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A Scots terminology question

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One Twitter account I follow is Miss PunnyMany for her insights into Scots English. She’s just asked a very important question of manners and terminology in this tweet, as shown below.

Tweet reads Is hen rude?

Well, is “hen” rude?

Let us see.

An accurate definition would be a good place to start.

A general glossary of Scots vocabulary posted on Stirling University’s website provides the following definition:

hen: vocative term for a woman (e.g. ‘It’s aw richt, hen’), or a general term of endearment for anyone.

Note the phrase “general term of endearment“. That’s a big clue, indicating that its use is confined to close friends and acquaintances.

This view is largely borne out by the tone of the responses to Miss PunnyMany’s tweet.

Furthermore, a few respondents rightly point out that, like “pal” south of the Border, “hen” may be used in a pejorative or threatening manner to people outside one’s immediate social circle.

Mhairi Black MP

You don’t talk shite, hen!

An example of this can be found in a place a fair way from Scotland, namely the chamber of the House of Commons in Westminster.

Back in March 2017, SNP Member of Parliament Mhairi Black gave rise to comment in the media and on social media when appearing to mouth the words “You talk shite, hen” to a response by Tory minister Caroline Nokes, then the Under Secretary of State in the Department for Work and Pensions.

Ms Black had just made an impassioned speech that criticised a Government proposal to withdraw housing benefits for 18-21-year-olds. Her silent, but lip-read comment denoting her clear displeasure came during Ms Nokes’ reply which naturally defended the government’s cruel proposal.

So there you have it, use “hen” sensibly and restrict it to family, close friends and acquaintances, you shouldn’t go too wrong.

Marg’s 10K steps a day for Felix Road

Local councillor Marg Hickman, who is also one of the trustees of Eastside Community Trust, has launched a crowdfunder to raise funds for Felix Road Adventure Playground, one of the Trust’s 2 sites in Easton, Bristol.

Felix Road Adventure Playground

Felix Road Adventure Playground. Photo credit: Eastside Community Trust


Felix Road has been in existence for nearly as long as I’ve been in Bristol and provided a much-needed safe space for generations of local children to play, socialise and develop.

Marg writes:

Felix Road Adventure Playground is an inner-city playground supporting some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children, young people and families in Bristol. Felix Road is an inspiring beacon of inclusive play, a space where children and families can come together and celebrate diversity.

We need resources to continue to run our busy kitchen staffed by volunteers and providing much needed healthy and nutritious meals for children and families every day, and to help run a girls’ group for Somali young women.

I plan to walk or dance 10,000 steps each day in March. I would so appreciate you sponsoring me to reach my goal. Follow my progress on my Facebook page. Much love.

If you would like to support Marg, please visit her crowdfunding page and kindly give what you can.

Update: Marg’s efforts ended up raising over £2,500 for Felix Road. Well done if you also contributed.

Amazon customer couldn’t post review in Welsh of Welsh book

Cover of Llad Duw novel by Dewi PrysorAmazon was forced to apologise and blamed a “technical error” for a customer being unable to post a review in Welsh of a novel written in Welsh, Wales Online reports.

Cathryn Sherrington of Cardiff had submitted a Welsh Language review which she then translated to English of the book Lladd Duw, by Dewi Prysor.

The book is described by its publisher as a “hefty, ambitious novel set in London and an imaginery [sic] seaside town. It deals with the destruction of civilisation from the standpoint of the working class. An intense, dark novel but with the usual humour from Dewi Prysor.

Cathryn’s review reads as follows:

Gwych Brilliant. I haven’t read a Welsh book for years – sometimes the formality of written Welsh puts me off – this is brilliant though.
Hawdd i ddarllen, stori gyffroes, cymeriadau diddorol. Wedi joio fo gymaint dwi’n mynd i ddarllen mwy o lyfrau Cymraeg.”

In English the review’s second sentence reads: “Easy to read, exciting story, interesting characters. Have enjoyed it so much I’m going to read more Welsh language books“.

However, Amazon which employs 1,000 people in Swansea, emailed Cathryn implying her review might have broken its guidelines.

There then followed a social media and email exchange between Cathryn and Amazon at the end of which the latter relented, stating: “This was due to a technical error for which we apologise. It has now been resolved.”

Planning for clichés

The inspiration to write this post was what an old friend referred to on social media as the Town Planners’ Little Book of Tired Clichés.

We were discussing a press report on long-term plans for Bristol Temple Meads, the city’s main railway station and its environs.

The report itself was written up from a press release issued by the literary geniuses employed in the Bristol City Council Newsroom down the Counts Louse (which some people now call City Hall. Ed.).

Bristol Temple Meads railway station

Bristol Temple Meads. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Whilst avoiding clichés has long been a given as advice for good creative writing, the various actors quoted in the Temple Meads piece seem to relish in their use.

