Sunday, June 15, 2008

Cajuns and Castles

The segue begins:

Earlier I posed a question in passing about what the largest (cargo tonnage) port in the USA was. The name of that port is the Port of South Louisiana, which also happens to be the largest port in the Western Hemisphere. So what? Lots of Cajuns work there. So what? Well....

"Cajuns" is a corruption of the word "Acadians", French speakers who migrated to Louisiana from, um, Acadia. Acadia is the old name for Nova Scotia (and parts of NB and PEI) provinces of Canada.

All together now: "SO WHAT??!!!!"

Good. You're catching on.

Acadia was renamed, after chasing out the Acadians, by immigrants who thought Nova Scotia would be a really good name for their new home. Can you guess where these new people came from? Wrong. Settlers of Nova Scotia came mostly from loyal British subjects fleeing the American Revolution.

But, up until that, it was a pretty darn good segue, no?


Our new topic is Scotland. (Not New Scotland.) Are you from Scotland, either originally or still? Are you from somewhere else, but live in Scotland now? Please tell your stories and share your perspectives. Recount memories if you are willing. Again, no Google or Wikipedia fact lists or histories, please. Personal stuff is what we will find interesting here.

Tell me about yourselves, please.


  1. Not only is Scotland very separate from England, there is also a great east-west divide.

    When we lived there my husband had an office in both Edinburgh and Glasgow, so we chose to live pretty well equidistant between the two. The first time he decided to travel from one to the other, he was greeted by looks of amazement. When he asked what the problem was, they asked where his suitcase was, for surely he would have to stay overnight. It's roughly an hour's journey between the two, less to get home.

  2. I have always thought of Scotland as an, I don't know, a sort of "mystical" place I guess. Legends and castles and mists and dragons and all that. And I picture the people as more standoffish (clanish?? heh) than England. Castles and mists in England also, to be sure. Can't quite put my finger on it. Also interesting that the invisible "divide" is between east and west - I perceived it as between north and south when we were talking about England.

    What is the population of Scotland? Much smaller than England? More rural than urban? I'm guessing yes to both. What is in the far north of Scotland? How about Islands and island groups? (You didn't talk about either with England, I noticed. C'mon, people!

  3. And this is probably a delicate subject to talk about, especially with an outsider, but what is this separatist talk? Serious? Why? Just nationalism? Your cultures don't seem so different as to warrant a separation. I guess I need to study the history more...

  4. Scotland is indeed strongly divided east and west, edinburgh is genteel, on the east coast, but its rival, Glasgow, on the west coast, is the city that was Scotland's powerhouse of industry. Glasgow itself is riven by tribal hatreds, which are akin to those of northern ireland. It's the only place i've been where the question is asked "are you a catholic or a protestant?"
    And the wrong answer in the wrong part of town can land you in hospital.
    Oh. And the language is barely recognisable as english.
    Scotland is furrther divided, between the highlands and the lowlands. Highlands being north and mountainous, lowlands, south and less bumpy.
    The west coast is beautiful. Clear blue water and white sand beaches.
    roads are narrow and twisty, travel is slow. I love it.
    Of the north east tip of scotland lie the Orkney isles.
    The people there speak very differently to mainland scots and do not consider themselves scottish,.
    They're Orcadians, not Acadians...
    And they're closer to Oslo, in Norway than they are to London.

  5. Scotland; One place that I've always wanted to visit. not sure why, it's just calling my name. :)

  6. Soubriquet, I am learning more about the UK in the last couple of days, I think, than I have in the past two months or so. Or it sure seems like it. Why didn't I think of this before instead of trying to direct the show? Thanks.

  7. Chica, I understand 100%.

    But then, Maxy calls your name a lot too, and you never visit...

    That's not true. You visit a lot. Thanks, ok? :)

  8. I lived in NEW England for 6 years (love it BTW) - does that count for anything???

  9. because of Largo, FL near where I live and Key Largo, it is in my plans to visit Largo, Scotland. Was supposed to be this month, has been delayed. I would love to know more before I visit, particularly if there is wine to be drunk.

  10. Petra, not to worry. I will soon post something you feel more comfortable commenting about. NASCAR. Used trailer homes. 12-step programs. Something.

    And I won't tell you again how good it makes me feel that you have been stopping by and trying, because then you will stop coming just to make me feel like shit.


  11. Debbie. My Debbie. Debbie. I'm sure there is some logic in there somewhere. Largo, Scotland. Would that be, like, good luck to visit there?

    No. No wine in Scotland. If you want wine, I suggest you track A. down and stay with HER for a month. Because I really like you, here's a rule of thumb:

    Haggis = Scotland
    Wine = France.

    Just sayin'... :) :)

  12. McCardle. Real name is Lincoln McCardle. Enough said?

  13. Hey, Canucklehead. How's it going?

    Ok, so you're Irish. What's your point?

    Kidding. Nephew of Fat Bastard. Get it.

  14. Following on from soubriqet, they want to know your religion elsewhere too, or which football team you support. Rangers - protestant, Celtic - Catholic. I've never been so aware of it outside Ireland. Where we lived it even extended to which type of protestant.

    We moved from a cosy, brick and flint country cottage in Oxfordhire, low ceilings, beams etc, to a cold, draughty, stone built house with partial central heating. I was permanently cold.

    The architecture is completely different. You just don't see brick buildings. Properties are stone built or rendered. I was told it was a result of the cold and wet climate being a particular challenge for brick manufacturers.

