Someone to spik up for Doric at last

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IT'S A SAIR chavv, ma loons an' quines, fan ye canna e'en spik in yer ain tongue ti fowk fae far ye bide.

Are you with me? If you are then you'll know that I am having a much needed stretch of the old grey muscle about the state of the north-east's dialect. It is called 'the Doric' for anyone still reading but still unable to understand. And despite genuine fears that it is under threat from an increasingly cosmopolitan modern-day Scotland - aye, those who live north of the Forth Bridge do know what a latte and a panini are, you know - it received a welcome shot in the arm last week from within the confines of the Scottish Parliament.

Maureen Watt, an SNP MSP from the north-east - Keith to be exact, therefore officially classed as a cyard (fiery personality) in the Doric dictionary - made her oath to the institution and the Scottish people in her mither tongue thus: "I, Maureen Watt, depone aat I wull be leal and bear ae fauld alleadgance tae her majesty Queen Elizabeth her airs an ony fa come aifter her anent the law. Sae help me God."

Rosie Kane may have believed that she was revolutionary by turning up in the confines of the Holyrood debating chamber in her civvies, with the words "my oath is to the people'' scribbled on her palm, but for anyone with the slightest interest and belief in the continuation of all that is rich and diverse about Scottish culture, I would argue that Watt has done something of far more import.

For as much as it might sometimes seem easier and more conducive to presenting a united force to the world that we pretend Scotland is a unique yet fairly homogenous country, surely we should be proud of the different languages and cultures that make up the best small country in the world. If we truly mean this, then we need to be more proactive in educating ourselves and more importantly our children that the variations of the Scottish tongue are not for the textbooks of a history lesson, but for a modern languages lesson instead.

I was born in Keith, and both my parents were schooled and brought up there. We are of farming blood and of the Doric tongue. Yet I was educated at schools barely 10 miles west of Keith and from an early age taught and told that to speak Doric at school, no matter how slight, was not only wrong but unbecoming of an educated young person.

Several encounters with teachers who made it clear that I would be considered less intelligent if I didn't start changing my ways are still ingrained on my memory. This left my parents in the rather uncomfortable position of having to talk differently to their children than how they spoke to one another, in an admirable effort to aid their daughters' education. My mother would tell my father to park the car "on the chuckie staines", then tell me not to throw the "stones" near the car. And so on, and so the more bizarre.

So what Maureen Watt represented last week cannot only have affected me in its recognition of an important cultural voice, but recognition of it in such a significant surrounding is absolutely a cause for celebration. What shouldn't happen, however, is that it be thought of as an oddity not worth repeating. The Doric is a beautiful, cheeky, evocative language that sums up so much of the Scottish character. Let's allow a new generation of youngsters to hear it celebrated and respected.

Anything else will leave them questioning their roots with unnecessary paranoia, and becoming a right dumfoonert cyard, just like me.