Tuesday, 8 November 2011
“The name’s Max – Devo Max, licensed to talk nonsense about independence: my number is 1707-2014 – give me a call sometime …”
In moments of slight megalomania, I imagine that at least some of the things I write might have a tiny influence on the media, but I am rapidly brought down to earth by watching news and current affairs broadcasts. I gave a bit of well-meaning advice on the use of the inaccurate cliché “It may be … but …” as an all-purpose opener or/and closer to news items, but here is Glenn Campbell at it again on his second item on Newsnight Scotland on the Scottish Tories. “The election may be over …” says Glenn. No, it is over Glenn, hadn’t you noticed – the results are in, the winner is confirmed. Do they hand these conversation lozenges over the presenters just before the programme starts, to be chewed and then regurgitated? Or are they now in the DNA?
But my real concern was with the first item on, guess what, devo max and the referendum. BBC presenters are now akin to the Flying Dutchman, condemned to roam the ether, always asking the same questions – What is devo max?- When will the referendum be? - What could the questions be? To sustain them in this endless, fruitless quest, they have an unlimited supply of commentators and experts who don’t know the answers either, and they have a built-in deficiency which prevents them from hearing the answers when they are given, usually by Alex Salmond or Angus Robertson. What ******* chance have I got in offering some clarity?
Here is my referendum eye chart. Please look at the chart and read each line from the top down. Don’t worry if you can’t read or understand it – you are part of a large group that has similar problems.
Thank you – that concludes the test. I have to tell you that conventional spectacles are not going to prove sufficient to correct your disability, given that you didn’t get beyond the first line, and even understanding that caused you some difficulty. Laser surgery is, I’m afraid, the only option, but it does involve radical adjustment of your political perspective. But you have over two years to decide. Meanwhile, do try to get on with your life. Writing fantasy fiction can help.
May I suggest a couple of topics that will keep you safely shielded from reality? How about How to re-energise the Tory Party in Scotland – that could also be a fantasy comedy – and What Labour Must Do – that would, of course, be a tragedy …
Monday, 24 October 2011
Dr. Samuel Johnson, who was no fan of the Scots but who would be largely forgotten today if it hadn’t been for Boswell, his Scottish biographer, was born a couple of years after the Union. He compiled a dictionary of the English language. I wonder what he would have made of the OED, Google and online translation facilities.
But over the last few years, another language has sprung up in these islands, one that is likely to grow rapidly in the next few years, reaching its peak around 2014-2015, then dying, unmourned, its arcane cadences lost to all but academics and historians. The language is a variant of English, with occasional rather self-conscious borrowings from Scots.
Some argue that it is merely a dialect of English, or even a patois - a pidgin or a creole. It is to be found in Scotland mainly in the Letters columns of The Scotsman and The Herald, where it is written in its purest form, and in its spoken form, in the mouths of Unionist politicians. In its extreme gutter form, it can be heard on morning phone-ins to Radio Scotland, but often enunciated in the plummiest of Establishment tones.
This new, and very temporary language phenomenon is called Unionish.
A significant number of people have attained fluency, but for many, it is baffling, especially to those who expect it convey ideas and meaning. However, it can be deciphered without the aid of a Rosetta Stone, and since I have attained a modest understanding of it from close study of its most prolific users, I thought it might be useful to offer a kind of phrase book and translation of its most frequently used words. This, I feel, is especially necessary because the Unionish language uses identical words to standard English, but with different meanings. (There must be a Gaelic version of it, but I regret that I have no Gaelic, and even the thought of that magnificent ancient language being corrupted by Unionish revolts me.) Here are a few examples – I will offer more as I come to grips with this new tongue -
THE UNIONISH WORD AND PHRASE BOOK
Scotland Act shambles
triumphalist confident, articulate
pernicious creed Scottish nationalism
patriotism British nationalism
historical myth nationalist belief
historical fact unionist belief
democratic mandate unionist party won
no mandate nationalist party won
North Sea oil Westminster slush fund
oil is running out oil for another 40 years
loyalty fear of the powerful
essential services House of Lords
history British Empire history
the old and sick profit potential
patriotism dying for the UK
public services waste of money
I‘m Scots/British I don’t know what I am
Thursday, 13 October 2011
Scots – are you prepared to have your oil revenues stolen for another 40 years by the United Kingdom?
what must the answer to the referendum question be?
You know the answer – get ready to give it!
Yes to freedom