Seven pounds and ninety-nine pence for a cup with the word “Scunnered” printed on it with a short comic dictionary definition in real English of this Scots word. A penny short of a whole eight pounds – and that is without the tea – for a cup with one of my words on it. This is what they are selling in many of the trendier tourist shops in Glasgow these days. Clever and amusing as these wee cups are I have never felt the need to buy one, and I don’t think that I will be splashing out on one either. The designers and entrepreneurs behind the production of these souvenirs are to be applauded for their enterprise and for helping to encourage Scots to take pride in the uniqueness of their dialect and their culture, but one has to suspect that they are also the children and the grandchildren of the primary and secondary school teachers who made it their mission in life to humiliate us for speaking a version of the English language that was not proper. Very few kids from working class schools ever went off to the Art College or a business school, and those who had the means definitely weren’t brought up to use those words.
Does this leave me feeling bitter? Yes, I suppose that it does. Scots is a unique dialect of English, and the people of Scotland have their own cultural identity of which they should be proud, but we were not always told that we could be proud of our heritage. Fellow Scots – more privileged, more cultured, better educated Scots – were, for generations, the cat’s paw of cultural oppression in Scotland, and now that my words have become fashionable and indeed cash-valuable to the more cultured and better educated pisses me off. I can’t help but hope that their parents and grandparents feel a sting of regret for the words they assaulted us with as they drink from the expensive cups with our innocent and harmless Scots words on them. It would be a sorry waste of energy to hold this bitterness against those who are now profiting from our linguistic heritage. It is putting the new Scotland on the map. It is making Scottishness cool, and that’s well over due. All of that nasty business with the teachers is in the past now. Even they can see that our language will outlive them – it might even help pay for their retirement homes.
3 thoughts on “Being Charged for the Theft of Our Identity”
An interesting piece Jason.
I often consider the fact that I’ve altered my own vocabulary extensively in the last 10 years. I don’t see this as cowing down to some elitist force that wishes to mock our common culture. Rather, I see it as a practical step I’ve had to take in order to be able to participate in international business and research. The fact is that when working internationally it’s just not possible to make use of the full colour regional dialects offer. I think we’ve have to communicate using a plainer subset of the language – a lowest common denominator version, if you will. I know you’ve had to do this yourself and it’s offered you an ability to move and take up opportunities across international borders. It’s necessary within Scotland too. I’m not sure how far ‘banjoing yer coupon’ travels outside of Glasgow, and ‘going choring, it’s barry ken’ means bugger all in the west coast.
I’m all for diversity but when precision matters in writing – and Scot’s law is an example of somewhere it does – words like scunnered just won’t cut it. Though I suppose language does evolve, so maybe there’s hope for it to sneak in. For now, if it’ll sell a china cup for £7.90 I’m all for that!
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I agree with you entirely on the use of language at the grand scale of the international marketplace. Yes, you are entirely right. Still, we have to realise also that we are the inheritors of a culture – a unique culture – and that very few of the inheritors of any culture will ever be required to be translatable in the global market space. My gripe is not that we have to be understood. Not at all. My complaint is that our unique cultural inheritance has been for so long derided and is now being exploited by the very class who in the past gave it only a sneer. I am all in favour of bi-lingual culture.
I agree with you too. I deliberately tried to emphasise that ‘international English’ is just a small subset of the much richer language that surrounded us as we grew up – it’s not a poor relation to some superior version of the language that might be used to talk down on others. Shame on all of those, some of former teachers included, who used it as the latter.
I agree that all cultures are worth preserving. Which is exactly why I purchased a cup similar to that you described with the word ‘Eejit’ on it just a few years ago 🙂
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