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There used to be a radio programme here in Canada which was an unabashed and unacknowledged rip-off of a very popular American radio programme. This show used to be broadcast from a different location in Canada every week. The presenter would talk a little about whatever place the broadcast was in and speak about the couple of days he'd just spent there. He always mentioned some popular local hang-out or institution. And then he would leave a pause in his script for a cheer or a burst of applause. Most times he got it. But there occasions when the mention was met by silence. It would appear that the hang-out or institution wasn't as popular locally as the presenter and his team of researchers had been led to believe. Perhaps the people who ran it were deeply, very deeply, unpopular with the locals. But the programme was like something out of that Hans Christian Anderson story, the King's New Clothes; you know the one about the foolish king and the invisible, non-existent, suit of clothes that all the fawning courtiers insisted was a thing of beauty, and then a kid who doesn't know any better announces the king is naked. Anyway, few would publicly criticise this show. I remember a visiting writer in Edmonton agreeing with a member of the public that the show featured some of the finest modern short stories being written in Canada today. I asked him afterwards if he really believed that, as I often found the stories trite, predictable and saccharine. No, he didn't think the stories were that great either, "but what can you say". Recently another visiting writer threw out to an audience at one of his talks that he was looking forward to spending some time while in Edmonton with a well known local author. The local author is a git. I really think folk should be careful risking their own reputation by trying to curry local favour by invoking supposedly popular community institutions. I'd had a lot of time for that visiting writer until he mentioned his new local best buddy. I'd liked him when we chatted a couple of years ago about Afghanistan. 

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I don't know about you, but I cringe when someone on television or radio starts spouting in that synthetic version of English known as Lallans, which some like to describe as "Guid Scots Tongue". There's something just bogus about it all. You can almost see them translating from the way they usually speak into this essentially made-up language. And I kind of resent having to translate it back into normal speech. A lot of the problem is there has never been a single Scots language which could be understood throughout Scotland. Each area of the Lowlands had it's own variety of English, which had evolved by mixing old Anglo-Saxon with even older tongues spoken locally. To this day, folk from various parts of Scotland have trouble comprehending what natives of other parts are saying if the dialect and accent is not toned down a bit. That's why education is best done in standard English. Many kids are tri-lingual; the English of the classroom, the English spoken in the playground and the language of home. And some lucky kids can also throw Gaelic into the mix. It's important that Scots conduct a national dialogue and the best language for that is as close to standard English as they can manage. Children should not be educated in language of the playground.  I actually find it a bit rude when someone on television or radio launches into a language that doesn't really exist and I have to make a big effort to comprehend. I think I can understand why sixty years ago, or more, some people thought there was need for Lallans but it was always a muddle-headed project. Language is constantly evolving and flowering - we don't need artificial blooms.

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If there is one kind of advertising I cannot stand it is for news programmes. These seem to consist of bimbos trying to look intelligent and earnest as they hold a cellphone to their ear before jumping into an SUV to rush to some kind of news story. The voice-over is meanwhile telling me, "You know what's happened, we tell you why". Well, for starters, I don't know what's happened because the programme's motto seems to be "Yesterday's News Tomorrow!" And the chances of a superficial news medium like television being able to explain much is very tiny. I've written for television; that's why I stuck with newspapers. TV news is footage of a broken doll or ripped teddy bear at the scene of a 10-killed-in-motorway-pile-up. I hardly blink an eye these days when seeing  actors in an advert wearing white coats pretending to be scientists quoting evidence that Product X works better than Product Y. Or even a happy chicken laying a egg. But news isn't a product like soap powder. Film of some bimbo running to an SUV with a cameraman, or woman, not far behind isn't going to persuade me of anything. Most people can judge for themselves who provides the best news coverage. And it's seldom the organisations that run adverts saying how wonderful they are. I would advise them to spend their money on journalism and wean themselves away from staged events and publicity masquerading as news.   

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I remember a time when many English shops could get pretty stroppy at the sight of a Scottish bank note. I once went down to London from Inverness and forgot to change my money. I was in one place and handed over a Scottish tenner in payment. The woman behind the counter announced in a loud voice "Oh, your from Bonnie Scotland then" and guys started coming out of the back shop carrying meat cleavers. I basically said either they took the note or they took the goods back. They took the note. Scottish notes are just as valid in England as Bank of England notes. Except that they are not legal tender. Legal tender is actually a technical term for a form of cash payment which cannot be refused when offered in payment of debt. No bank notes are legal tender in Scotland - only coins. But to get to my point. Scottish people often bitched about English shopkeepers turning their nose up at Scottish notes, but try to get a Scottish shopkeeper to touch an fiver from Ulster Bank. I didn't have much luck but the note was just as valid as any issued by Bank of Scotland, the Clydesdale or the Royal Bank of Scotland. I think there was a chip shop in Larne that not only accepted all the notes issued by British banks but also took Irish punts which were valued at 90 British pence to the pound. So, a £1 bag of ships cost one punt and tenpence. The other point I wanted to make is the English are maybe the worst people in the United Kingdom at being British. And that spills over into making folk in other parts of the country ignorant of what is happening in their own neck of the woods. I remember when the 12th juror was chosen at the High Court in Inverness everyone else called for jury service got up to leave. But there are 15 people on a Scottish jury. However, as nearly every courtroom drama on so called national television is English, you can see why so many Scots didn't know how many of them are needed for a jury. Just over 16% of the United Kingdom's population don't live in England but you'd never know it if you relied on the country's supposedly national broadcasters. 

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I was recently reading an American edition of a British book. This is always an irritating experience because I have to constantly remind myself that that's not how labour, colour or centre are spelt. But that's what I get for reading the American edition. What annoys me was when a piece of writing by a British person is quoted and their spelling is Americanized in the book. Look, the Japs attacked Pearl Harbor and the Saudis the World Trade Center. But there is no British Labor Party and no British person would write that there was. The spelling of proper nouns has to be respected. If for example, an organisation chooses to call itself "The Britush  Carporation for the Improvment of Speling", then that is how the name has to be rendered. The thing about putting something in quotes is that what has been said is exactly replicated. You have to put what the person said not what you think they should have said. The same is true when it comes to the written word. Changing the spelling strikes the same false note as quoting a London banker as though he talks like a New York docker, or longshoreman if you prefer. 

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