Monday, November 29, 2010

Scots tonguing for St Andrew’s Day

What could be a more fitting way to celebrate Alba but choosing a few nuggets from our vast linguistic wealth – both celebrated and despised? This is a subject that deserves more scrutiny as it seems as if Scots are as confused and generally backward about language as they are about religion. Even the terms used for the languages are confusing.

The original ‘Scots’ was of course Gàidhlig, being the Celtic tongue of the Scotti who settled Argyll almost two thousand years ago. Gaelic was referred to as ‘Scottice’ by monks writing in Latin until around the 1500s. And then, Anglo-Saxon divide and rule really kicked in. Perhaps one of the first major pieces of strategic genius by the Sasannaich or Anglo-minded Scots against Scotland’s nationhood was to rename their language, Inglis, as… Scots! Almost overnight, the original language of the Scots became foreign – Erse, Gaylick, Celtic, Heeland, Heedrum-ho-drum etc despite having left its influence in virtually every corner of our land and having never been solely confined to the Highlands – for example our earliest extant written Gaelic is from Aberdeenshire and remnants of poetry in the Gallowegian Gaelic still exist.

The Beannachd de Righ Alban being read to King Alexander by the Ollamh Righ Alban.

Hence, I tend to make reference to Scots Gaelic and Scots English. This is partly due to historical pedantry on my part and partly due to the fact that it’s difficult to tell where ‘Scottish English’ and Scots/ Inglis/ Lallans separate. This fact being acknowledged even by J. Derrick McClure in his book ‘Why Scots Matters?’

Despite that, both these tongues contain a wealth of wit and humour and provide a key to unlocking both past and present culture. There is absolutely no criteria for choosing these words and phrases other than that I find them amusing or interesting. I’m also willing to read other such nuggets in the comments section below.

Scots Gaelic:

Cuir do chorrag nad thòin is leig fead – put your finger in your arse and (make a) whistle. A phrase that Celtic fans should aim at their chairman, John Reid, though to be honest, Reid’s recent pronouncements on morality are as profound and honest as this anyway.
‘S fheàrr sgur na sgàineadh, ach ‘s fheàrr sgàineadh na deagh bhiadh fhàgail – It’s better to stop than to burst, but its better to burst than to leave good food.
Na gèill is tu beò – Do not yield while you still draw breath. Have seen this both on a poster in Acha Mòr, Leòdhas as well as on the wall of an Anarchist Centre in Edinburgh.
brochan – can mean ‘a mess’ or porridge. A woodland at Killiekrankie is called Coille a’ Bhrochain as Robert the Bruce is reputed to have stopped by there to eat porridge from a shoe.
Mac na Bracha – ‘son of the malt’ and a reference to single-malt uisge-beatha. Hence the name of the blog on the subject.
Baile nan Trodach – the original Gaelic name for the village of Temple in Midlothian. The ‘Township of the Warriors’ referring to the Knights Templar who once made it their base.
thall’ is cac – away and shite. Oft used in conjunction with the Butcher’s Apron as in Oi Polloi’s angry Gaelic rant of ‘Union Jack – Thall is Cac’. A song of the same title was performed by a Leodhasach punk band of the 80s.

Union Jack...

Scots English:
dreich – onomatopoeic or whit?
The guy’s erse wis knittin socks – the man was somewhat frightened.
glaikit – not to be used about John Reid, he’s got a PhD he has.
bawbag – the thin bag of skin in which a man’s clachan are held. Is Scots English the world leader in terms of base abuse? I’m sure Spanish could give it a run for its money. Any linguistic evidence of this or otherwise is welcomed.
jakie – ‘Lord Foulkes’ though to be honest, we’ve aw got one in the family. Part of the ‘Union dividend’ – even dark and formerly depressive Finland has got to grips with its booze culture. They don’t have the Old Firm though…

These lists are by no means exhaustive and a dram or two of a smoky Bunnahabhainn is sure to trigger a flood of others. To be continued no doubt.

John Reid v. James Connolly - you be the referee

So, the combined might of John Reid, Neil Lennon and the Catholic Church have combined to bully Hugh Dallas and Dougie MacDonald from their respective positions in the Scottish football pecking order. One of them told a white lie regarding a correct refereeing decision while the other passed on a photo which mocked the cover-ups of child abuse within the Catholic Church.

John Reid by the way is the ex-communist, now known by the modest title of the 'Baron of Cardowan'. Labour's one time bully-boy and party 'hard man' was incensed by all of this and held a grim-faced press conference at which he all but challenged his victims to come-ahead if they thought they were hard enough. John Reid may be the Baron of Cardowan but he's hardly the laird of the moral high-ground - he has form as a bit of a sex-pest amongst Labour's women and didn't cover himself in glory with Labour's warmongering adventures in Iraq. At best, he was fully involved in an illegal war. At worst, he is complicit in war crimes. Whatever privileges the British State can bestow upon the Baron of Cardowan, a sense of perspective ain't one of them.

