Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Saturday 7 March 2009

Gaelic-English road signs and the hazard they pose

(Please see the UPDATES and the NB/ at end)

Efforts by the [self-]important Gaelic Committee on Highland Council to spread the use of bilingual Gaelic-English road signs on trunk routes into and out of the area are being called into question, at long last, by evidence (so far anecdotal) that they impede driver understanding of the directions being given and may lead to accidents. Before ploughing on with installing more of these bilingual signs into and throughout the region, studies are being called for by Stewart Stevenson, Scottish transport minister, to determine what problems, if any, can be quantified.

I tried to make the last part of the previous paragraph as 'neutral' as possible, but let me be clear - I consider some of the bilingual Gaelic-English signs a positive menace and have on occasions 'whizzed' past an example of these signs at 50 or 60 MPH in my car and questionned whether I was on the correct road, mostly roads with which I am perfectly familiar. The problem is that the Gaelic version appears above the English version in the same [or larger?) size of typeface and in a brighter and more prominent colour, which possibly only makes it appear bigger.

Unfortunately Highland Council's Gaelic committee chairman, Hamish Fraser, has 'form' on this issue, receiving criticism from a Caithness councillor as long as three years ago for arrogantly riding roughshod over criticism of the road-sign language policy he advocates.

(Other articles I have written about Gaelic language issues may be found here and here, both written during 2005 when a Gaelic Language Bill was being debated by the Scottish Parliament.)

UPDATE: (Wednesday 18MAR09 09.30 RST) Very interesting comments to this article; commenters have flung the term 'racist' in my direction - specifically commenter 2 ("Mac 'ic Iain") and commenter 4 and 6 (both by "AaronK"). Whilst I dispute the use of the term 'racist' in this context in relation to the opinions I have expressed (perhaps a 'linguistic imperialist' might be a better term to use as although that is not true either at least it bears some relation to the matters under discussion), I decided to do a little research to try and identify who these two for all intents and purposes 'anonymous' commenters are.

"AaronK" seems to be in Calgary, Alberta (Canada) and using a Shaw Communications Inc internet connection, with IP

"Mac 'ic Iain" seems also to be in Calgary, Alberta (Canada) and using a server at "Calgary Roman Catholic School" as the internet connection, with IP

Interestingly, a couple of moments before the timestamp of "AaronK's" first comment (comment 4) there was a visit from another western Canadian origin based on searches involving this blog article seemingly from Richmond, British Columbia (Canada), also using a Shaw Communications Inc internet connection, with IP

What seems clear, therefore, is that I have offended one or perhaps two "Gaels" in western Canada. Tough! I do wonder if the offence taken may have causes in addition to the purported 'racism' with which I am charged, given that I am gay and that one of the commenters, at least, seems either to teach at or attend the "Calgary Roman Catholic School"; I will fling around a term of my own - the Catholic Church is not known as tolerant in its attitudes towards human sexuality and I believe it is institutionally 'homophobic' and has historically, in many different countries, connived at covering up the sexual misdemeanors of priests in its service involving child molestation. The very recent comments of the Pontiff in relation to homosexuality highlight just what a sick organisation the Roman Catholic Church is; it is not alone as a religious organisation in having 'weird' views about human sexuality, of course. I consider myself an atheist, although my family background is mixed Protestant (Scottish) and Catholic (Republic of Ireland).

Finally, I have observed in my site visit statistics that this article has been viewed both by people in Nairn (where I have my Scottish home) and by people visiting from the Scottish Parliament and from Scottish Media Group, none of which have resulted in the hysterical reactions, or any reaction, of my correspondents from Calgary, Alberta (Canada). I think that factor is quite telling.

2nd UPDATE: (Wednesday 18MAR09 10.20 RST) In "AaronK's" latest comment, full of the usual pseudo-scientific linguistic/racial mumbo-jumbo, he comments: I am not the one making racial categories, whereas he stated earlier that I exhibit 'racist' views and in an earlier comment made this remark: Just because you're Scottish does not mean you are not hostile and yes racist towards Gaels and Gaelic, presumably because he considers use of the word 'Gael' to be a racial category. His comment that he is not the one making racial categories is demonstrably not in accordance with the facts.

3rd UPDATE: (Wednesday 18MAR09 10.30 RST) In "AaronK's" latest comment (he really is obsessed!) - I always tell my family and friends that I'd love to see some of the Gael-haters attempt to get away with some of their comments in North America. This idiocy about Gael-haters is complete rubbish, unless you want me to agree that I hated the grandfather that I loved (the Scottish one) or the other grandfather that I loved (the Irish one). Ah yes, gun-toting North America - perhaps that kind of reaction to 'dissident viewpoints' goes in the US and even in western Canada, but I doubt if it would have much traction in Ottawa at federal level, from what I know of Canadian politcs. Most amusing - you seem to have no sense of irony "AaronK" - lol.

