LEST year, A scrievit a column oan the braw new British Sign Leid qualification frae the SQA. As pairt o thon airticle A wantit tae speak o the native yaisers o BSL, but A cam up agin a problem whan referin tae them in Scots. Leid is important – aw activists an makars in minority leids ken thon. Fir instance A kent that in deaf culture ‘Deaf’ aften his a dífferent meanin than ‘deaf’. But ma instinct alsae telt me that ‘deif’ didnae mean the same as ‘deaf’, and that ‘Deif’ meant naethin at aw. Whit tae dae? Yaise tried an testit English terms in a Scots airticle? Or try an stert the journey fir Scots terms that the English equivalents his bin oan fir decades? A spiered at some deaf fowk A ken an in the end hedged in the airticle itsel, yaisin the English ‘deaf’ – it wisnae ma place tae stert the journey yon dey.

Oniebody scrievin in Scots aften his tae hae a hink frae first principals aboot whit wird tae yaise. Wider culture his a stereotype o minority leids no haein wirds fir ‘modren’ concepts – a stereotype that spills ower tae the near-universal joke ‘blah blah blah helicopter blah blah blah’. A’d be surprised gin ye’d bade in Scotland mair nor a few year afore hearin an anti-Gaelic version o thon joke. Sic baurs tak nae accoont, o coorse, o the fack that English ‘disnae hae’ wirds fir thae concepts aither: helicopter (French, frae Latinised Greek), computer (French, frae Latin), antibiotic (French, frae Latin), television (French, frae Greek and Latin dingit thegither). Can English no staun it’s lane? It’s clearly jist a dialeck o French! Famously, the fowk tellin the ‘blah blah blah helicopter blah blah blah’ joke aw speak Latin. In fact, fir maist o them Latin’s ower mongrel an they prefer Proto-Indo-European for chats doon the pub.

Ae wey tae get roon haein nae wards fir a concept wioot borrowin frae anither leid is the French route o an offícial Academy. The Académie française is weel kent fir bein agin the inbring o English. As a schuil bairn learnin French we wis learnt the Académie’s wey o speakin, which is hoo come bairns up an doon the British Isles wis dutifully reportin that at the weekend (le week-end) they lístened tae their ‘baladeur’, while actual French bairns, mair wice-like, lístened tae their ‘walkman’.

But haein a comatee o forty auld white dudes in fancy jaikits (A’ll be needin ane o thae embroidert jaikits toot de sweet) isnae the ainly wey new terms cam intae a leid. Wirds frae marginalised groups, sic like the deaf community, growe up in a wheen o weys. Short ago the Scots makar, Dr Harry Josephine Giles, addressed the want o LGBT leid in Scots. Fir tae stert a collogue aboot it, Dr Giles made a pickle suggestions fir an LGBT Scots glossary.

They stertit by pyntin oot that European minoritised leids aften lack contemporary LGBT terms. This is pairtly acause at the time whan medical terms an community terms cam intae bein European nation-states wis makkin shair o thir nationhood and leid, aften sair hauddin doon the linguistic diversity wi-in thir borders. Aw ower Europe, minoritised leids aften yaise the wirds o the dominant leid, or een jist English, fir thae concepts. An hoo is thon a problem? Dr Giles argies that this ‘tends towards a homogeneity of identity based on Anglocentric norms of gender and sexuality’. Thae terms is culturally contextual, an fir Dr Giles it’s important fir speakers o European minority leids tae express thirsels in their ain cultural terms.

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Dr Giles is no the ainly person in Scotland daein this wark. Dr Emily McEwan, fir instance, his done siclike fir the Gaelic, identifyin that maist o the Gaelic wirds fir LGBT fowk is derogatory, an gaitherin a group o Gaels tae come forrit wi the best Gaelic wirds – some Gaelicisations o English terms, some translations o the same etymology, an some made o hale claith. Naither Dr McEwan nor Dr Giles is awn that thae wirds will be oan the tongues o aw spikkers themorra. Still, it’s guid tae discuss, tae boo, rax an streek a leid, tae luik at whit owersettin dis and disnae tell us aboot concepts, identities an oor ain leid forby. Fir Dr Giles, it’s a wey tae explore hoo tae descrive thirsel in thir ain native tongue, an is that no a fine hing?

A’d encourage ye tae seek oot Dr Giles’s suggestions oan their Twitter (@HarryJosieGiles). They shaw a braw depth o thocht aboot whaur the English terms comes frae, whit they dae in the leid an hoo tae fully translate them – no jist by Scottifyin the wirds, but by makkin the wirds dae the wark o culture-cairyin. Fir exaimple, Dr Giles first suggestit that transgender cuid be ‘transgenner’ in Scots, and cisgender cuid be ‘cisgenner’. But neist they went furth o thon calque an howked intae the terms. Sin cisgender descrives a body wha steys the same gender as they wis ascribit at birth, an transgender descrives a body wha chynged genders, Dr Giles made the suggestion o ‘but-bidan’ fir trans and ‘ben-bidan’ fir cis. Cantie, coothie an queer – a Scotland A can get ahint.