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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

Gie's back oor place names

15th February 2010

The following article appeared in Lallans and is reproduced here with the kind permission of David Purves. There is no English version of this article. 

Seeminlie, at ae tyme the war a lassie in Broughty Ferry that spak aboot the Toe Bridge, kis she thocht the name, The Tay Brig haed sumthing adae wi hir big tae.  Til a degree, in Scotland for monie generations, we hae suffert a process o deracination, a process o sinderin bairns frae thair cultural ruits – the conter o education.  Education soud help bairns ti bigg on thair cultural founds an bouster thair sense o faimilie identitie.  It is an ill thing ti tell a five-year auld bairn:  “The way you speak is wrong and must be corrected.”  Ti tell a bairn this, is ti yoke on its identitie an insult its haill faimilie backgrund.  This kynd o traetment has haen a fell effect on generations o skuil bairns, an eikit  an element o ill wull intil the Scots psyche, an is the source o the weill-kent Scotch creinge (or crulge). 

An important ootcum o this loss o pryde in Scots identitie haes been a parochial zeal amang local cooncils, tourist boards an cartographers, ti anglicise Scots street names an place names.  Native braes, closes, gaits, hauchs, knowes, loans,  raws, strachts,  vennels an wynds, haes been ruthlessly censored oot, in favor o alleys, avenues, crescents, hills, lanes an parks.  In St Andrews, the fact that Baxter’s Wynd is nou ‘the more elegant’ Baker Lane is proudlie posted.

Kirk Brae becums Church Hill, an the Sauchiebrae is doungradit inti the Willowbrae Road.  The velar fricative in haugh is whyles tint, sae that a street cryit Pan Ha’  kyths near Kirkcaldy  on a hauch whaur saut pannin uised ti gaun on. Sauchiehauch Street becums Sauchieha’ Street, an syne Sauchiehall Street, an Bridgehaugh an Philiphaugh becum  pronunced Bridgehaw an Philiphaw.  The surname, Waugh becums pronunced Waw an Loch Menteith is corrupted ti the Lake o Menteith, the name o the neiborin Carse nearby.  The Forestry Commission caws a new loch howkit in East Lothian, ‘Pressmennan Lake’.  In radio in Scotland, ootby the control of the Scots Government, annuncers ir employed wi bogus Inglish accents that whyles preclude the richt pronunciation o place names.  We hear Melrose wi a diphthong in the saicont syllable an Argyll wi the accent on the first.    Haill communities hae lost thair Gaelic or Scots place names.  Applecross kyths in the north-wast Hielands wi nae connection wi aipils or crosses, an cartographers hae bauchilt Muirbattle, (the dwallin-place on the muir) whaur muir wes locally pronunced, mair, ti Morebattle.

Short syne, thare hae been steps bi parochial tourist boards ti anglicise the richt names o the Scots landscape.   Bodies cawin thairsells The Forth Estuary Forum an the Forth Estuary Authority seeminlie disna ken that we hae a  Firth o Forth.  The’r nae sign in England o onie move ti rename the Thames Estuary the Firth o Thames.  Thare hae been ettils, agin public opposeition, ti  rename Clydesdale as Clyde Valley an Strathspey as Spey Valley, altho for a blissin,  the Clydesdale horse is aye wi us, an sum o us can still dance the Strathspey.  Tweeddale is chyngit inti Tweed Valley.

We maun be gratefu that a norie in the the 1930s that the Pass o Killiecrankie micht be renamed, the Princess Margaret Rose Glen, in lealtie til the Croun, cam ti naething!  It is ill ti finnd oot whit authoritie exists for sic chynges.  In onie wycelyke independent kintrie, place names that reflek its historie ir gien protection bi the Government an seen as national assets wi vailye for tourism. 

Agin the backgrund o national consciousness breirdin frae the estaiblishment o a Scottish Parliament, the tyme haes shuirlie cum ti conter thir effects o globalisation.  Sic trends thraeten ti undermine Scotland’s sense o national identity, an it is necessar ti tak a staun agin thaim, bi restorin the oreiginal native street names that reflek the Scots leid an the cultural heritage.   This process haes stertit areddies in Ireland, whaur Ulster Scots is stertin ti be regairdit, lyke Gaelic, as pairt o the linguistic heritage o Ireland as a haill. Ulster-Scots street signs hae kythed in the Belfast, Castlereagh an Ard Cooncil areas.  It is guid ti see Auld Loanen restored for Windyridge Cottages, Wal Raa for Well Road, Sooth Enn for Main Street an The Tounheid for Moat RoadThis is ae exempil in Ulster we micht dae weill ti follae.