Scots Wha Hae

This past week a revelation hit the internet when it was discovered that nearly a third of the Wikipedia articles in the Scots language were made by a single person, from America, who in fact does not have any understanding of the Scots language. Starting in 2013 at the age of 12 the young man showed an enthusiasm for cataloguing articles in the Scot’s tongue that, unfortunately, never extended to learning the language itself, instead making articles written in English in a faux Scottish accent. 

Examples include the rather poetic “In Greek meethology, the Minotaur wis a creatur wi the heid o a bull an the body o a man or, as describit bi Roman poet Ovid, a being “pairt man an pairt bull”.” which is very well put, but definitely not Scots. While most of this is funny (the article for telekinesis simply states “Telekinesis es a form of moving[sic] ebjocts with yor maind”) there are people who see this as linguistic vandalism; Scots is already a language struggling for its place and identity in the world separate from English, often viewed as little more than a crude bastardisation, and now a single person with an obsession online has managed to add over 60000 articles and hundred of thousands of words worth of credence to that harmful and untrue idea. 

The 19 year old man describes himself as a “Brony” and “ INTP” and goes by AmaryllisGardener on the site. His user page describes him, rather ironically, as being able to “contreebute wi ae middlin level o Scots.”. The boy himself doesn’t seem to have done this with malicious intent, saying, “Honestly, I don’t mind if you revert all of my edits, delete my articles, and ban me from the wiki for good. I’ve already found out that my “contributions” have angered countless people, and to me that’s all the devastation I can be given, after years of my thinking I was doing good (and yes, obsessively editing, I have OCD).” 

While some have been rather upset at this linguistic parody of the Scot’s language, and even called for a complete removal of all the user’s edits and articles, not everyone is as quick to throw the baby out with the bathwater; while most of the articles are a mess of fake Scots forced into English grammar, the structure of the articles could still be built around using the proper Scots tongue. Kilwinnings article only says “Kilwinnin (frae Scots Gaelic: Cill Fhinnein) is a toun in North Ayrshire, Scotland.” which is more than existed before AmaryllisGardener decided to make the page. Now that this controversy has brought attention to the issue, site admins like Michael Dempster, the director of the Scots Language Centre, have set out to amend and correct the articles, and have even reached out to Wikipedia about working on this project in an official capacity.

This does, however, highlight another issue that might not be as obvious at first look: Wikipedia is very Anglo centric. English makes up the largest portion of pages on the site, with nearly 12% of the total articles and the highest number of editors and admins. The use of Wikipedia outside of English is difficult and unreliable. With English having 10 times as many users as the second most popular language, German, it’s clear to see why the Anglosphere might dominate the site. This dominance however also means minor languages often get ignored, with even Ultach, the reddit user that first discovered the edits, stating that “The Scots language version of Wikipedia is legendarily bad”, noting how it is more often than not ignored by the Scots speaking community. This lack of maintenance and attention has led to strange situations like what’s happened to the Scots language pages, or -even stranger- what’s happened to the Cebuano Wikipedia; an Austronesian language spoken in the southern Philippines, despite its low number of admins(currently only 6) Cebuano has the second highest number of total articles; here, history has repeated itself, with the majority of the articles in this language being written by a non native speaker- a Swedish man who designed a “bot” (or computer program) that would, rather poorly apparently, create and translate articles. This lack of attention not only means that a non native speaker has made themselves an authority on the language on the site, but that it’s happened twice now to separate languages. 

A darker side of this has come up in languages like Croatian and Azerbaijani, where far right theories are spread as verified facts and political agendas and biased sources crop up again and again to enforce dogma. The Croatian Wikipedia- according to Signpost, a Wikipedia newsletter- is now in the hands of a small group of fascists after many of the other Croatian editors abandoned the site. This has even been highlighted by the Croatian government when Željko Jovanović, Croatian Minister of Science, Education and Sports, in 2013 said that “Regrettably, we must warn Croatian students that a large part of content of Croatian-language Wikipedia is not only dubious, but clearly falsified, so we therefore urge them to use more reliable sources of information, such as Wikipedia editions in English and other major languages.”. In the Azeri Wikipedia, a similar controversy arose when it emerged that Azerbaijani users were abusing their authority to shut down and suppress discussion, pushing their own agendas on issues like the Armenian Genocide

What’s going to become of the Scots Wikipedia is still up in the air; while a degree less worrying that the site becoming a den of far right conspiracy theories and genocide denying propaganda, the site definitely lacked the attention that it deserved and hopefully this rather funny chapter in the language’s history will galvanise the Scots community into making the site workable to help, not hinder the language..