4th UPDATE: (Wednesday 18MAR09 10.45 RST)Did I use the word 'obsessed' in relation to "AaronK"? Well, all I'll do now is simply quote his latest comment in full - it's a real yawn-fest - it's like reading some obsessive tract on matters that only a few individuals have the remotest interest in. As for why the people who matter, those who actually live in Scotland, should have the remotest interest in what an anachronistic sect has to say about politics here, it's a mystery to me: No Bill, wrong again. Scottish Anglo society is the one that developed the idea that Gaels are a separate and inferior racial group. You are the one engaging in mumbo jumbo. You have merely assumed the attitudes of the culture you were raised in vis-a-vis Gaels, and the idea that they are an inferior group. In the historical context this has referred to more than just language, but to the very people themselves. The comments that constantly emerge from the Gael-hating community in Scotland is inextricably linked to this ideology. The Irish (South and North) had enough of that partcular kind of interference in their internal affairs from North American IRA-supporters and funders, until the events of 11 September 2001 awakened them to the duplicity (or actually the politically disastrous consequences for them domestically in the US of continuing support for a terrorist organisation) of their historic analyses in relation to their ancestral homeland.

I have decided I have been tolerant long enough - any further comment on this blog article will be deleted.

PS/ I have so far had to delete a further 6 or 7 comments from "AaronK"; I will continue doing so until he gets bored and stops posting his bile here. Luckily we will soon reach the 2-week stage when Blogger automatically asks for blog-owner approval before permitting comments to appear, even in blogs like mine which do not require moderation for recent post comments. PPS/ I am getting fed up of having to delete "AaronK's" increasingly-hysterical comments, so I have altered the default settings for commenting in this blog by reducing the period when unmoderated comments are permitted to appear without my prior approval. PPPS/ I notice that "AaronK" is in the process of deleting many/all of his own comments, which results in the message "Removed by the comment author" appearing where the comment was. I am now deleteing that remaining reference so comments HE has deleted will appear never to have existed in my blog; however, I maintain an offline record of ALL his comments for archival purposes. PPPPS/ "AaronK" seems now to have finished his work of deleting most if not all of his comments, but I plan (when I get a moment) to repost them all, including my own comments interspersed with his, in a new blog article so that he cannot hide from the hysterical tone of all, and the threatening nature of some, of his comments, not to mention the whining "why is the world so cruel to me" tone of one or two of them. (Note added on Wednesday 18MAR09 at 18.37 RST - You can now read that later blog article here.)

NB/ I have just come across an article on this topic in Graisg's (of the Gurn from Nurn blog) in his blog dealing with Gaelic language issues. Obviously Graisg takes a somewhat different view of the issue of bi-lingual roadsigns than I do, but in actual fact there is not so much difference in our views as one might suppose. In fact I have absolutely no 'objection' to having bilingual road signs in Highland Region (or elsewhere in Scotland for that matter, if people want them), however I would like the majority language to be given at least equal prominence on such roadsigns; it is very noticeable that in all the photographs in Graisg's article, the languages used all have very equal prominence, or in a few cases the majority language has greater prominence. The same holds true in Spain where bilingual roadsigns are often used in specific areas, but great care seems to have been taken to ensure that all languages used are given equal prominence.


  1. You're not doing a very good job of "combatting bigotry" if you can publish this crypto-racist nonsense

    There is only one reason why people oppose the use of Gaelic on signage and it comes down to nothing more or less than bigotry and prejudice against a minority ethnic group.

    Perhaps you habitually denigrate other cultures and languages too? But whether it is everyone who is different or just Gaelic speakers, it doesn't make you any less of a racist.

  2. Hello "Mac 'ic Iain" - no email address so effectively an anonymous and pretty hysterical comment.

    crypto-racist nonsense

    What utter rubbish! If you want your comment to be taken seriously then you should, quite frankly, mind your tone and NOT indulge in hyperbole. I do not, for the record, oppose the use of Gaelic on signage and have never written that I do - I do however oppose the use of this language in a more prominent position on signs than the language spoken by the vast majority of people both in Scotland and the rest of the UK, English.

