Crack throu the keekin gless: the story o stories an thair importance

Stories is a important pairt o the human ken. Awbody sees an hears stories aw ower the place ilka day, in ilka society: whither it’s in beuks, in lessons or juist in ilkaday crack, stories is pairt o aw wir lifes.1 Sae whit gars stories sae important for human society?

Ae thing spells daes for us is that thay forder wir uiss o imaigination by garrin us think an imaigine the chairacters, the plot an the settin o story. An imaigination is a gey an human skeel, a capacity that ither ainimals cannae uise like we can. Wir capacity tae imaigine the futur is ane o the raisons we maunt tae pit ower sae lang in Eastern Africa, an expand intae ither continents.

Creativity is sel-like, an connectit wi, imaigination: thay are baith verra human capacities that del intae the various possibílities o life. Creativity is a brawly important aspect o narrative.2 An creativity is forby ane o the weys tae actualise wir ettles in life. Sel-actualisation is ane o the psychological needs identified by Maslow. This is partícularly important for bairns’ psychological development whaur the need for imaiginative play is a indicator o success efter; in partícular, Nobel Prize winners dae mair creative play whan thay war weans.

Sel-development is fordert by stories, acause thay provide a wey o expressin unconscious desires an fears an a structur.3 The structur o stories is in the form o linear thocht. It is a realistic representation o time, a variable on whilk wir lifes is based.

Stories can be weys o haunlin emotions.4 It can forby whiles be a better wey o haunlin emotion than giein labels tae emotions.5 Thay can gie the readers, or hearers, a connection, whither personal or emotional, wi the author or wi the chairacters.

Stories can touch fowk emotionally, inspecially throu the chairacters: fowk can identify wi the chairacters or plot an compare that wi thair ain experience; fowk can unnerstaund the situation the chairacters is in an empathise wi thaim; we can appreciate the importance o the ideas set out in the story; we can unnerstaund the warld better wi the metaphors present, ideas, chairacters.

This can be a wey o connectin wi ither fowk, aftentimes wi fowk ye’v niver met, ye niver will, an whiles even fowk ye niver can meet, acause o the fact thay war tae the fore afore ye war born, or afore ye kent thay existit. Acause fowk can identify wi the chairacters, thay can hae therapeutic vailue. Stories can be forby weys o takkin wi an approbatin pairts o yersel.6

Stories gies meanin tae wir lifes7 an mak sense o wir lifes.8 This includes giein meanin tae the bygane times o wir lifes:9 it gies a narrative tae wir lifes, giein us a wey tae unnerstaund life. Deed, the feck o human knawledge is based on stories.10 Wir ideas o the past is shapit by the stories that relate tae it. Wir memories even can be shapit by wir stories anent thaim.11

Stories upsteirs us intae upbiggin wir empathy, maisttimes subconscious like: for tae unnerstaund the chairacters, the decísions thay tak, thair craves an the situations in whilk thay find thairsels, we need tae uise wir empathy. An this empathy skeels can then transpose on intae real life.

Stories reflect real life12 can conteen compares wi ither stories. Thay can even conteen allegories. Allegories can be interpret as bein basically story-lang similes.13 Sae that is even mair complex compare’t wi reality.

Similes an metaphors is signíficant pairts o the wark o language as it eiks mair meanins tae a wird. It forby allous us tae mak comparisons acqueish different aspects o wir reality, tae unnerstaund ae thing in terms o anither. In partícular, metaphors allous us tae see abstract ideas in terms o comparisons tae less abstract, mair concrete ideas.

Whan A wis a bairn, A uised tae think that scarraes wis wannecessar an that scarraes isnae leal tae the meanin o wirds. Thir days, A realise that it’s a signíficant, even peremptor, pairt o language. Whit gart me chynge ma mynd wis inspecially efter readin anent Conceptual Metaphors, a concep detailt in Woman, Fire and Dangerous Things by George Lakoff.14 Sae, hinderly, we can see that the feck o the wirds we uise in ony leid haes metaphors biggit intae thaim. Sicweys is symbolism an metaphor a major pairt o ony leid.

