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Scots/Scottish/Scotch
Posted: 30 November 2012 07:51 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I thought of tacking this onto the Sherlock Holmes thread, but decided to start a new one, seeing as it’s St Andrew’s day. I’m not sure if this is old territory or not (I can’t find anything on this on the current site anyway); forgive me if it is.

‘Scotch’ is nowadays restricted in application to whisky and a few other stock terms, such as scotch derrick, scotch boiler, scotch bonnet and so on. Looking back to 19th century literature, it’s obvious that ‘Scotch’ was used as a general adjective. I had Holmes sufficiently in mind to take Conan Doyle as an easily-checkable example. Doing a search in http://www.online-literature.com/doyle/ shows ‘Scottish’ and ‘Scotch’ both being used generally. ‘Scots’ is used more in the names of things: ‘Scots Guards’, ‘Scots Fusiliers’, ‘Mary Queen of Scots’. The compounds ‘Scotsman’ and ‘Scotchman’ both seem to be used about equally. ACD also uses the term ‘Scotch fir’ which I assume is what I would call a ‘Scots pine’.

Anyone using ‘Scotch’ in the way that Doyle does would be regarded as woefully ignorant today. That would also have been the case as far back as the early 1960s. I remember, shortly after my family had moved to the south east of England from Scotland in 1961, my sister coming home from work incensed at being referred to as Scotch and having told her colleagues that Scotch only comes in bottles. I probably only remember this because my father had to explain it to me - I was only 5 at the time. This suggests that ‘Scotch’ has gone from being a perfectly standard adjective for things coming from Scotland to being laughably wrong in a very short space of time, possibly only 50 or 60 years.

I also note that Doyle uses Scots in a far more restricted way than I personally would. (I realise that generalising from one writer’s usage and my own personal habits is probably fairly meaningless.)

Can anyone cast any light on this apparently quite sudden change in the perceived correctness of ‘Scotch’?

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Posted: 03 December 2012 05:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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t could be due to a shift in class attitudes. In Noblesse Oblige , published in 1956, Nancy Mitford defined Scottish as: “Non-U for U Scotch” and added,
“I have a game I play with all printers; I write Scotch, it appears in the proofs as Scottish. I correct it back to Scotch. About once in three times I get away with it.”

in quite a few cases the U-terms that Mitford prescribed have now completely given way in favour of those she dismissed as wholly non-U; for example, hardly anybody in Britain now says looking-glass or motor-car, preferring (non-U) mirror and car . So perhaps it should be no surprise that Scotch gave way to Scottish.

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Posted: 03 December 2012 07:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I had to look up non-U.

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Posted: 04 December 2012 01:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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You did? Gosh. In that case, a whole fresh landscape in the wacky world of English English is there for your exploration!

A basic set text in this arcane area of study is the poem How To Get On In Society, by John Betjeman:

Phone for the fish knives, Norman,
As cook is a little unnerved;
You kiddies have crumpled the serviettes
And I must have things daintily served.

Are the requisites all in the toilet?
The frills round the cutlets can wait
Till the girl has replenished the cruets
And switched on the logs in the grate.

It’s ever so close in the lounge dear,
But the vestibule’s comfy for tea
And Howard is riding on horseback
So do come and take some with me

Now here is a fork for your pastries
And do use the couch for your feet;
I know that I wanted to ask you-
Is trifle sufficient for sweet?

Milk and then just as it comes dear?
I’m afraid the preserve’s full of stones;
Beg pardon, I’m soiling the doileys
With afternoon tea-cakes and scones.

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Posted: 04 December 2012 02:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Sounds a bit Pommy.

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Posted: 04 December 2012 02:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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It hadn’t occurred to me there might be a class thing in the distinction. I tend to think of Scottish society as less class-ridden than English, but that’s probably less true the longer the historical perspective one takes.

I hesitated over Scottish or Scots in that last sentence. I generally slightly favour Scots, but ‘Scots society’ sounded clumsy.

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Posted: 04 December 2012 04:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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"A bit Pommy” is an understatement.  It’s class-ridden, wacky, upper-class England in its heyday, making up its own rules for the elite to know about and for everyone else to either despise, envy or try to emulate.  Betjeman’s England doesn’t exist any longer, if it ever did in the north of the country.  It’s now replaced by subtler class distinctions.

I don’t see Scots/Scottish as a class phenomenon, though, but I may be wrong.

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Posted: 04 December 2012 06:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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It’s now replaced by subtler class distinctions.

‘Overlaid by’, perhaps. And as I posted earlier, a good many of the specific shibboleths existing in the 1950s are obsolete. But others are very much alive - just say ‘Pardon?’ or ‘perspire’ in upper-class company and watch them peg you. (My husband’s previous girlfriend, from a family of impoverished Norfolk gentry, refused to go out with him unless he promised never to utter the word settee.)

And although the connotations of accent are more complex than they were in Bernard Shaw’s day, they’re as defining as ever they were. I remember in a film discussion forum being utterly taken aback when a Leftpondian participant referred to ‘Orlando Bloom’s upper-class British accent’, realising for the first time that I had so instinctively clocked it as ‘genteel lower-middle-class SE England’ that I’d never had to think about it.

