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Matthew Fitt: a word aboot 'bad' language

Scots writer Matthew Fitt shares a word about Scots language and the wey we speak and write.

Language: Scots
Age group: Teens
Audience: Writers, Young People
Topics: Scots

Last updated: 13 September 2021

Cartoon-style speech bubbles in rows

Dae you get grief aboot the wey ye talk? Is there somebody in yir life – a teacher, a parent, a pal – that’s ayewis gaun on aboot how you speak? Ever have anybody come oot wi ‘you’ll never get a job’ or ‘you won’t get far in life’ speakin like that?

If you’ve never experienced this, I’m very pleased tae hear it. But if folk are gaun aff their heid at ye every time ye say words like ‘hoose’ or ‘hame’ or ‘ken’, then I’m sorry that’s happened tae ye. Naebody should have tae go through this, no in 2021.

If it’s ony consolation, ye’re no the first and – since, in Scotland, things like this change at a snail’s pace – ye certainly winnae be the last.

If it bothers ye, here are some positive things ye can dae aboot it.


Ask why. Enquire. Try tae work oot whit’s gaun on linguistically. Linguistics is the study o language. This is aw aboot language. And Scotland. And being Scottish. And gettin telt aff for talkin ‘like that’.

What exactly is talkin ‘like that’? In Scotland, ‘like that’ means Scots. ‘Properly’ means ‘English’. It would be a lot easier if adults just said ‘Scots’ and ‘English’, even if they were tellin ye ‘Don’t speak Scots, speak English’.

Scots is one o the national languages o Scotland. It’s been aroond for aboot a thoosand years. So why dae they dae it? Why dae some adults no want bairns and weans and ither adults tae speak in Scots?

It’s maybe because they were telt aff themsels and their parents were telt aff and their parents’ parents afore them were telt aff and aw.

Generations o Scottish folk gettin telt aff for speakin a Scottish language, a big lang line o them aw the wey back tae the days afore smart phones or phones or even the invention o electricity.

Learn. And Read.

Scots speakers get telt aff. OK. It’s no richt. It shouldnae be like that. It’s jist the wey it is.

But whit’s great aboot Scotland is folk dinnae ayewis dae whit they’re telt. And when they rebel against authority, Scottish people can dae it in the maist beautiful and creative weys. In Scots, you can read writing by Robert Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert Tannahill, Janet Paisley, Gerda Stevenson, Ellen Pennie, Anna Stewart, William Letford, Thomas Clark, Sam Best and ithers for free over at Scots in Schools(this link will open in a new window).

Learn. Read. And Write.

Why no become literate in the Scots language you speak? Gie it go. Get guid at it. Liberate yirsel fae folk sayin ‘if you talk like that, you must be thick’ tae ‘hey, you’re a really good writer, I didn’t know you had it in you’.

It’s easy tae learn tae write in Scots. If ye can write in English, ye can dae it in Scots. Aw ye need is a pen, a bit paper or if ye’ve got wan, a computer. Yir imagination. An idea. And words of course. If ye’re stuck for Scots words and gettin started, you could look for some inspiration on the creativity page at Scots in Schools(this link will open in a new window).

But the maist important thing ye need is confidence. Confidence tae commit yir brilliant ideas tae paper. Confidence tae create a poem, a story, a play. Confidence tae enter the braw Scots writing competition for 2021, Lang May Yer Lum Reek.

And confidence tae say the wey you talk isnae Bad Language. It’s Scots language and whether you want tae speak English or French or German or Spanish or Scots or aw o them should be up tae you. Aye, that’s maybe the best wey tae say cheerio and wish ye guid luck.

Scots language. It’s up tae you.