Stories, inspecially the maist epic lingelies, is lang and detailt expressions o thocht. An sae we can say thay are ensaumples o complete an complex discourse.

As staps intae the warld o fiction, stories can be weys o takkin fowk on carrants, on vaiges, on ferds, tae places an times thay hae niver been tae. Whiles, the anerly wey o pittin yersel intae the place o a partícular warld, inspecially, is tae read a beuk on it.

Stories can be weys tae pit forrit ideas, even ideas that isnae possible or even plausible, at least at the time o writin. For ensaumple, thare mony ideas that wis in science fiction novels afore it wis adoptit intae real life situations.

Stories (inspecially legends, whit the Shetlanders cry ‘stoil’) can be retellt wi variations. This allous for thare practically bein a complouther o multiple vyces ower hunneryears, outthrou history.

Tales that haes been modified ower the hunneryears, but is aye variants o the same tale, can be classified: thare is the Aarne–Thompson clessification sýstem for tales that can be consultit here.

Stories help us wi wir memory: stories is a memorable wey tae learn life lessons on the tane haund, an history an facts on the tither.15

Stories afttimes plays a muckle pairt in mnemonics an ither memory techniques. Acause o wir nature, us humans unnerstaund things better whan thay are in story form. It haes even been said that wir memories haes thair springheid in story form.16

Sae, in sum, we can say that stories is important for human society as it appluises us wi lang, linear expression o thocht for us tae haunle emotions an gie us meanin. An this helps us forder wir imaigination, memory an personality. It is forby a wey tae pit forrit ideas, that can be skared wi ithers.


James McDonaldJames McDonald is a Scots polyglot steyin in Réunion. He is keen on different leids, inspecially local leids, an thair forderin, whether it’s Scots, Gaelic, Réunion Creole or ither leids. He wirks in schuils, helpin bairns wi thair hamewirk an giein chess lessons. Ye can contact him on jmcd89 [AT] googlemail [DOT] com.

Glossar

For tips on readin Scots, alang wi a glossar o common wirds, see our cutty guide (written in English).

Scots English
afttimes frequently, oft-times
anent about
appluise make available to
approbatin accepting, validating
carrant an expedition
complouther a mixture
del delve, dig
ferd a journey, voyage
forby besides, in addition
gart compelled, made
hinderly eventually
lingelie a long-winded story, sermon, speech
maunt managed, succeeded in
on the tane haund on the one hand
peremptor imperative
scarrae a figure of speech, a metaphor
sicweys thus
skare share
spell a tale, story
springheid source, origin
upbiggin building up
upsteir stir up, rouse, incite
wannecessar (or unnecessar) unnecessary
whiles sometimes

Cultural diversity outthrou time an place

Thare is ither places the warld ower, an ither times outthrou history, wi differs: whiles it’s ither places we’v niver been tae (A’v niver been tae Oceania, for ensaumple) an whiles it’s e’en places we’v niver haurd o (maist fowk haesnae haurd o the island whaur A’m steyin, Réunion). As for ither times, thay can shaw differs an aw, whither it’s times we can mind wirsels, times we can project wirsels intae (sae the naur futur) or times remote fae wir ain experience.

Sae, aw in aw, we arenae alane in wir ain cultur nor in wir ain pynt in time.

Tae some stent, we’re mindit on ither times an places ilka day, but we’re aften mindit o the same times an the same places, whan thare a fair braider spectrum o existence available. The focus is mainly on recent epochs an dominant kintras, yer superpouers o the day: wir attention is a fair feck mair aften focussed on modren-day Americae as on New Guinea or the Mbuti; though, sae we’ll see later in this airticle, it isnae acause thir ither fowks dinnae hae things tae shaw us.

An the existin diversity is aften mair extraordinar nor whit we realise: maist fowk wadnae say thare wis sae mony as seiven thousand leids in the warld, but that’s about hou mony thare are. The differs acqueish different leids isnae wee, aither: thare is twa-three different methods tae encode evidentiality in the verb, whither it’s throu the uiss o affixes or pairticles or jyned in wi the tense sýstem. “Evidentiality? Whit’s that?” A hear ye say. Aye, that concept merkin the source o information that is common in the Native American languages an Scots an English disnae encode ava.1 An thare’s the antipassive, the equivalent o the passive in ergative leids. Ergative leids? That’s the leids that, like Bescayan or mony Aborigine leids, uises the (pro)noun o intransitive verbs like the object o transitive verbs.2 An the diversity in claes, cuisine, relígion, artisanry is comparable.

