Scotch the ban on Scotch

The reluctance of the native inhabitants of Scotland to accept descriptions of themselves as Scotch or the use Scotch as an adjective except in a limited number of cases is a modern affectation.  The celebrated lexicographer R W Burchfield has some interesting things to say on this topic:          

“Scotch.  Scots, Scottish. It is not possible to set down here all the complications of this somewhat sensitive group of words.  The adjective Scotch, in origin a contracted variant of Scottish, ‘had been adopted into the northern vernacular before the end of the 18th c.; it [was] used   regularly by Burns, and subsequently by Scott’ (OED).  But ‘since the mid-19th c. there has been in Scotland a growing tendency to discard the form altogether, Scottish, or less frequently Scots, being substituted’ (OED).  Scots is also a long-standing variant of Scottish.  The outcome is that all three adjectives are still current, but Scotch is the least frequent and survives mainly in certain collocations, e.g. Scotch broth, Scotch egg, Scotch mist, Scotch terrier, Scotch tweed, Scotch whisky,  and a few others.  Scots is the term regularly used of the form of English spoken in (esp. Lowlands) Scotland.  It also occurs in the names of certain Scottish regiments.  But the all-embracing general adjective meaning ‘of or relating to Scotland, its history, its day-to-day life,   or its inhabitants’, is Scottish.  These are  middle-class preferences.  ‘Paradoxically,’ A.J. Aitken reports in OCELang. (1992),’for working class Scots the common form has long been Scotch … and the native   form Scots is sometimes regarded as an    Anglicized affectation.’ Outside Scotland, and esp. outside the UK, Scottish preferences are less well-known.  Scotch is likely to occur, both as adj. and noun, in      contexts which middle-class Scots would regard as either droll or improper.” R W BURCHFIELD (ed.): Fowler’s Modern English Usage. 3rd ed, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1996. ISBN: 0 19 869136 2.

The use of Scotch as noun and adjective was not limited to such luminaries as Burns and Scott (David Hume, Boswell and Adam Smith can be added to the list) but was widely used by all classes until quite recently. I have been visiting Scotland since the 1950s and can vouch for the fact that until the past thirty years or so Scotch was still being used frequently as no more than a synonym for Scots or Scottish. The fact that Scotch is still used for Scotch mist, Scotch terriers and so on is in itself a firm proof of the ubiquity of the word in the past because had it not been commonly used it would not have attached itself to so many mundane items.

The fact that the Scotch or Scots now try to insist on being called only Scots is a symptom of victimhood which is itself a form of inferiority.  Peoples who are confident in their existence do not try to insist on foreigners calling them one thing when the foreigners have always called them something else. (This is a trait most starkly seen in the case of blacks: in the past 70 years the polite term for this group has undergone the following transformation: negro-coloured-black-afro-American-Afro-Caribbean-African.)

The English have traditionally called the natives of Scotland Scotch.  They should continue to do so, just as they should refer to Bombay as Bombay and Burma as Burma. The renaming of things, places and peoples is the habit of the totalitarian not the free society.

A people have the right to call themselves what they wish: they do not have the right or power to enforce it on others. For foreigners to allow themselves to be coerced or manipulated into using a term not natural to themselves is bend the cultural knee to the demanding nation.

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8 Responses to Scotch the ban on Scotch

  1. Just so. I use the term Scotch all the time and always correct those who presume to try to ‘correct’ me. In answer to the explanation that the Scotch find the word offensive I always say that when the Scotch concern themselves with how they offends us I will take heed of what offends them.

    The abandonment of our traditions simply because we are overly concerned not to offend those who happily offend us merely suggests to such people a lack of confidence in ourselves that is very far from the case.

  2. NayLabour says:

    ‘I always say that when the Scotch concern themselves with how they offends us I will take heed of what offends them’……Yes, Wullie, and thats how wars start!
    If someone is offended by a name you use and they tell you that, surely its no more than civil not use that name? Then we can move on and have a healthy debate on your favourite subject -Scotland. A little bit of courtesy is not a lot to ask.
    The problem with most of your posts is that you come across as racisit towards the Scots, and I think most other English people would cring at the tone of some of your posts. I dont recall that calling Scots, ‘Scotch’ ever was an English tradition that has to be abandon (but maybe you can enlighten me). Certainly not any more than calling English people who write posts such as yours ‘bawbags’! Now i want you to be absolutely clear here – im not calling you bawbag because of the amout of wind you are clearly generating (ref recent hurricance), i am calling you bawbag because i do think your picture resembles a scrotum!

