So how should we pronounce the Gaelic word for Scotland?
Someone in Australia wanted me to connect on Zoom so they could record my dulcet tones as I carefully folded my tongue around my gob to get every last nuance as I delivered that eponymous word that’s had this nation chortling since Friday morning. It’s so tricky. There are four letters, no less. Wait for it – Alba.
Bravehearts of Bonnie Scotland seem set on independence, yet most seem so ignorant about their own nation and culture they haven’t a scooby on how to string together four letters that make up their country’s name. You couldn’t make it up. One jester quipped that Alex Salmond’s new political party was named after the Gaelic TV channel BBC Alba.
That was a joke, but the earnest social media discussions around that made me wail. We are fighting two pandemics – Covid and stupidity – both as hazardous as each other.
Alba is the Gaelic word for Scotland, so Gaelic rules apply. Get over it. If you can pronounce Ecosse, like a Canadian, you should try. It is not Al-bah, as someone who was once in politics found out after mangling our language. It should be annunciated thus: Alluh – wait – Ba. You know, as in the Runrig anthem Al – ba. The guys very correctly emphasise the sectional nature of Alba in the tune.
It’s not Al as in Al Jolson, Al Gore or even Ally McCoist. It is a softer L. Its use is important as it’s how Gaels work out someone is a lazy, imprecise learner. Some of the media twonks’ efforts since Salmond’s shame were also wide of the mark. I won’t humiliate them until they stand for public office – which they will when they start getting under the feet of their spouses. There are a few YouTube videos to help you say Alba correctly – but a couple are also dodgy. Oh Scotland, get a grip.
For any Scots politician to mess up Scotland’s proper name is, I think, evidence they are simply going through the motions for their own vainglorious ambitions and they just don’t care about Scots, Scotland or Scotch whisky. If you cannot understand that, you must understand that you have let yourself down, you have let Scotland down and you should go and lie down, for a very long time – in Scotch Corner.
Many people in Lewis say corner in Gaelic as “cornair”. The rest of the world says “oisean”. Bends in the road, such as Tong Corner outside Stornoway, are not corners because that’s where we put the TV and where Scottish footballers go to shoot the ball over the goalmouth when they are not projecting spittle all over the grass that others are about to dive on and claim they were brought down. They let themselves down, they let their country…is there a theme to this week’s column?
The Scottish Government also lets down us Hebrideans. Its anti-islander policy means we have the highest freight costs in the UK. We used to have the useful Traders’ Rebate Scheme (TRS) freight discount to help make it a level playing field. That was removed in 2008 before the ill-fated Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) trials flopped. It has not been reinstated.
Edinburgh cares not. Gaels aren’t grateful enough that they’ve Barra an old and unreliable ferry worthy of a Third World country. No replacement relief scheme either. No one cares about teuchters.
Sob. No, I am not crying. Well, maybe I’m a wee bit moist but that was hearing about RET again and the broken political promises that surrounded it. Sob, sob, sob.
Transport Secretary Michael Matheson is just not interested, we are told. He doesn’t care about the islands, puts his fingers in his ears and goes la, la, la. People say our local MSP is painfully slow to respond.
The Scottish Government’s ongoing failure is now forcing the islands’ council here to demand all the candidates in the May election to commit to TRS or, or, or… well, they will be named and shamed right here in this column. Heck, that’ll finish them.
Wait, I haven’t agreed to this. My mole in the coonsil tells me to get ready. They say the woolly miteagan are coming off – that’s Gaelic for mittens, in case you thought the elected representatives were threatening to take off their pyjamas.
Let me continue this theme just one more time.
Any councillor doing that would be letting themselves down, letting their pyjamas down…