Posted on November 1st, 2016
by Rab Bruce’s Spider
Apart from following a couple of Unionist journalists on Twitter just to keep tabs on what they are saying, I don’t generally follow many Unionists at all since I disagree with their opinions and find most of their arguments spurious at best. I find it keeps my blood pressure at manageable levels not to engage with such extremist views as are often propounded by BritNats.
However, one particular Tweet came to my attention yesterday. I won’t name the author, but suffice to say it was one of the high profile Unionist bloggers. What she said is a superb display of how to incorporate unthinking ignorance and colonial arrogance in a mere 140 characters.
The tweet read:
“There isn’t a Gaelic for pothole. It’s like jabber jabber jabber helicopter jabber jabber jabber pothole jabber television."
There are two aspects to this comment which need to be pointed out.
First, Gaelic is not alone in borrowing words from other languages to convey a name or idea for which the language does not have a suitable equivalent. Indeed, the language which borrows most words from others is English. That is one of English’s great features. Off the top of my head, I was able to think of Vuvuzela, Schadenfreude and Déjà vu as words or expressions which are used in English because there is no equivalent word in the native language. It is also worth pointing out that English did not have a word for Helicopter until it was invented.
I see no reason to mock English for these gaps in vocabulary, so why any speaker of English should see fit to mock another language for adopting foreign words is a bit of a mystery.
Or is it?
It is apparent that many British Nationalists view Gaelic with disdain. This is a hangover from the UK’s imperialist past, where local cultures were seen as inferior. The fact that this viewpoint remains strong even in the 21st Century is a testament to the power of British Nationalism. Gaelic is seen as inferior to English, so anyone who speaks it must be inferior to English speakers. It’s a very warped view of the world but is typical of the BritNat mentality which has seen Brexit MPs declare that they will obtain deals from the EU before they have even begun their negotiations. Foreigners, you see, should bow down to the superior culture of Britain.
This arrogance is completely illogical when applied to issues of language. A monoglot English speaker is somehow able to convince him or her self that someone who has the ability to be fluent in two languages is inferior to a person who can speak only English.
Hardline BritNats apply this logic to all foreign languages, but Gaelic is particularly targeted since it is native to Scotland and is therefore perceived as a threat to the culture of the UK. It’s a particularly narrow-minded outlook and is grounded in xenophobia. Mocking a language and its speakers is a way of demeaning and belittling them in order to assert the superiority of one’s own culture. It’s a view which is, sadly, deeply entrenched in British culture. Thankfully, more and more people are beginning to realise that, whether you speak Gaelic or not, its continued use is a part of Scottish culture which should be celebrated.
So, if you hear someone speaking Gaelic, or any other foreign language come to that, please don’t think to yourself, “That person must be stupid because they aren’t speaking English". Instead, you might want to reflect that, from their point of view, it is you who lacks the ability to converse in two languages.