I hope the many enthusiasts and interest-takers alike of Celtic languages and cultures have noticed the Twitter account; @GaelicBingo. Its simple concept may not be a new one amongst those who manage to find an ironic humour in the light of their apparent yet impeding demise, but seeking out and publishing detrimental comments made towards the Celtic languages, in this case; Gàidhlig, has shed new light on how belittling some people can be towards these ancient tongues.
Retweeting (and often responding to) detrimental comments made about the Gaelic language in Scotland, the account emphasises the battle against the constant criticism endured by minority languages around the world. Here are a few examples from the @GaelicBingo feed:
NB (some Latin there!!!!), these particular tweets were taken from a huge number of retweets from the account’s feed all reported within the space of eight hours.
Yet, in many ways, these remarks all hold point. The main reasons behind these tweeters’ attacks on the Gaelic language seems to derive in finance, economy and money. In many ways it epitomises the life-long battle between beauty and greed, but as established firmly by attackers, one can’t disregard the mere pittance of cash that currently trickles its way into the pockets of the islands’ populations outside South East England. Here’s a younger David Mitchell describing his views towards Gàidhlig.
We need schools. We need hospitals. We need recycling and energy departments. Policing. Fire fighters. Carers. As a simple life-form, we require the basics. These basics require money to function in the manner of which we desire them.
Many would admit that the saving of a language is not amongst those most basic of necessities. An opinion to which all are entitled.
My purpose in this blog, however, is not to argue – as much as I’m fully aware of which horse I back in this debate. My purpose is to ask a question.
What means the world to you?
May I take for granted the top answers here will be family and friends? Pets. Security. A home and health.
Imagine something others may ignore – through no fault of their own. Perhaps it’s something of minimal monetary or life importance. Maybe it’s a piece of jewellery or a photograph. A flower or a mound. Anything of personal sentiment – for whatever reason.
To those who diminish the ancient language of Scotland – and to anyone who sees all these simple and unassuming Celtic languages as nothing more than the burden of a dying culture, I ask you to imagine a tree. Alone in an open field, still standing despite its years. A tree whose only significance on this planet was to pump out oxygen by taking in carbon dioxide. Granted, an important insignificance! It emits no sentiment to anyone.
One day, a child and parent were walking past the tree and a photograph was taken, or a branch was broken, or a tree-swing made, or a joke told. For the parent and child, that tree was significant. For the most insignificant and perhaps the most silly of reasons, that place was sacred. It was a tree on which new histories were written.
Later, that tree’s overwhelming insignificance (in the eyes of the many, at least) meant that planners saw no problem in deleting it from the blueprints of their new supermarket. Money, jobs and everyday convenience into the locality, they say.
After a letter or two to various officials who are ‘high up’ in to the project’s hierarchy, the parent and child mount a mini campaign (via social media, perhaps?) and manage to have the planners agree to at least name the supermarket’s adjacent car park in honour of the old tree’s genus and species.
Well, my Celtic language-doubting friends, that tree could have been yours. That insignificant artefact that held such mystery to those who knew it best could well have been the tree in your old photographs. Maybe its shade played host to your first family picnic.
Well, I can only hope they named the car park by the old tree’s old Gaelic name.
Tìr gun chànan, tìr gun anam.