Language is a tool, an implement. Used in a certain way you might even describe it as a weapon. It can shape the way you think, perhaps without you realising it is doing so.
It is a fictional example, but if you are unconvinced try reading George Orwell’s magnificent Nineteen Eighty-Four, which depicts a state imposing language control to remove even the vocabulary required to express dissension.
The terms you use are important.
Consider, then, the spread of Gaelic names on road and rail station signs, and police car decalcomanias, throughout Scotland.
This is in line with the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005, passed by the then-named Scottish Executive (now the Scottish Government), under the First Ministership of Labour’s Jack McConnell.
Might it be possible that the use of Gaelic, from this kernel, could grow to become widespread?
I choose my words carefully, for it is not my place to make political comment. But is there a case to be made that if Scottish people spoke a different language to those south of the Border, it might be more likely Scots would regard themselves as different? And, therefore, more likely to seek independence?
Make up your own mind on whether that is a bad or good thing.
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It might be that Gaelic signs are merely a curio, with no more significance than a tartan gonk giving tourists a prop to pose beside.
But then you might argue it is pointless to have a sign advising your train has arrived at Port Bhruachaidh, when it is so rare to hear Gaelic on the streets of Broughty Ferry.
I enjoy the vocabulary, rules, and nuances of the English language. I regard it as my native language and would be sorry to see it go.
To return to the point I am attempting to make, language can be a tool. The pen, as the saying goes, is mightier than the sword. Words can be incendiaries to fire hearts or set armies to march.
Language can be powerful if manipulated cleverly, or irresponsibly, by those for, or against, a nation becoming independent or remaining in a union.
I do not, of course, suggest that Gaelic is being imposed on us in an attempt to control thought. I merely posit that the use, and choice, of language can be hugely important.
Word of the week
Process of transferring designs on to glass, porcelain, etc. Often shortened to decal. E.G. “Gaelic decalcomanias on police cars are widespread.”.
Read the latest Oh my word! every Saturday in The Courier. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org