Reid was a one-time admirer of Edinburgh's James Connolly - Irish republican hero, socialist and international trade-unionist. This past indiscretion proved no barrier to Reid when working in partnership with NATO, the right-wing Bush regime and  in his friendship with Serb war-criminal Radovan Karadžić.

"I love a good box, Don"
As Reid is so fond of a square-go, let's see how he compares to yon Jimmy Connolly. 

Connolly - escaped poverty by joining the British Army at age 14
Reid - left behind a working class background to become Secretary of State for Defence
Connolly - became an active trade unionist
Reid - became consultant for Group 4 Security and chairman of Celtic FC
Connolly - campaigned for women's rights, "the female is the slave of the slave"
Reid - pestered a female Labour MP for sex, "I want to have sex with you, I want to f*** you, you want it as well."
Connolly - went to Belfast to support Protestant and Catholic workers in the dockers and textile strikes
Reid - went to Belfast as the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland/ British Governor General in the Six Counties
Connolly - went to the US to help organise the internationalist trade-union, the IWW (Wobblies)
Reid - went to the US to meet Donald Rumsfeld and address the Pentagon in support for Bush and Blair's illegal war in Iraq
Connolly - was executed by the British Army while tied to a chair following his part in the Easter Uprising of 1916
Reid-  'commanded' the British Army in his role of Secretary of State for Defence and oversaw British troops in Iraq where torture by US and UK troops was used on captives and between 100,000 and 600,000 Iraqis were killed.
Connolly - shared platforms with Irish socialist Larkin and Scots' Red Clydesider, John Maclean.
Reid - shared a platform with US neo-con Rumsfeld as well as a jaunt to a luxury hotel as a guest of Serb war criminal Karadžić.
Connolly - inspired John Lennon to write the song 'Woman is the Nigger of the World'.
Reid - inspired Neil Lennon to bully Scottish referees.

The Baron of Cardowan, a red, white and blue Clydesider - probably more damaging to Celtic FC than Inverness Caley Thistle.

I'm no hard enough to fly these flags at Parkheid.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Satan's music, condoms and reasons to lose your religion

I wonder what the term 'a week is a long time in politics' would be if it were transferred to religion? After all, biblical literalists have attempted to wriggle out of their fantastical delusion by claiming that 'back in God's day, a day could've been.... a thousand/ ten thousand/ a million years long as we know it'. Funnily enough, this is just speculation -  'god' neglected to share this wisdom with his bloggers who scribed his word many moons ago. Just when was 'the day' condensed into the handy 24-hour package that we use in modern times?

Whatever, it seems as if god has tweeted some new commands to different branches of his many churches on earth this week.

Last week, the use of condoms was a sin. AIDS was a punishment from god for those who indulged chiefly in homosexual activities (am not sure if it applied to lesbians) but also those who fancied a lumber or two before getting hitched. Now though, condoms are cool! According to the Pope, it is now a moral responsibility to bag your bratwurst in order to deflect god's anger should you wish to stick it into the wrong oven at the wrong time. As I write, the Vatican is rushing out its own brand of condom, coated with holy lubricant.

Not to be overshadowed by the Antichrist, our cheerful friends in the Free Kirk have decreed that music is to be permitted in their churches. Last week, having a strum of a gee-tar or even a toot on the chanter would've landed you in hot bother, for eternity. But now, Calvinists too can get all happy clappy. Is it a desperate attempt to bolster their dwindling congregations with cool and hip McFly-esque interpretations of Leviticus? It certainly brings the auld joke to mind...
Why are Presbyterians against sex standing up?
It might lead to dancing.
At your local Free Kirk... Koombaya mah lord.
Joking aside, if these hardline Christian heidbangers had not seized control of Gaelic speaking areas some two centuries ago, some of Gaelic's famous puirt-a-beul/ mouth music may not have been born. Not long after the London government decided that the bagpipes were, er... instrumental in formenting nationalist sentiment amongst the clans, the god-squad moved in to decree that music was itself an instrument of Satan. Therefore, the fiddle, Jews' Harp, clàrsach, melodean and any other music maker of the day joined the bagpipe on the bonfire. Like modern-day drugs' laws, it didn't work though and soon the cèilidh house was jumping to fast tongue-twisting nonsense lyrics and vocables that people could dance to. It preceded rap and RnB by 200 years.

It is precisely because of all this nonsense that people are turning their backs on organised religion. However, should you need that we push to send you on your way into a godless life then here's some good stimuli.

  1. The Bible - many atheists maintain that most Christians have never read it. How can any sane person defend its mountain of contradictions, rich vein of hatred and disturbing perverse view of human relations? Even more incredible is that some people want to force this filth on children. So, next time you're in a hotel, steal the one you get free in yon bedside cabinet. Read it.
  2. David Attenborough - if Dawkins is a bit too aggressive then the British Isles' favourite naturalist and all-round genial grandfather figure will soon have you nodding in agreement with his warm brand of reason. I love his quote refuting the 'All Things Bright and Beautiful' train of religious delusion, "They always mean beautiful things like hummingbirds. I always reply by saying that I think of a little child in east Africa with a worm burrowing through his eyeball. The worm cannot live in any other way, except by burrowing through eyeballs. I find that hard to reconcile with the notion of a divine and benevolent creator."
  3. Richard Dawkins -  a man who is genuinely irritated by mumbo-jumbo and the refusal of others to recognise evidence. His anger, turn of phrase and general all-round intelligence makes for great reading. Of the Catholic Church and its obsession with circuses like Lourdes, he says "If you want to experience the medieval rituals of faith, the candle light, the incense, music, important-sounding dead languages, nobody does it better than the Catholics." 
Ave maria...