Thus the surrounding area “will be rejuvenated with housing, shops and hospitality outlets creating a new area of the city where people can live, shop, visit and socialise”.

Note the exemplary use of rejuvenated.

In addition, how a new area of the city can be created by covering an existing but derelict city area in architecturally contrived arrangements of building materials is beyond me. If you have any clues, dear reader, please enlighten me via the comments.

Then there’s that essential element for anything involving urban planning – the vision thing. This is ably provided in this case in a quotation by Network Rail’s spokesperson: “We are delighted to be working with our partners on this significant regeneration project and Bristol Temple Meads station is at the heart of this vision.”

Helmut Schmidt, who served as the West German chancellor from 1974 to 1982, had a thing to say about visions: “Wer Visionen hat, sollte zum Arzt gehen“. In English: People who have visions should go to the doctor. Genau! Sie haben Recht, Herr Schmidt.

Needless to the whole glossary of hackneyed phraseology seems to have been upended into the phraseology mixing bowl to create something not only unappetising, but indigestible: ambitious; innovative; rejuvenate/rejuvenation; regeneration; gateway; transformation/transformative; integrate; blueprint; showcase.

And on the clichés go, marching tediously across and down the page.

There are nevertheless a couple of absolute gems in the piece to compensate for all this guff.

Firstly,there’s the timescale for the plans. We are are informed that “work is not expected to start for another decade with the expected completion not until 2041 at the earliest“. Thus all that hot air is being expended on something whose actual implementation is two decades in the future; if not more.

A well-known adage springs to mind: pigs might fly.

Secondly, there’s the promise of an integrated transport hub. Basically this means creating a major public transport interchange (as seen in sensible city’s where the local bus/tram serve the railway station). To my knowledge, there’s been talk of a transport hub/interchange at Temple Meads for at least 3 decades already, so for it actually to become a reality within 5 decades would entail the city’s infrastructure planning process moving at more than their usual slower than tectonic plates speed.

Fast food litter petition

in 10 years of campaigning for less litter and fly-tipping in east Bristol’s Lawrence Hill and Easton wards, one constant factor has been litter generated by takeaways, particularly the major franchises like Burger King, KFC and the like.

A petition has now been started on change.org to help tackle part of the problem, namely littering by their motorised customers, some of whom seem to have no compunction at just pitching the packaging their meal came in out of the vehicle window once their appetites have been sated.

Fast food litter

Fast food litter. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The back streets of Easton and Lawrence Hill are a good mile of so from the nearest McDonalds, Burger King or KFC, but that does not stop litter from those outlets blighting the neighbourhood.

The relevant petition is entitled “Fast food restaurants to print vehicle reg on takeaway packaging to discourage littering” and reads as follows:

The recent break in fast food companies business has given us time to be able to start to clean up the streets once littered with empty McDonald’s bags, KFC boxes and other takeaway restaurant litter.
KFC has been back open merely a couple of days and already pictures of carelessly discarded boxes are circulating on the internet. Let’s not slip back to where we were in terms of litter before the Covid lockdown. Let’s make compulsory that all drive through restaurants, who sell takeaway food, have to print the purchasers vehicle registration onto their bags or boxes. This will make it much easier to trace the litter back to the purchaser and result in a fine or preferably litter picking duties. I am proposing the idea of 3-4 stickers around the size of the bottom of the restaurants cup, printed with date/time and car registration, placed onto the bottom of the bags, cups and boxes to make it difficult for repeat litterers to remove their details without spilling the remaining contents into their cars/vans. The restaurants CCTV will back up this evidence with pictures of the driver and vehicle to provide solid evidence that they were the purchaser of said litter. The fine or community hours need to be big enough to cover costs of enforcement officers investigation times, resulting in nobody “slipping the net”.
If we can reach 100,000 signatures I can show clear public interest and go straight to the Secretary of state for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and demand change. As this could result in a fine for the offenders this will make it much more appealing to the government to pass as law and thus resulting in a cleaner environment for everyone to enjoy.
Please help your local and national environment by merely signing this petition and sharing on social media platforms and as many large groups as you can, making a small but very needed step in the right direction.
Thank you good citizens.

Sign the petition.

If the petition is successful, that just leaves how to resolve the problem of those on foot who litter after eating their takeaways whilst walking home… 🙁

A language lesson for an ignorant MP

The continuing ignorance of the hardline Tory MPs who spearheaded the UK’s departure from the European Union is a gift that just keeps on giving.

Not only do they not understand how the EU works (clue: it’s a rules-based organisation. Ed.), they also do not know how international trade works (clue: that’s also a rules-based system. Ed.).

When it comes to ignorance of the workings of international trade – and tariffs in particular – Shrewsbury and Atcham MP Daniel Kawczynski has previous form, ending up looking a lemon in respect of, er, lemons.

However, there appears to be no start to Daniel’s ignorance and no end to his vanity in wanting to draw attention to the same. On Monday 22nd February he posted the tweet below on his Twitter account.

Tweet reads: Now we have left EU & creating exceptionally strong global economic partnerships with key non European partners, the time has come for a debate as to which languages are taught to children in schools. I feel the almost total domination of French Spanish & German needs review.

Daniel no doubt believes that these languages are spoken solely in countries such as France, Spain and Germany in the hated EU.

Time to think again, Danny Boy! 😀

Let’s start with your last mentioned language shall we, Daniel (especially as it might be considered the easiest to dismiss.Ed.)?

German is, of course, spoken in Germany. However, it’s also the official language in Austria as well as being one of Belgium’s four official languages. In Italy’s province of Alto Adige (also known as the Südtirol. Ed.), 62% of the population are German speakers. Outside the EU, German is also one of Switzerland’s four official languages. German is a recognised minority language in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Russia and Slovakia. Beyond Europe there are still 25,000-30,000 native German speakers in Namibia, despite it ceasing to be a German colony over a century ago: some 12,000 persons whose first language is German currently live in South Africa. Turning to South America, there are an estimated 1 million German speakers, with German-speaking minorities in almost every Latin American country including Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela. In North America, there are also German-speaking minorities in both the USA and Canada.

The map below illustrates where German is spoken around the world.

German speaking areas of world

The German-speaking world. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

How does Daniel fare with French?

Equally badly is the answer.

Besides the EU countries of France, Belgium and Luxembourg, French is also spoken within Europe in Monaco and parts of Italy. Throughout the world there are estimated to be some 274 million French speakers, of whom some 77 million are native speakers. Within the EU alone, French is the third most widely spoken language (after English and German), being spoken by 19.71% of the population and is the second most-widely taught language after English. It’s an official language not only in France, but Belgium, Luxembourg, Monaco and Switzerland. It is also widely spoken in Italy’s Aosta valley region.

However, it is in Africa – and particularly former French colonies and territories – that the majority of the world’s French speakers live. According to a 2018 estimate from the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, an estimated 141 million African people spread across 34 countries and territories can speak French as either a first or a second language. This estimate does not include those inhabitants of non-Francophone African countries who have learned French as a foreign language.

Looking at the Americas, French is the second most common language in Canada, after English, and both are official languages at the federal level. It is the sole official language in the Canada’s Quebec province. In the USA, French is the fourth most-spoken language in the United States after English, Spanish, and Chinese, when all forms of French are considered, according to the United States Census Bureau.

The following map shows membership of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, the international organisation representing countries and regions where French is either a lingua franca or customary language.

Map of membership of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie

Membership of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

 

So far that’s two own goals Daniel’s scored on the worldwide importance of 2 of the major foreign languages taught in British schools.

How does he fare with his third target – Spanish?

In short, not any better.

Today Spanish has 500 million native speakers, mainly in Spain and the Americas and is the world’s second-most spoken native language after Mandarin Chinese and the world’s fourth-most spoken language overall after English, Mandarin Chinese, and Hindi. Overall there are estimated to be 586 million speakers of Spanish in the world. As befits its large number of speakers, Spanish is one of the six official languages of the United Nations and it is also used as an official language by the European Union, the Organization of American States, the Union of South American Nations, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, the African Union and many other international organisations, as well as being one of the world’s most widely taught foreign languages.

Below is a map showing where in the world Spanish is spoken.

Map of the Hispanophone world

Map of the Hispanophone world. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

So how’s Daniel done?

In brief, not very well.

If Mr Kawczynski had been a footballer instead of a member of Parliament, he would have gone down in the match report as having scored three goals for the opposing side, also know as own goals (Kawczynski 3, og).

Finally, it’s worth pointing out that Daniel has been appointed the UK’s trade envoy to Mongolia. If his tweet was an attempt to increase the teaching Mongolian as a foreign language in British schools, it was, to say the least, extremely clumsy.

Welsh Not still alive and well

In the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries, Welsh children who used their native tongue in schools were subject to a particular form of punishment and humiliation – the Welsh Not.

The Welsh Not (also Welsh Knot, Welsh Note, Welsh Stick, Welsh Lead or Cwstom) was an item used in Welsh schools in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries to stigmatise and punish children using the Welsh language, according to Wikipedia.

Welsh NotTypically “The Not” was a piece of wood, a ruler or a stick, often inscribed with “WN“. On any schoolday, it was given to be worn round the neck to the first pupil to be heard speaking Welsh. When another child was heard using Welsh, “The Not” was passed to the new offender: and on it went. Pupils were encouraged to inform on their classmates. The pupil in possession of “The Not” at the end of the lesson, school day or week – depending on the school – received additional punishment besides the initial shaming and humiliation.

In recent times the Welsh Not seems to have transformed from being a physical object to a mental one, but one that is nevertheless still used to stigmatise speakers of one of the country’s oldest languages – one that was already old when Old English (which some call Anglo-Saxon. Ed.) first became established as England’s common tongue.

The persistence of stigmatisation is just one matter covered in a Metro opinion piece by Lowri Llewelyn entitled Why the Welsh language deserves respect not ridicule.

Looking specifically at stigmatisation, Lowri, who learned Welsh as a child and grew up in a bilingual household, writes:

I can’t count how many times English folk have jeered about my ‘dead language’.

At least it wasn’t referred to as “gibberish“, Lowri!

To reinforce her point, she continues:

Fuelled by anti-Welsh sentiment from England, the Welsh even came to oppress and disrespect themselves.
She then goes on to point out how, as a teenager she would only speak English to friends and be dismissive of her native culture, before going on to point out how she has since changed her attitude and welcomes efforts to increase the presence of Welsh.

Lowri concludes by pointing out some of the encouraging signs of a renewed interest in Welsh.

For instance, in recent times Welsh has become the fastest growing language in the UK on the Duolingo language learning platform. One explanation might be a renewed interest in the cultures and history of the nations that make up Great Britain, given the severe restrictions on foreign travel imposed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Ambiguity

in my first job after graduation (translator and marketing analyst for Imperial Tobacco in Bedminster, Bristol), part of my employer’s house style I had to absorb was an avoidance of all and any ambiguity.

I well remember my chagrin at being admonished for it by my line manager, who had left school at 14 with no qualifications, started out as a messenger boy in the post room and worked his way up to senior middle management.

Collins Dictionary defines ambiguity as “the possibility of interpreting an expression in two or more distinct ways” and “vagueness or uncertainty of meaning“.

This is a lesson that the employees of the Bristol Post/BristolLive (also known by some locals as the Temple Way Ministry of Truth. Ed.) have yet learn, as shown by the latest example below.

Headline text reads: Bristol's Alex Beresford recalls vile abuse from online trolls in GMB interview

Who was interviewed: Mr Beresford or the trolls?

Iceland reviews bilingual signage policy in Welsh stores

Iceland logoFollowing hot on the heels of the sacking of its Director of Corporate Affairs for insulting the Welsh (posts passim), comes news that frozen food giant Iceland is reviewing approach’ to bilingual signage in its Welsh stores.

The company had previously been criticised for its lack of provision of Welsh and English signage in stores, even attracting protests, such as one in Rhyl in 2018 reported by The Grocer.

At that time, Iceland was not exactly amenable to bilingual signage in its Welsh stores and even went so far as to issue a statement asserting its monoglot stance: “We do not currently provide signage in any language other than English in any of our stores in any part of the UK or Ireland.

However, the company, which is based in Glannau Dyfrdwy (English: Deeside), had now announced this is changing, stating:

“We are currently reviewing our approach to providing Welsh signage in stores across Wales and updating this wherever possible. All new stores and those which are refitted have Welsh signage installed as standard, and this is also in place across all of our The Food Warehouse stores across Wales.”

The move has received support from Aled Roberts, the Welsh Language Commissioner, who has issued the following statement:

Research conducted by The Welsh Language Commissioner shows that customers in Wales want to see, hear and use the Welsh language in supermarkets in Wales. We have worked with a number of large supermarkets to develop their Welsh language services, supermarkets such as Coop and Lidl have responded brilliantly to develop a bilingual service. We would like to applaud their approach in working with us. We have contacted Iceland to inspire them to use Welsh, and encourage them to use bilingual signs, and we hope that they will respond to our request.

Gibberish? You’re fired!

Iceland logo

Keith Hann, director of corporate affairs for frozen food retailer Iceland has been dismissed with immediate effect after he was found to have made disparaging remarks about both the Welsh language and Wales itself.

The supermarket, which has its corporate headquarters on Deeside (Welsh: Glannau Dyfrdwy) in North Wales, was forced to apologise on Wednesday after reports emerged of Hann describing Welsh as “gibberish

It also stated that Hann’s remarks did not reflect the company’s views and added it was a proud Welsh company.

Many Welsh customers contacted Iceland on Twitter stating they would be boycotting the company’s stores as a result of Hann’s crass insensitivity.

In addition to calling Welsh gibberish, Hann wrote on his blog that the Welsh language sounded “like someone with bad catarrh clearing his throat”.

Furthermore, in a tweet which has since been deleted, Hann wrote that the “inhabitants of the UK’s Celtic fringe loathe all visitors“.

Read the full story in the Daily Post.

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