Sunday, May 06, 2007
Jings, Crivvens And Help Ma Boab - Scotland's Parliament Is A Guddle, A Bourach, A Midden
This morning - the third since the earthquake - I woke early, alerted by squalling robins serenading the mice in the coalhole. It is one of the perils of age that, once woken, nothing short of morphine can make sleep return and, as Mr Whippy's morphine van is not due until Thursday, I rose reluctantly. How did it feel, this new state? Oddly similar to the old one. I felt older, which is normal, not younger, as advertised. I thought, as I sometimes do, of Mr Alasdair Gray's rhetorical suggestion that we should work "as if ... in the early days of a better nation". It is, I confess, a splendid suggestion, but confusing too. Where is this better nation? The nationalists are fond of comparisons with the "tiger economy" of Ireland, but the success of that charming country has not been achieved by virtue of hard labour. Rather, it is an economy grown merry on the generous subsidy of the Common Market, horse-racing, and the side-effects of refrigerated cider. The Scottish Wildcat Economy, I fear, will be a harder creature to tame, if indeed it exists beyond the world of biological myth.
The news is confusing, but comforting. Mr Brian Taylor, the generously-appointed political editor of BBC Scotland, is everywhere still, twanging his braces at the splendid incompetence of the election, and using the word "guddle" as if it is going out of fashion, which it may be. Such has been his frustration that he has also been ejaculating in gaelic, using the word "bourach", which he defines as "an utter, hideous mess." Writing like a delusional Concorde pilot forced to crashland on Barra, he told the readers of his weblog, "this is a bourach, Mach Five."
Since my couthy ejaculations tend to come in the Doric after a glass of milk stout, I might have taken his word for this, but my able researchers uncovered an article published in The Scotsman almost exactly a year ago, entitled "A puckle of words in the braw Scots tongue", which contained the following definition: "A classic Gaelic word used by parents across Scotland is bùrach, used to describe a child's messy room. But according to Etymological Dictionary of the Gaelic Language by Alexander McBain (Gairm Publications, 1982) burach means 'turning up of the earth, digging; from the Scottish bourie, English burrow. The Scottish bourach, enclosure, cluster, knoll, heap, etc., is the English bower.'"
I am not sure whether this is the image the estimable Mr Taylor had in mind, but a child's messy room is exactly what our parliamentary system resembles today. My mother, Mrs Elder (or Ma'am) preferred the word "midden", but the meaning was, I think, the same. To our befuddled politicians, I offer Mrs Elder's solution, which came in the manner of a threat: tidy it up, or there will be no peas in your mince.