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by Staff reporter
24 January 2023
Outlander author says the word Scotch has fallen out of favour as the SNP has grown in popularity

Outlander author says the word Scotch has fallen out of favour as the SNP has grown in popularity

Diana Gabaldon, the author of the Outlander books, has said the word ‘Scotch’ has fallen out of usage in direct correlation to the SNP’s rise to power.

Responding to a tweet asking about a hat worn by an Outlander character, Gabaldon said he was wearing a “Scotch bonnet with a feather in it” and noted that that was “very traditional”.

She stressed that she did mean to use the word Scotch and added that “EVERYONE (including all the Scots) used that term until the SNP got into power in the mid-20th c.)”.

Numerous people took issue with the tweet, with former Glasgow councillor Mhairi Hunter saying that most Scots actually call the kind of hat in question “a bunnet”, adding that “the SNP was first elected to government in 2007 & have no strong views on headgear as far as I know (& I'm in the SNP so I think I would)”.

Aberdeenshire councillor Fatima Joji also responded to Gabaldon’s tweet, writing that “the Scottish Parliament wasn’t even formed until 12 May 1999 so quite confused about what you are saying about the SNP here”.

Gabaldon posted a further tweet, saying she wanted to bring clarity  for people who were “mildly confused” by her claims about the word Scotch and pointing out that her comments were based on extensive research carried out over a number of years.

“I actually do quite a bit of research when writing these books (and have been doing, for the last thirty-five years),” she said.

“A lot of said research involves reading things written by actual Scottish people – both fiction and non-fiction – and that's why I feel reasonably OK about saying that most things written by Scottish people through the late eighteenth, nineteenth and early 20th centuries used the word ‘Scotch’ without the slightest blush.”

She went on to cite a book called My Best Scotch Stories by Sir Harry Lauder as well as the song I Love A Lassie otherwise known as Ma Scotch Bluebell.

Despite this, she said the majority of non-Scottish people she talks to, whether about Outlander or otherwise, are “Extremely Careful to use only the word ‘Scot’, while sedulously avoiding ‘Scotch’”, adding that the move away from Scotch has coincided with the rise of the SNP.

“There were several shifts in usage that occurred through the middle of the 20th century, and these correlated roughly with the growth of the SNP into visibility (That's what I mean by "came into power'' – not that they were running the government, but that they had achieved some political representation) ,” she wrote.

“I don't mean to imply that the SNP dictated a change from ‘Scotch’ to ‘Scot/Scots/Scottish’ (or that they could); merely that I see the linguistic change occurring roughly parallel with the emergence of the party.

“Chance is that an underlying development of nationalistic feeling was driving both political and linguistic developments.”

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