The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #115523   Message #2474946
Posted By: Scabby Douglas
24-Oct-08 - 12:00 PM
Thread Name: Scott's 'Rob Roy' questions and comments
Subject: RE: Scott's 'Rob Roy' questions and comments
RossCampbell is right, but the actual answer goes a bit further.

Walter Scott is making the Highlander's English much worse - specifically in misusing gender pronouns. Gaelic, like many other languages, identifies everyday objects as masculine and feminine. It was probably commonplace that Gaelic speakers would apply gender to objects that native English speakers would render as "it". Scott's exaggerating that, and also indicating the difficulty that Gaelic speakers were perceived to have in rendering some sounds.

He's not alone in using this device. I have a feeling Robert Louis Stevenson does something similar in "Kidnapped".   It was a fairly common device employed in Scots English writing to paint a picture of Highlanders as semi-literate and inarticulate peasants.

Writers would suggest that "b" sounds were replaced with "p" - so "be" would be rendered as "pe", and "her nainsel" was supposed to be how the Highlander would render "I" or "me" - as a mangling of Scots "Ain sel' " or "own self".

For example - here's a snippet from a broadside ballad called:

"Broadside ballad entitled 'The Highlander's Adventures in Glasgow Fair"

"Lands and lassies were in crowds, and they're gaun up and down, man
And sweety-wives had up their stands, the auld brig did surround man
Her nainsel ne'er saw the like before, and she had unco staring.
For ilka auld wife cried out, ' Come and buy your fairing.'"

See a facsimile of the original broadsheet here:

Fast forward to the 19th century, and you'll find similar devices being deployed against Irish immigrants.

It's also worth mentioning that the English nowadays by people in the Highlands is usually of a better qulaity, and easier to understand than most people frmo the Central Belt. (And I am from Glasgow)