5 Scottish Ghouls to look out for this Halloween

The history of everyone’s favourite Autumn celebration is indelibly linked with Scotland’s own history. Naming the holiday ‘Halloween’ was originally coined in Scotland in the 16th century as a derivation of ‘All Hallows Eve’, a tradition that had it’s roots in the Gaelic fire festival known as Samhain (pronounced “Sow-win”) that would mark the ending of the harvest season and the ushering in of the dark half of the year. The Gaelic people believed that the barriers between the physical and spiritual worlds would break down during this time, allowing for interactions between the people of our world and the other. Great fires would be lit to keep back evil spirits and people would take fire from these bonfires back to their homes to keep hearth fires lit for the full 3 days of the festival.

The tradition of ‘Trick or Treating’ as well is derived from the Irish and Scottish tradition of ‘Guising’. Children would dress up as evil spirits in the hope that being in disguise would save them from harm from any wandering evil spirits that would mistake them as one of their own. After performing songs or tricks ‘Guisers’ were given gifts.

You might be wondering about the kinds of malicious entities that people of Scotland used to fear. Scotland has a rich mythical history and the people had many monsters to watch out for that have mostly been forgotten in the modern age. So! we aim to remedy this… If you find yourself out ‘guising’ this Halloween here is a list of Scottish monsters that you might want to keep an eye out for!

The Kelpies

Beware of Horses grazing at the waters edge

These terrifying aquatic spirits haunt rivers and lochs and normally take on the appearance of a horse (Although they can also take the form of a beautiful young woman). They draw in their victims by emitting a sound like a woman screaming. If you decide to ignore all of these quite obvious warning signs and touch the Kelpie you will become stuck and the water horse will dive in to the water with you attached and drown you.

Particularly fond of children there is an old Scottish legend of a night in which a Kelpie had gathered 9 children and was going for it’s 10th victim but the young boy touched its nose and when the horse dove for the water he managed to cut off his finger and survived. It’s said that this monsters only weakness is its bridle and if you can break that you will take control of the beast.

Bean Nighe

Another reason to avoid the rivers

The name ‘Bean Nighe’ means ‘washerwoman’ in Scots Gaelic. Another water based beastie, the Bean Nighe is said to haunt streams where she washes blood from the clothing of those about to die. She is normally described as appearing as an old hag with webbed feet, one nostril and one long tooth. Our neighbours over on the Isles of Mull and Tiree have the colourful description of Bean Nighe as having breasts so long that she throws them over her shoulders to drape down her back. She is believed to be the spirit of a woman who died in childbirth that is now doomed to wash the clothes of the almost-dead until the day that they would have otherwise died.

The Bean Nighe isn’t likely to do anything more to you than give you a hefty fright but it is said that if you sneak up on her as she sings and grab her before she can run away she will tell you the name of the person that is supposed to die. She might even grant you three wishes if you’re lucky.

Still, please don’t go around grabbing women that are near rivers. That’s a good way to get arrested.

The Red Cap

Curious fashion choices

Is that wee Brian down the street there dressed up like a garden gnome? Maybe. Or maybe it’s a Red Cap Goblin looking for its next victim!… OK, if you’re trick or treating and see a small person with a red cap it’s probably safer to assume they aren’t a malevolent goblin hell bent on murder, but you never know!

These wee buggers are also known as Powries or Dunters and are a type of Dwarf, Goblin or Fairie that generally are said to hang around down at the borders. They inhabit ruined castles and are said to murder anyone who strays in to their homes and dye their hats with the blood of these victims. Strangely enough it’s also said that they need to kill regularly because if the blood in their caps dry out then they die. With dwindling interest in Museums and Heritage sites I’d say it’s probably a safe bet that these wee guys are probably done for…

Baobhan Sith

What lovely hooves you have

If you find yourself alone this Halloween and desiring a lady companion, be very careful if a beautiful woman in a green dress suddenly turns up out of nowhere with an interest in you. Especially if this woman has hooves instead of feet!

Normally victimising hunters in the Highlands, but also appearing to desperate men, it is said that the Baobhan Sith appears as a beautiful young woman that wears a long green dress but has deer hooves instead of feet. She is in fact a vampire, and one that has a strange and gruesome way of killing her prey. She dances with her chosen victim until they are exhausted, at which point her nails turn in to talons. Preferring to use brute force over the finesse we usually associate with vampires who drink from a persons neck; the Baobhan Sith would slit open the man’s chest and proceed to drain them completely of blood.

Bag Snatchers

Also known as “Wee Dafties”

These elusive creatures can sometimes be found roaming the streets on the night of Halloween in large groups looking for anyone much smaller than them. Once they have picked a victim they will approach from behind so as not to be seen and grab the bag containing all of the child’s hard earned treats gathered over the night.

Although just as despicable as the other ghouls on this list these are much easier to deal with. It is recommended that you walk the streets either with your parents or in groups. Bag Snatchers become easily frightened and generally wont approach unless you are on your own.

Can you think of any other Ghastly Ghouls that haunt Scotland? Lets discuss it over on our facebook page!

Stay safe out there.