Sex, drugs and the Free Kirk...
Smite-me-not condoms...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A multicultural wedding!

Further to the previous posting on multiculturalism, I feel it is only proper that we rejoice in today's news that the German Prince Wilhelm is to marry his English rose of a girlfriend. It is believed that the wedding will take place in a place of worship used by adherents to a Middle-Eastern faith known as Christianity. Central to this faith is the marriage ceremony which makes it illegal for the bride to copulate with or bear children by another man. Yet another ingredient in the melting pot. It appears the Prince Wilhelm is destined to become 'defender' of this faith. It is hoped that this will be a peaceful matter as Christians have, in the past, resorted to violence - either against other nations or internally against those suspected of witchcraft or following a rival football team.

Members of Glasgow's Germanic Christian community celebrate the Royal wedding by engaging Her Majesty's' Constabulary in street combat.

Indeed, in Glasgow, Shiite Christians who swear allegiance to Imam William of Orange often engage in bloody clashes with their Sunni Christian enemies. Scotland's Sunni Christian community were buoyed this year after their spiritual leader Oberstammführer Benedict visited Glasgow to incite them to campaign vigorously against homosexuality, abortion, women's' rights and masturbation. Ironically, Benedict also rejoices in his German bloodline.

Wilhelm's brother has chosen his wedding attire.

The BBC has replaced coverage of job losses and the student sacking of Tory HQ with in-depth analysis of the entire revolting spectacle. The sinister right-wing Tax Payers' Alliance has responded by meekly asking the Royals to keep the bill down to a reasonable £30m or so.

So far, the silence from the Daily Mail and certain members of the Scottish blogging community regarding the waste of taxpayers' and BBC license payers' money on the frivolities of an extended family of foreign scroungers has been noted in the corridors of sanity.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Politics, mortality and architecture

Earlier this week, one of the last great tradition bearers of Gaelic culture in Wester Ross died. Donnchadh 'Stalker' MacMhathain - Duncan Matheson - was many things. A thatcher, stonemason, craftsman and font of knowledge on the old way of life - including illicit whisky distilling. He was reputed to be an excellent poacher too. Stories on all of these subjects were often regaled in the idiomatic local Gaelic of Kintail to film crews, academics, Gaelic students and most importantly of all, local schoolkids such as the tale of local outlaw and illicit distiller Ailidh Mal.

A man of the soil certainly, but I doubt if he had time for the well-bred poshos of the Countryside Alliance, a group of people whose accents, if not politics, hark back to the lairds who drove our people from the land, replaced them with sheep and left their houses to fall into ruin.

Aye, death is natural. We all go the way of Duncan Stalker. But can natural death in old age be equated to institutionalised repression or official neglect that sees native indigenous languages beaten out of school-kids, local people unable to live in their own community and rich lairds dictating to local communities on matters that affect their lives and livelihoods?

Whatever conservatives and revisionists may say, people did not 'choose' to leave the Highlands during the clearances, unless escaping famine and forced 'relocation' constitutes freedom of choice. Equally, can it be argued that Gaelic simply 'died' when most native Gaels over the age of 50 are likely to have been punished or rebuked somewhere in their educational life for speaking their mother tongue?

Anyone can just go with the flow. Others don't. Some people form bands and produce challenging music. Some learn and use minority languages. Some bring up their children bilingual. Some people get involved with credit unions or charities. Some people learn their grandparents' language and design houses of the kind their grandparents may have lived in.

While searching for info on the late Duncan Stalker, I came across an interesting article written  by one of the architects involved in Skye-based company Dualchas. If you ever thought that architecture could not be revolutionary, read it:

On Skye we met homeless and dispossessed people who were living in conditions worse than what had probably been endured for over a hundred years.  An old shepherd who kept his clothes in a plastic bag to stop them getting damp in his dilapidated caravan.  He had been kicked out of his tied cottage when he retired from the estate where he had worked most of his life.  There was a young woman whose child was in care but who would not get her child back until she got decent accommodation.  She too lived in a caravan. In Skye there was a feeling of a community on the slide.  By contrast in Ireland the pubs were packed, the communities thriving.  But even then, back in the early 90s,  the beautiful landscape was being despoiled by inappropriate housing – alien to the landscape. However, at least Donegal had people. It was obvious that poorly designed kit houses was not the issue facing rural Scotland and Ireland as many architects seemed to think. It was the economy, the land, the people, the culture.  Politics.
The full article can be read here:

Donnchadh MacMhathain - clach air a chàrn