It is richt braw that thare is thir differs acqueish different kintras an times; we can rejyce in this diversity. It is richt braw that we are aw different, wi wir ain thochts, wir ain ideals, wir ain habits. We can aye learn fae ilk ither an we, quite simply, aw hae the richt tae exist an aw.

An this diversity is threitent. It is projectit that mony o thir thousands leids coud be deid gif current trends an affcomes contínue, in partícular the quarter o the current leids that is anerly spoken by less nor a thousand fowk. An the threit tae diversity in claes, cuisine, relígion, artisanry an mony ither domains o life is comparable.

An whit can be dangers o the utmaist loss o cultural diversity? In addítion tae the loss itsel, it can hae affcome on wir abílity tae hae alternatives and wir knawledge o sic alternatives. An thare can be negative lang-term eftercomes due tae the viability o the society.

We can see the societies in Jared Diamond’s ‘Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive’. In this 2005 beuk, he descrives hou certain societies haes foundert ower time. Whither that is acause thay war laith tae chynge tae fit thair environs or due tae thair eftercome on the climate, mony societies haes aither disappeart — like the Greenland Norse that refused tae uise fish like thair Inuit neibours — or been reduced tae a remnant o itsel — like the Rapa Nui that fellt treen an biggit statues, lea’in room for a environmental doun-drappin.

We’ll need tae see gif a siclike fate waits on certain modren societies, wi the potential for a environs-connectit doun-drappin like some o thaim descrived by Diamond in Collapse. An a waur case scenario, in terms o societal doun-drappin, wad be a general doun-drappin o humanity. We can think on hou, gif sic a society wis ower the hale globe, naebody, or awmaist naebody, wad survive. Tharefore a global society wad coud bring humanity itsel, the species tae whilk we aw belang, tae failure an destitution.

On the conter side o this, we can see the Malagasy at Tromelin, forhouied by the crew o a wrackit sclave ship, that geniously inventit a new cultur, evendoun at odds wi the existin ane that thay awready kent, wi new biggin, fishin an burial techniques.

Throu this an ither ensaumples outthrou history, we can ken whit’s possible, whit’s awready been duin, hou lang it’s lastit an whit upshot it can hae on the society.

Thare is the outlat that first comes fae L. P. Hartley’s The Go-between: “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” It means that, gif we gang back or forrit in time, a place winnae necessarily be kenspeckle. It entails that the Scotland wir forebears kent afore us can be fair different as the Scotland we ken thir days. Gif we war sent back twa hunneryear tae Jacobite rebellion times, we wad be outlanders wirsels in the sense that the habits wadnae correspond. It is important tae mind that we wirsels will be history some day, sae we sud tak tent that whit we lea’ for wir bairns an wir granbairns is something wirthwhile, creative, interestin, productive.

Thare is forby a beuk cried The Past is a Foreign Country by David Lowenthal that deals wi the wey fowk view the past, in partícular in líteratur, an hou fowk can learn anent the past.3

In it, Lowenthal, sae faur back as 1985, emphasised (p396) that the chyngin landscape meant that maist fowk is in wankent environs. Sae, the past isnae juist a outland place, but a outland place fae whilk we wirsels come.

Throu leukin at ither societies thir days whaur we are yet outlanders, we can ken whit habit or act is possible, whit is awready around, hou wide it is awready spread an whit consequences it can hae on the society.

For ensaumple, on the quaisten o gender roles: the association o men wi huntin an weimen wi gaitherin, or men wi war an weimen wi steyin at hame an siclike associations. We can figure out whither thir associations is biological or cultural by leukin at ither culturs. Juist ’ithin the ae island o twal million (New Guinea), we hae three different fowks wi three different gender role scenarios: thare is the Mudungumor, whaur baith sexes haes “masculine” roles; the Arapesh, whaur baith haes “feminine” roles; an thare e’en the Tchambuli, whaur fowk follaes the conter fae whit certain Wasterners wad expect.4 5 Sae we can see that the reality o human behaviour is a fair feck mair varit than whit a body wad coud think. Tharefore the idea that specífic gender roles is inherent tae humanity is due tae a incomplete knawledge o human behaviour.

