Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Rant

I am going to be franker than usual in today's post, perhaps down to the fact that I am hospitalized following an accident and on heavy medication. (Or in other words, drugged out of my mind, such as it is)

So here goes. I just read a sample of a novel supposedly set in the Scottish Highlands. It made me throw up in my mouth.

"Verra" is not a Scottish word, dammit. In the Highlands, the chances are they would have spoken either Scots Gaelic (Gàidhlig) although if they were noble, they might have spoken Scots or French as those were also languages of the Scottish court. NEVER would they have said "verra" which is not a word in Scots or Gàidhlig. It is at best an idiotic dialectical spelling of a Lowland Scot speaking English.

Scotland was part of the medieval European world in which there were royalty, nobles, the small nobility and their adherants. While the Gaelic culture was extremely important in Scotland as was the Norman culture, imported when a Scottish king gave lands to Norman followers, neither were the rather peculiar romaticised version you find in these novels.  Scots were not some barbarians who painted their faces blue. A Scottish "warrior" in the middle ages does not even make sense.

The Scotland in "Highland Romances" is a made up place that never existed.

Do you have a right to write in this made up world? Yes, but PLEASE try not to make it insulting by writing a dialect on the level of "negro minstrels" or assuming that Scots were barbarians. And if you love to read it, that is your right, too, but PLEASE be aware that it has nothing to do with the real Scotland or its actual history.

14 comments:

Conan the Librarian™ said...

Verra guid Lassie...

Hope you're on the mend xx

J. R. Tomlin said...

I soon will be, they tell me. Thanks, Conan.

And when I am you get a good skelping. "Verra" indeed. LOL

Gwen@ChewDigestBooks.com said...

Are you going to be okay? Can I get your something?

Rant on and take care.

J. R. Tomlin said...

Gwen, a nice dram of good whisky would cheer me up but you'll have to sneak it by the nurses. I will be okay. It'll just take a while.

Ty Johnston said...

Yikes! Hope you are better soon. Sorry to hear about the accident.

Though not the same, I'm from Kentucky in the States, and I couldn't count the number of times I've seen someone try to write a Southern or Appalachian accent and it comes off badly. And Kentucky isn't a place full of nothing but hillbillies, nor was it even a hundred years ago.

Get well soon.

J. R. Tomlin said...

Thanks. I'm glad for having a lap top (and meds). It will take a while but I'll get there.

I think it is very similar. The basic thing is to show some respect for the culture your writing about. Or it would be nice anyway.

Jarod said...

I've put down many a book because of a hangup like that. Once you have a certain level of animosity toward the author, kinda hard to stay invested.

J. R. Tomlin said...

You're right, Jarod. The second I got to the "verra" thing, I stopped reading. For all I know, it could be a good story, but you couldn't pay me to read it!

Grace Elliot said...

Pretty sure Diane Gabaldon uses 'verra' in her dialogue for the Outland series...

PS LOVING the name "Conan the Librarian" - I'm still chuckling.

Grace x

J. R. Tomlin said...

Heh. Yes, Conan is a riot (when I'm not giving him that promised skelping).

I'm not exactly a fan of Gabaldon although that sort of thing is only part of the reason. There are plenty of actual Scots words to give authenticity rather than using that kind of demeaning nonsense.

subrosa said...

Hope yer verra comfy there Jeanne and will be home asap.

Aye, it's irritating when dialects aren't researched and as I can't be bothered being irritated any more than needs be these days, I stop reading.

Take care.

J. R. Tomlin said...

I agree with the not being bothered. It irritated me, I think, because this novel was getting a good review on a historical fiction review site. They should have known better.

I read a sample and would have thrown my Kindle across the room, but that didn't seem like a good idea. So I deleted it and came here to rant instead.

Austin Briggs said...

What's "verra"? I know this word in French and Italian... what's it supposed to be in this context?

J. R. Tomlin said...

There is no such word in Scots, Austin. It is a more or less phonetical spelling of how someone imagines a Scot might say 'very'.