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Posted: 04 December 2012 06:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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SL, perhaps by upper-class they just meant not Cockney and not Northern…

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Posted: 04 December 2012 06:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Yes, I’m afraid that’s about the extent of Yank knowledge of British accents.  And most of us probably wouldn’t be able to tell a Northern accent if we heard one.  It’s Cockney or posh.

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Posted: 04 December 2012 07:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Yes, Languagehat has it about right, although I might add Scottish as a classification that most Americans can distinguish. Many Americans can’t even distinguish Australian from British. (And just forget about telling the difference between Strine and Kiwi; almost none of us can do that.)

We’re only a little bit better at distinguishing our own accents, ignoring the many finer points of differentiation. For most of us it’s either Southern, New England, “Brooklyn,” or no accent.

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Posted: 04 December 2012 10:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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But others are very much alive - just say ‘Pardon?’ or ‘perspire’ in upper-class company and watch them peg you. (My husband’s previous girlfriend, from a family of impoverished Norfolk gentry, refused to go out with him unless he promised never to utter the word settee.)

That’s really interesting, sl, to hear the point of view of the southern gentry. I don’t perspire but I would beg your pardon, and I would also “pardon?” What should I be saying in the south?  “Yer wot?” (It might come in useful one day).  We have mainly sofas but also settees here in the north east.  I don’t think the Percys (the Duke of Northumberland) or the Vanes (Lord Barnard) would bat an eyelid at any of these, from what I’ve heard.  But it’s very illuminating to read about the extent of the north/south divide in England.

To my ear, Orlando Bloom speaks with just a southern middle-class accent.  Nigel Kennedy sounds lower-middle-class London now, but earlier recordings show him speaking with a more refined middle-class southern accent.

I’m sure our American and Oz friends are slightly bemused by all this so apologies for the diversion, but it does show the huge regional differences in our very small island.

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Posted: 04 December 2012 11:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Certainly this American feels no need for apologies.

If I understand correctly, upper-class British, at least in SL’s opinion, would not say “Pardon?” or “perspire”.  What instead?  “Excuse me?” and “sweat”?  It seems odd--to an American, “perspire” is definitely more genteel than “sweat”.  ("Horses sweat, men perspire, women glow,” goes the saying.)

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Posted: 04 December 2012 12:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Dave Wilton - 04 December 2012 07:39 AM

(And just forget about telling the difference between Strine and Kiwi; almost none of us can do that.)

.

Easier than one might think. Listen for the Kiwi flattened a, for instance in apple, Kiwiis say epple.  It’s quite unmistakeable.

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Posted: 04 December 2012 12:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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I was unfamiliar with U and non-U as well.  Here is Wikipedia’s take:

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/U_and_non-U_English

My guess was that “u” meant “university”, and that terms distinguished between the usage of the educated and not-so-educated.  This was totally wrong, of course.

I was surprised by many of the U and non-U distinctions (that is, surprised as to which was which), but as the article explains, the term chiefly distinguishes between middle class and upper class usage, with “working class” usage largely being more similar to U than non-U.  The idea seems to be that middle class, and particularly, newly-minted middle class, speakers may have wanted to demonstrate their educational attainments and/or openness to multi-culturalism or social/technological progress, while the upper class felt no need to do so. So the non-U’s gravitated towards neologisms and “educated”, “euphemistic”, or otherwise “fancy” terms, while the U’s didn’t.

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Posted: 04 December 2012 03:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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If I understand correctly, upper-class British, at least in SL’s opinion, would not say “Pardon?” or “perspire”.

Correct.

What instead?  “Excuse me?” and “sweat”?

Traditionally, the aspirant lower-middle-classes would teach their children, when they had failed to catch what was said to them, to say ‘Pardon?’ and not ‘What?’ like rude mechanicals. But upper-class people, who know they couldn’t possibly be taken for working-class, would bellow ‘What?’ without inhibitions. Similarly, upper-class and working-class people say cheerfully that they ‘sweat’, without feeling the need to resport to the euphemism ‘perspire’.

It seems odd--to an American, “perspire” is definitely more genteel than “sweat”.

And that’s precisely the point - if you know you’re a member of the ruling class you don’t need to strive for gentility; indeed you can afford to despise it. The paradox of the aristocracy being less genteel in speech than the bourgeoisie goes back at least as far as Shakespeare’s time - as when Hotspur’s wife says ‘in good sooth’ and he picks her up on that, saying,

...Heart! you swear like a
comfit-maker’s wife. ‘Not you, in good sooth,’ and
‘as true as I live,’ and ‘as God shall mend me,’ and
‘as sure as day,’
And givest such sarcenet surety for thy oaths,
As if thou never walk’st further than Finsbury.
Swear me, Kate, like a lady as thou art,
A good mouth-filling oath, and leave ‘in sooth,’
And such protest of pepper-gingerbread,
To velvet-guards and Sunday-citizens.

“Horses sweat, men perspire, women glow,” goes the saying.

I’ve often wondered if that was originally an American saying. It bemused me when I grew up, as it bore absolutely no relation to what I heard people say.

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