Mair ensaumples can be fund in Jared Diamond’s latest beuk, The World Until Yesterday, on hou the habits o some hunter-gaitherer societies an hou thay can hae better ideas on certain topics than whit we dae.

A ensaumple o this is parentin, a domain whaur the Kung an the Aka haes better results, wi depression bein evendoun fremmit for thaim. Thir African hunter-gaitherer fowks haes a fair feck o phýsical contact as bairnies, an varied contact ’ithin the community, bein cared for by aw the ither fowk in the community an no juist the nuclear faimily whan thay hae time aff fae wark.

Leukin efter bairns is a verra human act, as is leukin at the past. An leukin at the past is a wey for us tae better unnerstaund the futur, itsel a capacity specífic tae humans. It’s a capacity that haes helpit humanity prevent itsel fae stervin an deein out thousands o years syne in East Africae.

As Joan Boades, a Catalan archivist an best-sellin author, haes said:

“I’m an archivist because I’m interested in the future rather than the past. Some scientists had established that human beings use the same part of the brain either to remember things or to imagine the future so if we translate this to a social context, we can say that a society that can’t remember its past also cannot imagine its future . . .” 6

This fact can be confirmed whan we leuk at the science: we can see that the thochts anent the past an the futur flaucht in multiple weys: for ensaumple, whan fowk haes Alzheimers, thay cannae mind the past an thay cannae imagine the forrit an ayont ony mair, aither.

An this leukin tae the futur hings in wi planification. Ae thing A wad tak fae that is that we can uise wir uniquely human capacity o planification for tae pertect wir uniquely human cultural diversity.

In conclusion, it is braw that thare is aw the variety an diversity in the warld an we sud forder it. No only that, but this diversity can be a wey for us tae better unnerstaund humanity an the warld. An leukin at different times an places that we dinnae ken sae weel is a specífically human capacity that we sud uise wittinly.


James McDonaldJames McDonald is a Scots polyglot steyin in Réunion. He is keen on different leids, inspecially local leids, an thair forderin, whether it’s Scots, Gaelic, Réunion Creole or ither leids. He wirks in schuils, helpin bairns wi thair hamewirk an giein chess lessons. Ye can contact him on jmcd89 [AT] googlemail [DOT] com.

Glossar

(Ye can translate ony wird atween Scots an English at the Online Scots Dictionar.)

Scots English
ae one
affcome effect
acqueish between
Bescayan Basque
conter contrary
differ difference
doun-drappin a state of collapse
eftercomes effects
environs the environment
evendoun absolutely, completely
flaucht intertwine
foundert collapsed, foundered
forder promote, advance
forhouied deserted, abandoned
forrit an ayont the way ahead; the future
fowks peoples
fremmit foreign, alien
geniously ingeniously
kenspeckle recognisable
laith loath
outland, outlander an outsider, stranger, alien
sclave slave
stent extent
sud shoud
treen trees
wankent unknown, unfamiliar
wir our
wittinly knowledgeably

Widney’s Fuil

Fa’s fuil are you?

Out o an aafu wee village, cam an aafu big chairacter. At first glance, Langside is juist a kintra village aside Peterheid, wi nae much gaun on. Wi a population o less than a thousand, fowk can even sometimes forget that the placie exists. But, ‘at disna mean that great things, an fowk, hinna cam fae there, an nae lang ago ah wis lat in on the story o a great Langsider — the story o Widney’s fuil.

Sae, come on than, “fa wis he?”, ye ask. Weel, some puir bugger wis wunnerin the same thing fan he says tae Jamie Fleeman, “Are you the Laird of Udny’s Fule?”, tae whilk the Doric spikkin loun shairply replied, wi his best kent wirds: “Aye, an fa’s feel are you?”

