A wee word about the Scots

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Scotland really is a different country. They have a different agenda up here. The lead stories in the Scottish papers, for example, are not generally the same as down south. For a week or two there has been a series of revelations about sexual goings-on at Celtic Football Club (youth managers in the past being accused of molesting younger players) which I don't think have hit the headlines in England. Imagine if it were revealed that young players at Manchester United had in the past been sexually harassed by the staff. Imagine what a hoo-ha would arise. Manchester United would be so embarrassed they would probably change their playing strip again. But it being Celtic, the matter comes under the heading of foreign news.

Football priorities are predictably different, too. On Sunday afternoon I was in a pub called the Conan Doyle at the top of Broughton Street in Edinburgh, trying to persuade the bar staff to put up a poster for our show.

("I'm sorry, we're not putting up Fringe posters."

"Ah, but this is different. Look at the title - 'The Death of Tchaikovsky - Sherlock Holmes Mystery'. That's why I've come to the Conan Doyle!"

"Well, I don't know, I'll have to ask the boss when he comes in...")

And there on the bar TV set was a live football match on Sky, Manchester United v Blackburn Rovers, so I sat and watched it idly for 10 minutes until a large and rather drunken Scot came in and stood at the bar. He looked at the TV. An idea came to him. He commandeered the remote control and turned the TV over to Ceefax.

"Hey!" we shouted, in a cowardly whisper.

"It's OK," he said, "I just want to see the Hearts result."

After a long wait while he drunkenly tried to find it, but could only locate all the cheap holiday offers in the world, it finally flashed up.

Aberdeen 4 Hearts 0.

The man slumped on a bar stool.

"Oh, shite," he said. "Oh, I canna believe it."

He sat staring at the screen in a coma, for minutes.

"Could we have our football back please ?" someone said.

He turned round and stared.

"Don't give me a hard time," he said aggressively.

It was an exciting moment. We were in a land where Hearts was more important than any team like Manchester United. We were about to get in a fight with a drink-inflamed Scot. And we were also in a land where they had pubs with names you wouldn't get down south. In England they have pubs named after Sherlock Holmes, who was English. In Scotland they have pubs named after Conan Doyle, who was an Edinburgh man. Vive la difference.

Another difference is in the language, even in newspapers. Regularly I encounter words in print up here which I have never seen before. "Stoater" and "tanking" are words I have met before, and learnt the meaning of, but already this time around I have come across "bufty" and "bampot" in reputable papers, and have no idea what they mean.

The clincher came yesterday when the papers led off with two attacks on media figures, one by the BBC's Colin Cameron on Kate Adie, the other by John Ware on Esther Rantzen. Mr Cameron was cross about Kate Adie's "forensic" approach to the reporting of the Dunblane shootings, while John Ware was scathing about Esther Rantzen's report on a London hospital.

I wonder if you can guess which news item got more headlines in the English papers, and which got more headlines up here in Scotland? Correct. Dunblane was headline news in Scotland and Esther Rantzen headline news down south.

Far be it for me to say which was the more important, but there is one point I would like to pick up, and that is Colin Cameron's use of the word "forensic". I think he meant to say that Kate Adie was cool and detached, impartial and not sympathetic. But this is not what "forensic" means. It means "used for legal purposes". Forensic science is science used for the purposes of determining someone's guilt or innocence, surely? A person can't actually be forensic, and I certainly don't think he meant that Kate Adie had rushed into Dunblane to determine guilt or innocence. I suppose that "forensic" is going the same way as "clinical", from a nice technical term to a meaning of detachment (the same way that "chronic" has gone from usefully meaning "long-term" to uselessly meaning "really awful" ).

Still, it's nice to know that Scots get words wrong too.

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