    I will ignore the 'rant' contained in your final paragraph. If you post more comments in my blog containing such arrant nonsense, not to mention lies about what I have wirtten I shall quite simply delete your comment; I'm afraid this is a private blog and I expect people to be polite when the comment here - I make the rules so if you don't like it, don't visit. You should set up your own blog if you want to spread your blinkered views. Bigots such as you have no place in my blog; I dislike intensely people who fling around terms such as 'racist' without a shred of evidence to back it up. Incidentally I am a Scot, so whatever other term you may care to use about me, 'racist' is a complete misapplication of that word in this context. It is, in technical terms, a 'category error'.

  3. So, another anonymous commenter (the email address bears no relationship to the email address used in the Google profile seemingly created solely for the purpose of commenting here - may even be the same person as the previous commenter, for all I know, with whom 'agreement' is expressed), considers it 'racist' to wish road signs to display the language spoken by over 98 per cent of the population in the areas where bi-lingual are displayed at least as prominently as that used by less than 2 per cent of the population? I think that is nonsense.

    The charge of 'racism' is doubly-inappropriate in that not only am I mainly Scottish, but all of my heritage is from a Gelic-speaking backround; quite frankly I think you need to consult a semi-decent dictionary to discover what that word means and not fling around verbal insults which arhas he offended the completely idiotic.

    Finally I have no idea who Allan Brown is. Is he a 'racist', too, or has he offended the Gaelic mafia as well?

  4. Hello again 'Aaron K' - thankyou for commenting again. You really do need to consult a dictionary. I am, by heritage, completely from a 'Gael' background; the fact I do not speak (or do not choose to use) Gaelic has nothing to do with it.

    Call what I write 'linguistic imperialism' if you like, but it is not 'racist'.

    I am addressing other remarks associated with your comments and with the comment made by "Mac 'ic Iain" in an UPDATE to my blog article, rather than in these comments.

  5. While I may be commenting on your particular post about signs, in actuality I am commenting on the totality of events that have impacted Gaels in Scotland. The distinction of Gaels as a separate race is actually quite well documented in Scottish history. Prevalent in this ideology was that Gaels, as people, and their language are inherently inferior. Though some suggested, obviously meant in your case, that Gaels were capable of "improvement". How nice. The present bigotry expressed against Gaelic, be it over signs, or money "wasted" on BBC Alba, or schools,or even Allan Brown, a prominent Scottish columnist referring to Gaelic as "Hebridean twittering" among other negative characterizations, all allude to this earlier ideology that was in fact linked to ideas of race. So using race when describing how the dominant Anglo culture views and acts towards Gaelic has a historical context and is not at all out of place.

    thanks very much. I love Gaelic and any opportunity, no matter how unpleasant, I have to talk about it, I thoroughly enjoy.

  6. So using race when describing how the dominant Anglo culture views and acts towards Gaelic has a historical context and is not at all out of place.

    Same old confusion I'm afraid. Are we talking about 'race' or 'culture'? Whatever way you slice it I am of 100 per cent "Gael" origin (Scottish and Irish). I have absolutely no 'Anglo' blood in me so far as I am aware, not that it would bother me if I had.

    I won't comment further here; please read the 'UPDATE' to my blog article if you have not already done so. Whatever comments you may have about that, if any, I shall not be adding my own further comments either.

  7. Well typically people only react if they dislike what they are reading. Given the low traffic on your blog as is I would assume most of the viewers either know you or were attracted by a certain headline. The headline you use in regards to Gaelic signs already tips your hand as to which side you support.
    And as for Gaels in far flung places, we are indeed everywhere!

  8. No I think you've pretty much decided to end your relationship to Gaelic and Gaels, your genetic connection is what it is, codes of DNA. Whoopee!
    There is no confusion, lol. I am not the one making racial categories. These are pre-existing ideologies that shape the reactions that people reared in Anglo society have towards Gaels, and many other cultures I might add. Though in the Scottish context they are directed more specifically towards Gaels.

  9. To "AaronK": In case you have not read the PS/ to the 4th UPDATE to my blog article, I repeat it below for your information:

    PS/ I have so far had to delete a further 6 or 7 comments from "AaronK"; I will continue doing so until he gets bored and stops posting his bile here. Luckily we will soon reach the 2-week stage when Blogger automatically asks for blog-owner approval before permitting comments to appear, even in blogs like mine which do not require moderation for recent post comments.


Welcome to my comment area. Whilst all comment is welcome you are requested to respect the views of others. To read full terms for use of this facility, please visit my 'Terms of Use' section, linked to under the 'About this Blog' heading at top right of the blog. Note added 12JUL2010 - All comments will now be pre-moderated before they appear in this blog; this is a measure to prevent 'spam' commenting, which has become frequent of late. Thank you.