Wednesday, 31 July 2019

The English Language - an Act of Union

I'm not a huge fan of the Union flag. Fans of teams I don't support and racists have tried to highjack it over the years to represent them, whilst there really isn't any reason I would have to wave it. I do remember it being used in the Scouts where I regularly swore allegiance to God and the Queen before it but as I'm a republican atheist I'm not sure that I could be accused of holding it with any particular reverence.

If you asked me what the flag of my country was, I'd answer in a heartbeat that it was the Saltire. That's what I'd wave when I'm supporting my team at Murrayfield or Hampden. That's the flag I took to British Lions games and no-one batted an eyelid - after all, I'm Scottish.

Whilst I'm generally of the view that Scotland is a distinct identity and one that has survived 300 years of Union, I'd be in favour of Scotland reassessing its relationship with England and Europe. Westminster has shown over the years that given the choice of benefitting the SE of England to the detriment of Scotland, it doesn't spend much time considering which course it will take.

But still, the Union Flag. Today, we're in the United Kingdom, an entity formed in 1707 as the result of the Scottish Parliament agreeing the 'Union with England' Act, complementary to England's 'Union with Scotland' act and resulting in the creation of a country 'united into one kingdom by the name of Great Britain'. As with all things there are benefits and downsides to the United Kingdom, but it helped us to forge ahead with many great achievements through the years - to deny that would be churlish. To do it from a position of relative comfort is a denial of reality. To want to revisit the terms of the union, well that's just fair enough.

Of the many things we share with our neighbours is the English language. It's a living & evolving thing of beauty. It won't be held fast by rules, it derives itself from German and Latin, steals from French, absorbs dialects and cultural references annually, as our bawbag neighbours (I before E except after C ) from Edinburgh might attest with Irvine Welsh's shorthand "Weegie" finally making it into the Oxford-English Dictionary in 2019.

The English language is tolerant, inclusive and open. It is made better by it's adopted children. Any language that is in the capable hands of Susie Dent is to be treasured and that is why when a language leaflet is designated as being in English - UK, it should proudly bear the mark of our shared history, not suffer the indignity of pandering to small minded people who can't see past their own prejudices. It should not be bullied into some colloquial statement that would seek to deny others the recognition of their contributions.