23rd October 2018
Established 1872. Online since 1996.

Offended by Da Whitrit (Alasdair MacEachen)

As a fairly long standing Hebridean subscriber to The Shetland Times, I can say that I rarely set eyes on particularly offensive remarks in your paper. But I think that Da Whitrit has gone a bit over the top this time (16th January) when he states that “he cannot abide the sound of Gaelic”.

I cannot imagine that the sound of Gaelic will bother too many people on Shetland and I am not well versed enough in the Shetland dialect to know if you have a Shetland speak for helicopter or marmalade, but I think that Da Whitrit could do with a few lessons in the origin of some of the other examples quoted.

No Gaelic for Aly McCoist? Well Aly/Alistair/Alasdair or however you may wish to spell the name, is in fact the Gaelic version of Alexander and any surname with the prefix Mac/Mc (the Gaelic for son of) is again taken straight from the Gaelic language, whether it be the Scottish or Irish version … and I cannot think what the origin may be, but my guess is that the Coist part of the surname also originates from Gaelic or Irish given that it is prefixed by Mc.

As for place names … as in Lerwick, we have numerous place names and island names throughout the Hebrides that take their origin from the Norse language … for example Brevig, Sandwick, and islands Mingulay, Boreray, Berneray, Eriskay etc.

The examples I have given here are written in the Anglicised form but given that the names are as old as the Gaelic language itself and used long before English was ever spoken in the Hebrides, then of course there is a Gaelic version of every such place name on the map, spelt according to the way that the place name is pronounced in the language.

So, it follows that if the Gaelic weather forecaster is telling us about the weather in Sandwick in Lewis and referring to the place by its Gaelic name, why would he/she turn to English to tell us what the weather was like in Lerwick in Shetland? They simply would not do so, and so Lerwick is referred to using the same spelling and pronounciation rule as similar place names on the western seaboard of our country.

I wonder what your neighbours in the north would have to say if you told them that Da Whitrit cannot abide the sound of Faroese, in favour of the Danish language? Da Whitrit would be sent on the next boat to Iceland no doubt.

Alasdair MacEachen
Benbecula,
Western Isles.

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