful to learn for career advancement – particularly German.
And yet here we are unnecessarily translating parliamentary documents into a dialect, and wasting time giving school weans (or should that be skill weans?) lessons in it.
Scotland can bask in the radiant arch of the dawn (as writer George Douglas Brown put it over 100 years ago in his novel The House with the Green Shutters) and look forward.
I hope there’s no place in that dawn for broadcasters financing Billy Kay to witter on about amateur dramatics in Newtongrange.
It’s haudin’ us back sae it is.