    • William Gruff says:

      Wars start when one group of people decide they want what another group of people has (the Scotch raiding across the Forth into northern England for instance), or when unbelievably small minded and insular people take offence at very trivial things. When someone affects offence at a word I use because my ancestors used it I will myself be offended and wonder how long it will be before that person takes offence at anything and everything I say and do, which in my experience (and that of many other English people too), having worked in their vile little country for two years, is what the Scotch are wont to do in respect of things English. I care not what offends you or any other Jock and will take no pompous and impertinent lectures from you, or any other Jock, on civility, of which the Scotch are entirely ignorant. Nor are you in any position to lecture any English person on ‘racism’, which is endemic in Scotland to the extent that it clearly sours the milk of Scotch mothers.

      Apart from laughing at at your typically Scotch presumption in speaking for ‘most English people’, presumably in an attempt to garner some support from those of my compatriots who may read this blog, I would point out that I don’t care whether those who concern themselves with Scotch sensitivities ‘cring’ (sic) or not and I am not bothered if I ‘come across as racisit’ (sic).

      Your spelling is poor, and laughably so, unless you were characteristically drunk or simply enraged by my defence of English linguistic customs and traditions and unable to type coherently. One still hears and reads of the excellence of the ‘superior’ Scotch education system yet one so often sees evidence to the contrary, as in your reply to my comment.

      Lastly, I’m sure you have considerable experience of looking at scrotums, coming as you do from a race in which masculinity is expressed by prancing about in a pleated skirt without underpants and yelping while cocking one’s little fingers in the air.

      I’m disinclined to bandy brickbats with ignorant Jocks, certainly not in response to a comment that is over a year old, so I’ll leave you with the last word. Try to write intelligibly.

      Thread ended as far as I’m concerned.

  3. NayLabour says:

    Wullie…..Did you have a bad experience with a ‘Scot’ as a child? Im assuming your not a child anymore although given your posts its hard to tell. On the one hand folk like yourself only help the cause as it give us Scots a clear example of the frankly racist view of some english folk (assuming you are english)! On the other hand my english friends, including those who live in Scotland AND support the SNP feel nothing but shame that one of thier countrymen can write such utter tosh and pass its of as a bit of fun. If you insist on calling Scots ‘Scotch’ you are simply showin you ignorance, although thats already clear to see. On the other hand many people consider ‘Jock’ a racisit term. So do have any pet names for other members of this wonderful union of yours…the Welsh, N.Irish? Maybe you could let us know what you call some of friends from Pakistan, India etc?
    If you have such a dislike of the Scots then maybe you could help support the cause for independance (although you may call it seperation). Then we would both be rid of each other!
    If you want to be enlightened (and believe me you really need it) and not simply spout out Dail Mail and Telegraph rubbish i suggest you visit Newesnetscotland! There you will find some civil debate on the subject and you may even be educated. Happy Christmas.

  4. NayLabour says:

    Wullie…..You end the thread I assume because you have no argument except your clear racist views toward the Scots, one which I dont hold of the English or any other nation for that matter. Its quite sad that someone with your perverse views actually exists but, to me this simply shows a clear lack of education or, more likely, the unwillingness to move on from your ‘ancestors’ – would that be the Germans you are talking about or the Celts – im really not sure who your ancestors actually are!
    If im not mistaken ‘Gruff’ is in fact an Irish name..so maybe you are a ‘paddy’, a ‘mick’ or even a ‘tim’…(no offence to my Irish friends, but i think you will understand the point i am trying to make to this racist fool)!

    Brave men say many things behind the keyboad and for that I admire your true brave english (or german) spirit. Thankfully there is a border between our two great nations and you can keep you BNP and EDL views on the other side – God help any true englishmen if the likes of you speak for them but, someone I just dont think you do.!

  5. NayLabour says:

    Alex Salmond – The Spectator magazine’s 2011 politician of the year – Wullie (or should i call you Dick), how can a Scot be this good at anything? You keep telling us we are all rubbish! No sour grapes now – I shall pass him on your congratulations!

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