A Word in your Ear – –

Jack’s Wednesday guest post fails to make it again – Wendy threatens to cut his fee – –

A young friend in Scotland who has become a much admired singer of traditional Scots songs is Iona Fyfe (a name I thought had been adopted to represent the breadth of Scotland, but it’s actually her name). Just recently she was in the news across the globe for taking Spotify to task for not allowing singers to post their songs as Scots. She won the argument and they have now included that option.

It, of course, raised that old hoary argument that Scots isn’t a language but just a dialect of English. In fact they both started from common roots, as did most European languages. I usually tell people that the relationship between Scots and English is similar to that between Spanish and Portuguese or between Danish and Norwegian.

Nowadays most Scots speak a mixture of Scots and English – particularly in informal situations. That’s much changed from when I was young and teachers discouraged bairns frae spikken their ain leid. They felt that to get on in life it was necessary to speak ‘proper English’ and they were quite correct. What they didn’t understand was that kids can be taught and study more than one language. Of course when we reached high school we learned French or German but still our own language was suppressed. I wonder whether teaching all subjects in Scots and including English as an option along with French and German, as happens in Gaelic language schools now would have helped.

I was lucky to have a granddad who lived with us from the time I was born until he died and who was a natural speaker of Scots, so I heard the vocabulary and sentence structure as I was growing up. My parents, although they had middle class aspirations, still spoke a more diluted version of Scots and we had an old edition of Burns songs, poems and letters in the house. Incidentally, Burns wrote his letters and some of his songs and poems in ‘proper English’ while the others were in ‘proper Scots’, but even he absorbed his Scots language informally beside the ingle neuk.

It’s interesting how much a language can help define a nation, and that’s not lost on the London based ‘movers and shakers’. They think it’s bad enough to have road signs in Welsh and Gaelic but they winna thole them in Scots!

Like many immigrants to the USA I have learned to speak and understand American English, but I can still speak and understand British English (for which I thank those far off teachers). Still, my language of choice will always be Scots –

My childhood memories are – lowpin ower dykes; keekin at the muin; greetin fu sair; gien it laldie and haudin ma wheest.

Lang may yir lum reek!

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Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, folklore and ethnography, Life reflections, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

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