Sean Murphy on ‘Verbal Tartanry: Lowland language and the associational culture of the ‘Scottish diaspora”

Thank you to today’s speaker, St Andrew’s second year doctoral student Sean Murphy, for a brilliant (and tongue-twisting) paper. Sean’s paper began in 1818 New York and stretched across the globe, bouncing from the USA to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, before ending in Madras in 1938. It focused on the performative use of Scottish language by expatriates, something that Sean has termed as manifestations of ‘verbal tartanry’. Though this paper was based on a range of sources, the most memorable (and most illuminating) were the menus from Scottish cultural events which published in various newspapers. The overt ‘Scottifying’ of menus (‘Curan’ laif wi’ raisins intilt’) was a way of declaring the ‘otherness’ of Scottish food and drink, and therefore emphasising the exclusive nature of the event.

The performative element of the Scots language was captured excellently by the speaker, and generated many questions. I was particularly interested to hear about the appropriate timing and use of ‘Scottisms’ in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, also a time of great enthusiasm for Lowland Scots in spreading the use of ‘Proper English’ around the British Empire.

Thank you to Sean for a fascinating paper.

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Please join us again in a month, when Sarah Arens will be discussing ‘Decolonising the Atomium: Diasporic writing in Brussels’ on 3rd March at 1pm in room G16. [Please note because of Innovative Learning Week, we will not be convening in a fortnight].


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