Wee Scoops

Measure for Measure

Prepare to Be Scottish

Ah… Scottishness. It raised its head in the comment stream at the end of my last post.

Should educationalists prepare people to be Scottish?

I don’t think so, not really. National identities are nebulous and usually unhelpful: prone to chime in with stereotypes. But I’m prepared to muse for a time…

What is Scottishness?

Wur ayeways the underdog, especially at the fitba. But we dinna kerr. We revel in the chance o’ a glorious upset. Wur only hope’s no Obi Wan Kenobi. It’s Andy Murray. Gaun yersel son.

Burns? A louse, a mouse and a drunken ride hame. A crabbit wife waiting and a puir horse wi nae tail. He may have been prolific, but maist ae Burns Ah kin take ur leave. Maist ae it Ah leave. Except mibbi the mouse an the louse. In ma finals at Uni Ah wis reduced tae writin oan Burns in ma Scottish Literature exam. Ah hud run oot ae fowk tae write aboot, an a endit up writin an essay oan “To a Mouse” and “Auld Lang Syne”. No a great moment… Wisnae quite how Ah expectit the exam tae turn oot – relyin oan texts Ah wis taught in Primary three. Onyway…

Then there was the Caledonian Antisyzygy, which (I think) was the belief that Scottishness, apart from geographical association, was something to do with “whaur extremes meet” – that the Scottish psyche is entertained by bringing together opposites. We thrive on incongruous juxtapositions. Apparently. I suppose the statue with the traffic cone on his head near George Square is proof of that. As soon as the cone is removed, someone replaces it, getting the city’s balance back in line with the Caledonian Antisyzygy. Who needs Feng Shui when you’ve got a perpetual backdrop of the sublime and the ridiculous?

The Antisyzigy gives us creativity from clashes and comedy from comparisons. And I think I am all for that in education. If we bring together things that normally don’t mix – you might get explosive results, or at least a new perspective.

My litmus test for Scottishness is all in the vowels. The upshot of the Scottish Vowel Length rule is that if you say “greed” and “agreed” with a Scottish accent, the “ee” vowel sounds are different lengths. If you say it with any other accent, they are the same length. But I don’t think this quirky distinction is particularly valuable, although I do have a fondness for the x-phoneme that is dying out a bit. I can still say “loch” though… but I fear for my children 😉

Then there’s the land. “Sunset Song” and all that. Scottishness has to have something to do with the land. But historically, people do tend to bail. Our diaspora goes far and wide. There are probably more global Scots than there are resident Scots. Although people want to retain their tartan and their ceilidhs, they have less need of the weather, perhaps.

So, do I think we need to raise Scots to be Scottish? No. I wouldn’t want to tar anyone with the brush of the overweight underdog, waiting around for a glorious upset. I think that finding “whaur extremes meet” is all good, though, as long as it generates new perspectives.

Scotland is a great wee country. But Scottishness cannot be defined, so no amount of education can make a person Scottish. Either you see yourself as Scottish, or you don’t. And it is no better or worse to think of yourself as any nationality.

I see myself as Scottish.

*adjusts kilt, takes a swig of Irn Bru, plays “Auld Lang Syne” on the fiddle and hears a difference when saying “tied” and “tide”*


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17 thoughts on “Prepare to Be Scottish

  1. Dorothy Russell on said:

    As my dear, now departed, uncle used to say,”there are only two kinds of people in the world, the Scots and those who want to be Scots!”

  2. Ms Russell’s uncle was correct,I have such great memories of my brief time in Scotland.

  3. I wanna be Scottish! The women are strong, the men are all handsome, and the children are above average! 😀

    • Yes, the women are strong – but some of the men look like rodents (no offence to Boo). Children are above average, but only if they haven’t been raised on a diet of chip fat. Which many have 😕

  4. I’m not Scottish, but I’m “Auld”–does that count? 😀

    Every hear of the book “Jacob vs. Esau”?

  5. Rickster on said:

    Scotland is unique. We are the only country in the world where Coca-Cola is not the best selling fizzy drink. That’s got to count for something…

  6. I ADORE a Scots accent, despite being a hated Englishman. Last week I heard Burns recited by a Scot, and I fell in love.

    • I have to confess, I was born in England. But I’ve never felt English. And the Scots don’t hate the English- they just want to put a brick through the TV anytime 1966 gets a mention.

  7. carole ashworth on said:

    “And it is no better or worse to think of yourself as any nationality.”

    I couldn’t agree more.

    I’ve never felt Scottish – I’m more proud of being born in Govan, actually. We would do well to remember that “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel and the virtue of vicious.”

  8. Interesting! Having been living in France for nigh on 3 months it is very true that the thing I miss most about Scotland (well, is friends, but then) are ceilidhs, and the thing I miss least the weather 😛 The thing about vowels is also interesting, people have been asking me what the Scottish/English accent difference really is, and I’ve not been sure!

    • It also works with whine and wine – in English they are the same word. In Scotland we differentiate the “wh” sound from the “w”.
      Thanks for checking out the wee scoops – hope you get to a ceilidh soon. And manage to avoid the Scottish weather 🙂

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