Yesterday I wrote about that tired old phenomenon of the self-hating Irishman and woman: a small but influential minority of the English-speaking majority who regard our indigenous language and those who speak it with a level of hatred and zealotry that borders on racism (and “borders” is a charitable way of putting it). One of the more poisonous after-effects of eight centuries of English colonial rule in Ireland this culture of discrimination continues to blight the social fabric and politics of our nation. But we are not alone in that.
Our fellow Gaels in Scotland face the same attitudes from the anglophone extreme there. Speakers of the Scottish language (Scots Gaelic) regularly experience bigotry in all aspects of their lives, from the streets to the newspapers. Journalist David Walker reflects some of those attitudes in a recent article for the Largs and Millport Weekly News, a local newspaper in Scotland, showing how prevalent, widespread and quite casual this culture of intolerance is:
“I’ve had enough of Gaelic. There I’ve said it.
I didn’t say garlic there – I’m not a vampire – but Gaelic, that strange language that’s everywhere in our midst despite no one actually speaking it.
Don’t get me wrong; I don’t mind the language itself, the practice of it, or its traditions – I even think it’s laudable that people are trying to keep it going – just keep it well away from me.
The inexorable bureaucrat-driven rise of the Gaelic movement and its continued encroachment into an overwhelmingly English-Scots-speaking populace has, to my mind, been annoying and anachronistic at best, and faintly sinister at worst.”
The desire of Scottish speakers to seek equal civil and legal rights with their English speaking peers is “sinister”?
“I suspect that such basic phrases as “A bheil Gàidhlig agaibh?” (Do you speak Gaelic?), the more advanced “Tha mi ag iarraidh briosgaid!” (I want a cookie) or “Kaw uhn KEU-ra shin KAW-la root uh CHOO-nik mee uhn-royer?” (Who was that sheep I saw you with last night?) would go right over your head.”
Ah yes. People who speak the indigenous Scottish language but of course like to have sexual intercourse with animals. Now that’s not the least bit racist is it, David? And don’t forget, men who speak Arabic like to groom prepubescent girls for sex and people who speak Hebrew regularly sacrifice babies at midnight masses.
“The propaganda merchants tell us that if Gaelic does indeed die then this generation of Scots will have been complicit in a grievous act of folly; that something of Scotland’s soul will have been lost forever. They say that not many other countries have their very own ancient tongue and one that carries some of the most beautiful music, poetry and prose in Scotland’s bounty.
But the death of a language is surely as unavoidable as the rising of the tide; it becomes obsolete because it is obsolete. Like Latin, it falls by the wayside because it becomes outmoded, impractical and unwieldy – and no amount of marketing, promotion or money can change that.
By any normal yardstick, Gaelic should barely exist in modern day Scotland. It exists in a more historical landscape, redressing old rural grievances rather than expressing new metropolitan demands.”
Actually, no. The “death” of a language is not a natural event. It is an artificial event created by specific social, economic and political forces. Including racist ones. Scottish did not arrive where it is by choice. It arrived there at the point of sword and gun.
“Only on a superficial level does it help the tourist trade by rewarding visitors with that quaint sense of difference that all visitors seek. It’s pleasing primarily because it conforms to the stereotypes of a Scotland that no longer exists – but ultimately it’s as superfluous as the Loch Ness Monster or a wee Australian dressing up as one of our national heroes and telling us that he knows all about our freedom.”
Really, David? Well this American tourist and travel writer at USA Today Travel seems to strongly disagree:
“You know you’re in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland when McDonald’s greets you in Scottish Gaelic.
Have no worries, this northern part of Scotland is not overrun with fast food outlets. Inverness, which is a hub of transport and trade and the administrative capital of the Highlands. does have a McDonald’s in its city center, though.
On the windows of the store in Inverness, ‘welcome to McDonald’s’ and other familiar slogans of the chain are in Scottish Gaelic. I didn’t stop in to see if they have menu boards in both English and Scottish Gaelic as well, but it wouldn’t surprise me.
Slightly more than one percent of people in Scotland speak Gaelic as their first or day to day language, but many more have an acquaintance with it, through school days, through community activities, through music, and through signage. That signage part has been controversial at times. People have asked: is it really a good use of the government’s money, or a business or school district’s funds, to make sure there are dual language signs on the road ways across Scotland, in government buildings, in the signs which explain exhibits in museums?
So far, the answer has been yes. I agree. When you lose a language, you lose a whole way of thought and creativity in thinking about a nation, a culture, a way of life, a whole way of understanding parts of history and ideas about the present day.”
It would seem that everyone loves the Scottish language – except for a bigoted minority of English-speaking Scots.
[ASF: Update 03.03.2012. It seems the offending article has been taken down from the Largs & Millport Weekly News website. The power of negative publicity?]
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