Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Irish Daily Star

Recently, in answer to an Assembly question, I reported that £20,673 had been spent on a project to prepare an Ulster-Scots 'word glossary and spelling and pronunciation guide'.  This modest investment supported a project which involved a number of linguists and and is part of a programme of language planning.

This simple fact drew the attention of a Dublin journalist named Terry McGeehan, who described Ulster-Scots as 'basically a bastardised version of the English language as it is spoken in these here parts.'  Later he described it as a 'demi-dialect' and and 'a local lingo that everyone who speaks English as their native tongue can understand without any great difficulty.'

The Irish Daily Star carried this rant under the headline 'THEY'VE SCOT TO BE FECKIN' JOKING.'

Now on the basis of what he has written I doubt very much if Terry McGeehan is a linguist or a native Ulster-Scots speaker and the Irish Daily Star is certainly not noted for its cultural and academic insights.  Other Dublin publications such as the Irish Times take a much more balanced and sympathetic stance but then of course the Irish Times is a real newspaper.

Clearly Terry McGeehan is a man who does not allow abject ignorance to stand in the way of expressing strident views but it is disappointing that in this day and age such abject ignorance can pass itself off as journalism.

In an attempt to justify his rant, McGeehan ended his article by saying, 'It's pure bull shit - or coo clabber as they might say in Ulster-Scots.'  Now clabber is the Ulster-Scots word for 'mud' or any 'soft dirty matter' and seems to have been borrowed from the Gaelic clabar, meaning 'filth, mire or clay' but clap is the usual word for animal dung.  There is also the word shairn, which means 'dung or excrement, especially of cattle' and which was attested in Ulster in 1880 in William H Patterson's Glossary of Antrim and Down.

However more interesting is the fact that Terry McGeehan clearly does not know that coo is the female of the animal, not the male.  Ach ye wudnae hae a gleed o wut, Terry, wud ye?

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