Thursday, 29 September 2016

Of Ginger Mutts and Nuts

The attacks on Paul Kavanagh, aka Wee Ginger Dug, for having the temerity to produce a Gaelic-language map of Glasgow raise serious questions about Scotland's relationship with linguistic culture. Many of those attacks were founded on specious or "straw man" arguments, such as the claim that Gaelic would somehow be foisted on the unwilling, or that bilingual signage costs substantially more than its monolingual counterpart (it disnae). Above all, they serve to confirm that perhaps Lowland Scots aren't so different from their Loyalist cousins in Northern Ireland: if it suits the interests of (Unionist) politics, it seems, it's acceptable to attack the languages of your ancestors.

As if to prove the utter disregard and ignorance of many Scots for matters linguistic, the Herald today chose to illustrate an article about Lowland Scots with a picture of two children reading Gaelic books.

The key argument of the piece is that, with the world getting smaller owing to the rise of the Internet, many Scots elements retained in colloquial speech may die out. That is of course possible, but on the other hand social media offer just the sort of informal fora in which Scots, or at least renderings of working-class Scots' speech, might thrive; Swiss German has also recently made its way into new domains. Indeed, the point has already been made by many observers that such fora allow alternative political narratives to thrive too (the BBC, particularly around charter renewal time, allows neither).

Meanwhile, the Belfast Telegraph reports that a national museum of languages is coming to British high streets. When one reads on, however, it transpires that the museum is a "pop-up" centred on the University of Cambridge, with "regional" centres in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Nottingham. If Scots and Gaelic really are to avoid ending in the museum, it seems that we may have some way to go.

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