Friday, December 3, 2010

McLetchie favours tyranny of the linguistic majority

In a predictably sneering report (not to mention the outrageously misleading headline) on proposals to boost the Scots language, the Telegraph quotes Tory MSP David McLetchie as saying -

"I find these ideas absolutely extraordinary, a complete and utter waste of money. Personally, I favour the Queen’s English, as do the overwhelming majority of people in Scotland."

Which, in the literal sense, is absolutely true. From my vague recollection of the figures, approximately two-thirds of the population do not really speak Scots at all. Does that mean the one-third who do speak the language count for nothing? In Wales, two-thirds of the population speak only English, and just 12% are native Welsh speakers. Does McLetchie think that this linguistic minority should obediently bow to the 'preference of the majority', and forget all about their culture, literature and Welsh-medium broadcasting in the interests of saving public money? Apparently so.


  1. The author is clearly just bitter because he's been demoted to political editor of the Jockgraph. He used to have a job on a proper English paper.

  2. Whilst I recognise that the majority of Scots do not "really speak Scots at all", that is only because a complete Scots language barely exists any more.
    What most Scots speak is a hybrid of (Scots)English, Scots and colloquialisms.
    Our everyday speech is quite different to our 'official' voice - terrified as we are that speaking, or even worse, writing in our domestic idiom marks us out as being of a lower social class or intelligence. Approximation of the manners, custom and language of the social elite confers status by association. Or at least that's what they hope. There is early adoption of these by what the Romans called 'clientelae', local bigwigs desperate to receive the patronage of the ruling class, then you have the social climbers as described above, and finally you have the cringeing masses.
    I do it myself. I have a certain intellectual vanity and find that, if I'm trying to assert the superiority of my argument, I start to speak in 'proper' English.
    As for the 'Queen's English', other than an entirely literal definition, wtf is that?

  3. "Personally, I favour the Queen’s English, as do the overwhelming majority of people in Scotland."

    And in that little sentence you find the Scottish cringe of the unionists encapsulated along with the usual accompaniment of anti-Scottishness.

    Several assumptions lie behind that statement from McLetchie.

    1. He regards Scots not as a language but as a lesser dialect because he's proud that he speaks, "the Queens English".

    2. There is no sense of ownership about Scots in what he says. It is regarded as, "other", and not a living link to Scotland's history and literature. He's defining it as outside his own culture and feels no need to try and save or promote it.

    3. There's that distinct element of cringe where he distances himself from Scots both as a language and as an identity. He doesn't speak Scots or Scottish English or simply English but, "the Queen's English". There's shades of Ulster Unionism in there with that invocation of the Queen.

    Scots has always been handicapped by its closeness to standard American which is becoming the world language. It's always been an easy target to denigrate as a rough dialect for those such as McLetchie who always feel uneasy about distinctly Scottish identifiers and have latched onto a dialect of American, "the Queens English", as some form of gold standard.

  4. Very good points. Although even if we were talking about something other than the Scots language, it's McLetchie's general intolerance that leaps out at me - simply because something isn't to his (or to "the majority's") taste, it's apparently of no value whatever and shouldn't be catered for.

    Left-handed? You're out of luck, mate. I prefer using my right hand and so do the overwhelming majority of the people of Scotland.

  5. This "complete and utter waste of money" has been foisted on the people of Scotland by the British government's signing of the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages.
    Is McLetchie suggesting that the SNP government renaig on resposibilities entrusted to it as a result of international agreements entered into by the British government?