Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Style tips for screivin in Scots: avoidin latinity

Aabody that ettles tae screive in Scots kens foo important it is tae wyle disteinctive Scots wirds (an no juist wird forms that haes near Inglis cognates). Naebody wints tae draw doon Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s creiticism o a Scots that is nocht but a “spray o apostrophes” (an leain oot the actual apostrophes daesnae mak nae differ).

Here are twa-three thochts on avoidin the peat hag o Latinate wirds shared wi Inglis.

We canna expeck tae redd mair nor a proportion o latinate wirds fae oor texts. Bit unless we’re thirled tae technical terminology be the natur o the subjeck in haun, we can aften fin an alternative, mair hamelt, wirdin. There micht no be yae single hamely wird tae replace a latinate yin – that’s whit wey the latinate wirds wis borraed in the first place – bit gaun back a step in the writin process tae the pynt whaur we’re ettlin tae turn conceps intae wirdins, we whiles fin that, if there nae single hamely wird, there micht juist the same be an eidiomatic, proverbial or metaphorical wey o expressin the idea.

Whitever oor lealty tae Scots, intelligibeility cannae be aathegither pit tae the horn. Vocabular that’s like tae be deificult for the reader bude tae be introduced intae transparent contexts. In ither wirds, the surroondin text sud mak the deificult wird guessable. Gin it’s drappit in for its ain sake an no made clear, for the reader’s sake naethin that follaes had better depend on kennin whit it meant. Yin wey o winnin the necessar transparency is tae gie the problem wird a marra as yin o a pair o synonyms (a favourite ploy o Sir Walter Scott), the ither bein a mair fameiliar – e’en an Inglis – wird. Similes are anither wey o slippin in Scots wirds, e.g. there mony variations on “no worth a X”, whaur it haurdly maitters whether X is a weill-kent wird lik docken or an obsolete yin lik doit.

The tradeitional walth o the leid offers  mony weys tae embellish Scots writin, sae that it can be heezit abuin the everyday athoot needin tae be latinate. Hale blauds o the vocabular haes been owercome be chynges in oor wey o life, an the wirds are kistit in the dictionars, bit they keep on desertin the kirkyaird. Whiles they bide on in eidioms an feigurative senses that can aye be drawn on. Fowk aften haes a passive knawledge o vocabular weill ayont their ain usage – fae the likes o bairn-rhymes an sangs, includin, o coorse, the muckle sangs an the wark o Burns. Likewise dounricht allusion an quotation can be yaised. Thon alloos moribund wirds tae be brocht intae the text alang wi a bittie helpfu context.

Scots wirds maitter: they gie us disteinctive weys o peenin doon oor thochts. The affcome micht be profun, or it micht juist saut the text i a wey at maks it mair tuithsome tae the reader, bit as Hugh MacDiarmid famously pit it, Scots offers “a vast unutilised mass of lapsed observation made by minds whose attitude to experience and whose speculative and imaginative tendencies were quite different from any possible to ... anglicised Scots today.”

1 comment:

  1. Bliodgi: