Tea Time Ruminations: Gaelic

Song: ‘Ode to Billy Joe‘ sung by Paula Cole

Tea: Valerian root tea. I like the calming qualities, but it leaves me hungry every time.

Is toigh leam coineanaich. Tha coineanaich peallag.

We cannot proceed without the required sentences. For those who do not know, when learning any new language, I start with two sentences: ‘I like bunnies. Bunnies are fluffy.’ Various reasons are here with Nynorsk as the target language.

Now, I am not suddenly going to switch to Gaelic. I have been scatter-brained too long for me to cave in after a month of learning Nynorsk. This is, thus, not a language learning step. This is a rumination, after all. Rabbits do ruminate, right?

An angry rabbit as I found out that rabbits are not ruminants

There are going to be heaps of links: I apologise for all the mass. Nevertheless, let us get started:

After I reviewed Lus na Tùise, I reached out to Marcas Mac an Tuairneir about the status of Gaelic as a language. I have only been to the great country Scotland once in 2014, so this has been a bit. I only stayed in Glasgow, and therefore had no interaction with the Highlands. I had selected Glasgow because I thought it was in the Highlands. Thank you, American school system. I sought out pubs — tons of those —, and cafés — not as many — which were specifically Gaelic friendly.

I found one, The Park Bar, which was Gaelic friendly. The bartender was very friendly, but told me that not many spoke Gaelic in the pub as it was mainly a ‘regular’ pub. I thought then, if I went at a different time, that there would be at least some speakers. There was a group of guys — one who was gorgeous incidentally —…or ‘lads’, I suppose…who spoke a few lines to the bartender. That had been my connection to living Gaelic.

So, when Mr. Mac an Tuairneir illustrated how threatened it was, I was surprised. There was only one place where I had encountered any ‘hostility’, and  it was not even directed at me: I had happened to walk into a Unionist bar during the talks about the Referendum, and we discussed politics. Obviously as a Unionist bar, they were anti-referendum, pro-UK, and the like. They were truly very gracious. I tried to find a link to the pub, but sadly I am unable. I believe that it was St. Anne’s, or the like.

My favourite part, being a death-lover, was the Necropolis…where it seems jerks want to try to put Gaelic even if it has speakers still alive.

Now, I have researched a bit more: it seems that there has always been a undercurrent of anti-Gaelic. It seems that there is a long history that I missed: again, thank you, American school system. Why? Why are minority languages treated with disdain?

I only have to look down the road for some examples. There is a nation of Alabama-Couchatta where only a little over 1 100 people live descendants of two great nations that have had to merge to survive.  Groups of the First Nationers will visit where I work — I am a bartender/server at a chain restaurant —, and their chair has been amazing when I have met her. I talk to them about restoring the language, and they are struck that I, a very Northern-European descent man, would care about their language. They have told me stories of remembering stories as kids only to find out that they have forgotten the words for them. They remember the plots, characters, morals, and the like; however, they, respectively, have forgotten the words to express the concepts within their languages. The sadness that covers their eyes is so vivid that one can taste it.

I cannot, an English-raised man, comprehend the betrayal one must feel against oneself to have forgotten the beauty of one’s childhood. The closest that I can get to it is the betrayal of others. When I say that I want to learn any language that is not the big 5: English, Spanish, French, German, Chinese, I am greeted by people’s reactions: ‘Why?’ The anger which I feel is pale in comparison to the emotions which must go through the Alabama-Couchatta First Nationers.

My friends, Mr. Trantham and Ms. S.Kay Smith,  have to hear my regular rantings on language: I am still learning though about the struggles of others. I am looking into how to help local languages — which if anyone has any ideas, feel free to send me an message, or e-mail —. Oh! That reminds me. I found this one bookstore in Glasgow: Oswald Street Bookshop: it is where I bought my now sort-of used, as I am a bad student, copy of ‘Scottish Gaelic in Twelve Weeks‘.

Looking correctly saddened by my lack of Gaelic knowledge

The bookshop sells books specialising in Gaelic, and Scots. I, also, got another book, Luath Scots Language Learner, which I just put in storage…as a bad student does. If one has any interest in either of those languages, grab one of the books at a local bookstore, or Amazon (obviously, to help local people, I recommend the local bookstore if it is at all possible).

I feel as if a Briton is going to be angry as an American is discussing British law, and culture. I truly do not wish to offend, or be the typical American who tells other countries how to act. I leave such arrogance to my President. I do have some questions though as I have gone through Gaelic policy: Why is there no official Gaeltacht (using the Irish word as I do not know what the Scottish equivalent word be) with its protections offered? Why is there such an apprehension to Gaelic? In America, the apprehension is rooted in racist history of American exceptionalism, and the history of the ‘melting pot’ theory where everyone gives up their culture/language so that we may come together to have a mutual culture. Why is Wales not a part of the flag? Why is your blood sausage so freaking delicious? Why is Isle of Man never mentioned? The important linguistic/cultural questions, obviously. Through this research, I have realised that I love your countries even more.

There are plenty of opportunities out there for those who want to help First Nations, and local languages. I hope that we can spread the word that these languages are important to so many around the world. I will keep everyone updated on my findings on Gaelic, and Nynorsk treatment. In short, I am sticking to my language learner guns:

Wow. Tea really gets me going.

Everyone be safe. Be well. Tapadh leat, my Teatotalers.

Some links from various points of history:

Mediaeval Gaelic Identity

Gaelic in Devolved Scotland (Devolution is a concept that hurts my American brain, but still read this)

An article about the ‘paradoxes’ of Scottish languages (includes discussion on the Scots language)

From 2001: A discussion on Gaelic Scotland

Anti-Gaelic Bingo

2017 Article discussing the cost (also mentions Doric, which is an amazing part of the North-East. I absolutely love the sound of Doric Scots)


Paula Cole’s Twitter

Marcas Mac an Tuairneir’s Facebook

S.S. Trantham’s site

S.Kay Smith’s Twitter

Bonus links that may be of use:

American Scottish Gaelic Society (I relapsed as a member because I am lame. It is an amazing organisation: join it!)

Royal Celtic Society (for those in the U.K.)

Speaking Our Language Playlist

Massive collection of various links

Learn Gaelic

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