Language lesson

Tom Brown seems as twist-knickered as the MSPs he portrays, in their sad confusion about what language it is they use (16 April). It brings to mind the pride of Moliere's Monsieur Jourdain when he discovered he had been speaking prose all his life without realising it.

I have always called a stichie what Brown writes as stuchie - as in Kelvinside they call a prang a creche and carry potatoes in sex. We can all have fun with phonetic spelling. Why does Brown "translate" "hae the Inglis fystit on them" to a quite different construction when it would clearly sound to an English listener, correctly, as "have the English foisted on them". When, years ago, Tyrone Guthrie put on David Lyndsay's Renaissance play The Three Estates, I could barely make head or tail of the written text, but when I heard the performance, it was perfectly intelligible. Lallands (the dialect of Lowland Scotland) is no further from Shakespearean English than the language of Don DeLillo's Underworld.

John McKean
Brighton, East Sussex

This article first appeared in the 23 April 2001 issue of the New Statesman, Blessed are the pure in heart

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