Tuesday, October 16, 2007

"Scotch - broad Scotch !"

...my father, as he sat at table, looked steadfastly on my brother and myself, and then addressed my mother: - 'During my journey down hither, I have lost no opportunity of making inquiries about these people, the Scotch, amongst whom we now are, and since I have been here I have observed them attentively. From what I have heard and seen, I should say that upon the whole they are a very decent set of people; they seem acute and intelligent, and I am told that their system of education is so excellent that every person is learned - more or less acquainted with Greek and Latin. There is one thing, however, connected with them, which is a great drawback - the horrid jargon which they speak. However learned they may be in Greek and Latin, their English is execrable; and yet I'm told it is not so bad as it was. I was in company, the other day, with an Englishman who has resided here many years. We were talking about the country and the people. "I should like both very well," said I, "were it not for the language. I wish sincerely our Parliament, which is passing so many foolish acts every year, would pass one to force these Scotch to speak English." "I wish so, too," said he. "The language is a disgrace to the British Government; but, if you had heard it twenty years ago, captain! - if you had heard it as it was spoken when I first came to Edinburgh!"'

'Only custom,' said my mother. 'I daresay the language is now what it was then.'

'I don't know,' said my father; 'though I daresay you are right; it could never have been worse than it is at present. But now to the point. Were it not for the language, which, if the boys were to pick it up, might ruin their prospects in life, - were it not for that, I should very much like to send them to a school there is in this place, which everybody talks about - the High School I think they call it. 'Tis said to be the best school in the whole island; but the idea of one's children speaking Scotch - broad Scotch! I must think the matter over' ...

... I did not spend my time unpleasantly at this school, though, first of all, I had to pass through an ordeal.

'Scotland is a better country than England,' said an ugly, blear- eyed lad, about a head and shoulders taller than myself, the leader of a gang of varlets who surrounded me in the playground, on the first day, as soon as the morning lesson was over. 'Scotland is a far better country than England, in every respect.'

'Is it?' said I. 'Then you ought to be very thankful for not having been born in England.'

'That's just what I am, ye loon; and every morning, when I say my prayers, I thank God for not being an Englishman. The Scotch are a much better and braver people than the English.'

'It may be so,' said I, 'for what I know - indeed, till I came here, I never heard a word either about the Scotch or their country.'

'Are ye making fun of us, ye English puppy?' said the blear-eyed lad; 'take that!' and I was presently beaten black and blue. And thus did I first become aware of the difference of races and their antipathy to each other.

'Bow to the storm, and it shall pass over you.' I held my peace, and silently submitted to the superiority of the Scotch - IN NUMBERS.

From George Borrow's autobiographical Lavengro.