Wednesday, January 21, 2009

"Scots isnae bad English, it's a braw language in its ain richt"

Don't take it from me, but from the weans of Greenmill Primary School in Cumnock, east Ayrshire. (Alexander Peden is buried in Cumnock, just across the road from the school).

Burns Night is this weekend, but let's face it, Robert Burns (genius that he was) is the acceptable face of the Scots language. Sophisticated types feel that it's okay to associate with Burns. After all, a fancy meal, an exotic dish like haggis and a wee dram ticks one's aspirational lifestyle boxes. And a volume of his works on the shelf at home doesn't hurt anyone.

A big plus with Burns is that he's dead. This is a major advantage - he can't embarrass today's intellectuals by saying something unbecoming on tv, radio or in the press. Burns is history.

There is of course an unacceptable underbelly to Scots and Ulster-Scots - it's the ordinary folk of Portavogie, Ballymoney, Cumnock and Fraserburgh (to name but four places) who have the audacity to say "hinnae" instead of "haven't", "cannae" instead of "unable to", and "ocht ava" instead of "anything at all". These people must be humiliated, marginalised, trivialised and forced from view. And be sure to hide their centuries-long tradition of local vernacular literature away from them - they might get restless if they knew it existed.

So as the poor wee haggis is once again cut open this Sunday - dichted by the knife of rustic labour - at the behest of Burns lovers, literary afficionados, the culturally curious, and those who are just out for a night's crack, what's really being knifed every day of the week is the remnant of folk on baith sides o the Sheugh who love and use Scots and Ulster-Scots every day.

Knifed time and again by a scornful media, a cultural entertainment industry, and a largely ignorant and disinterested public.

Rabbie's deid. It'll no be lang afore the ither yins are aa deid forbye.


(Here's a link to the BRILLIANT new BBC website devoted to Burns and his works. Listen to Brian Cox reading A Prayer in the Prospect of Death)