Born in Langside in 1713, Fleeman went on tae be ane o the very last o the faimily jesters in Scotland, whilk in itsel maks him staund out. Fit really made Widney’s fuil spécial, tho, wis the fact that he wisna really a fuil at aa. Aye, he wis a chiel wi a sense o humour, fa enjoyed naething better than kickin about the kintra. He even conformed tae the stereotypical glaiket-leukin appearance o fuils. Houiver, aa o the anecdotes o his life suggest that he wis faur fae stupit. In fact, Fleeman wis sic a signíficant chairacter in Scots history that he’s haen a beuk — The Life and Death of Jamie Fleeman — written about his life, an wis even mention’t in Bram Stoker’s Dracula’s Guest and Other Weird Stories.

Haud on readin . . . “Widney’s Fuil”

Toodily-doo, Flanderinos!

It stairts like this. Ye’re on yer traivels somewhaur — Malta, coud be, or Spain. Weel, mebbe no Spain. But whauriver. Somewhaur warm. Touristy. Nice, but no too nice. Say, Turkey. An ye’re in a bar. This daurk wee howff for fowk wha cannae staund the heat. Weel, there’s a queue in this bar, an here’s you, staundin in it. Fower places back fae the front, an there’s nae twa people in the place speak the same leid as ony ither twa. This micht tak a while.

It daes, o course. But at lang an last ye’re ane awa fae the bar, an prayin that the chiel in front o ye’s o a mind tae keep it simple. Peely-wally fellae. Sunglesses. He raises his haund, flashes up the wee peace sign.

“Twa mair beer,” he says.

Yer jaw draps. Gin ye’d a drink in yer haund, ye’d be wipin it aff the fluir. O aw the gin joints in aw the warld..! Ye’v heard it aw, bi nou; the Serbo-Croat for can ah hae a Black Russian, Mai-Tais magicked up in Madeira Portuguese. Yet wha’d hiv thocht? The wunner o thaim aw! A Bud Light speirt for in guid braid Border Scots! Ye sidle on up tae the bar wi a smile. The boy shoots ye kind o a leuk. But that’s awricht. He disnae ken that ye ken. Haud on readin . . . “Toodily-doo, Flanderinos!”

Scots as a leid o education

In this airticle, we’ll leuk at the faisibility o the uiss o Scots in education. Syne whan haes it been uised in education? In whilk wey it is uised in education? An is it siclike wi ither leids? For tae answer thae quaistens, we can leuk at the history o Scots an its uiss in education . . .

Fae the middle o the nineteent hunneryear till the end o the twintiet hunneryear, Scots wisnae gien a place in Scots schuils ava; it wis whiles doun-hauden even.1

On the ither haund, Scots wis a fair feck mair uised in Scots schuils afore the 18t hunneryear, as we can see fae this quote fae The Register o the Privy Seal o Scotland:2

“Ane instructioun for bairnis to be lernit in Scotis and Latene…” (1559)

Haud on readin . . . “Scots as a leid o education”

Surfeit Uiss o Digital Technology

Technology, an the mair by taiken digital technology, haes baith positive an negative eftercomes. Technology can hecht possibílities we wadnae itherwise hae. On the ae haund, technology in general can help us redd up problems: technology can allou us tae dae mony things fae the maist basic huntin gibbles tae space shuttles. On the ither haund, technology can cause hashery for the feck o humanity, whether it’s technology that’s uised for killin fowk (like nuclear wappens) or connachin wir environs (like fossil fuels), or connachin wir brain cells, like whit we’ll see efter in this airticle.

Digital technology is a fair guid ensaumple o the foresaid general description o technology: wi it, we can communicate wi fowk the ither side o the warld. An that’s braw; A wadnae can write this airticle itherwise. We can keep in touch wi fríends an faimily on the ither side o the warld. But, at the same time, digital technology can distract us fae actual real life human traffeck that we war born for. For wir psychological growthe, as weel as ither aspects o wir halth, digital communication micht get yer wirds throu tae the ither body, but it’s sae sib tae real life communication as Jackie Stuart is tae the heir o the Jacobites.

Haud on readin . . . “Surfeit Uiss o Digital Technology”