  15. Debbie, you would be very welcome to come and visit me, as long as you don't bring and little dogs with you. You know what I mean:)

  16. Max, in case the reason escapes you completely, we didn't do this earlier because you were looking for words. WORDS. BritishSPEAK. Comprende?

    If you'd wanted to know about the culture and country you should have said so. We are not mind readers.

  17. Language and accent. Soubriquet hits the nail on the head when he says the language is barely recognisable as English. In my efforts to keep warm, I had coal delivered for open fires. I delivered an ultimatum to my dearly beloved: either you install some other form of heating or find someone who speaks a language I recognise. There are only so many times you can ask a fierce looking man to repeat himself. What other alternatives are there? Say yes and hope for the best? Stand there like an idiot and look puzzled? It's bad enough when it's a foreign language but when in theory you speak the same language, it's mortifying.

    The accents are very different in different parts of Scotland, but I suppose that goes for any country.

    But it's not just the accent, there are turns of phrase that are characteristic of Scotland. The one that had me puzzled at first was "Where do you stay?" or "where are you staying?" when I first arrived. To my ear, that means a temporary stop in a place, as in a hotel or similar. In fact it means "where do you live?". Another that I like and still use is "up the way" (or "down the way") instead of "upwards" or "up there".

  18. Debbie, you would be very welcome to come and visit me, as long as you don't bring and little dogs with you. You know what I mean:)

    thank you a, I will remember that. Never fear, I travel in dog free zones.

  19. Further to a's comments, Scottish builders seem to have a rule that grim and grey is the best way.
    Houses rarely look cheerful.
    I also have had the experience of trying to understand someone who thinks they are speaking english, and not being able to grasp a single word.
    I've met a lot of lovely people there too.
    Anyone going up the west coast is heartily recommended by me to stay, (or eat and drink) at The Ceilidh Place in Ullapool.
    And Cape Wrath, and Durness, are not to be missed.
    I think the most beautiful mountain in Scotland is Suilven.. Google images will have it.
    On the east coast, at the Falls of Rogart, my special recommendation is to stay overnight on a train. The station there has some converted sleeper carriages, with showers, kitchens etc, basic but great fun. Lovely gardens too.
    Oh Oh Oh... Ardnamurchan... Loch Sunart, Sanna Bay, Acharacle....

    "Sure by Tummel, and Loch-Rannoch and Lochaber I will go,
    By Heather tracks with heaven in their wiles,
    And if you're thinking in your inner heart, that braggart's in my breast,
    Ye've never smelt the tangle of the isles."

    Mmm. Go to the Orkneys, climb to the top of the island of Hoy, on a sunny day, and look down into the waters of Scapa Flow, to see the shadows of the warship wrecks, resting on the bottom. Stromness Hotel... Good breakfasts. Insist on a front room with a harbour view.

    I'll post a few scotland and Orkney pics on my blog, so you can have an idea of why I love the place so much. Despite the dour architects..

    BUT. I'm a Highlands and Islands person... I drive straight past the cities.
    Glasgie and E'enbro have no magic for me.....
    But Mallaig?
    oh yes!.

  20. Yes, A. My vision for the BritishSpeak book project has indeed become wider. I now realize that words and language are only one part of the larger culture. That is why I have begun posting again, although from a different angle. And, of course, I hadn't realized how sullen and disruptive proper British ladies could be when I started out, either. Smiley face here, I think.

  21. Disruptive I can cope with, but sullen! Oh dear. Smileys are not enough to undo that.

  22. Oh, my. Another affirmation as to why this book is needed. Two friends separated by a common language. In America, sullen means "bubbly" or "cordial." :) My mistake.

  23. I will do a quick survey with my American friends on the subject.

    Note the subtlety of the wording of the preceding sentence please.

  24. Just to prove that I can rise above all the insults, I will tell you my views on London versus Scotland. And I'm sure you're hanging on my every word.

    I hate going into London even though there is a certain buzz. But heaven help you if you get lost. You'd be hard pushed to find anyone who admits to being a local, or even English. It's very much the same in Paris, possibly worse. Certainly worse if you don't speak the language. I suspect many large cities are the same.

    The population of London is about 7.5 million (depends where you look it up). Scotland's is about 5 million. The largest city is Glasgow with a population of 0.5 million and I would hazard a guess that your granddaughter didn't spend a great deal of time there. I really think it's a function of population density, and on a single trip, luck.

    As you know, I am not a Londoner, and not even English, so I don't have an axe to grind.

  25. Ok. We have the opinions of the outsiders. Gorgeous countryside, cold and gray (grey?), religion important to your acceptance. Unintelligible sometimes. Now we need to get some opinions of the natives if we can find them. Perhaps they are reluctant to voice an opinion in the face of all this. And, without even trying, you have adequately addressed the issue of separatism. Thanks. I get it now.

    btw, I can not recall EVER being asked my religion in the U.S. It isn't considered a polite subject to inquire about. Probably better that way. One certainly wouldn't judge whom to be friendly with, or whom to invite to a party based on religion, I don't think. Except, recently, Muslims, I think. Not right, but probably true.

    I did have a (sort of) conversation once with a tourist from Scotland. I more or less just smiled and nodded. He probably thought I was daft. It, in an odd way, sounded like English. But it was as if the accent was always on the wrong syllable, and by the time you had figured one phrase out, he had already moved on. Time lapse conversation. But I am sure that was because he was from a certain part of Scotland and I would generally be just fine if I were to visit.

    Thank you all for sharing your memories and knowledge. This to A. and to Soubriquet, of course.

  26. You should visit the bible belt in the sunny south where people DO determine their party list by what religion you are. I solve the problem by claiming to be an atheist. No one invites me that way.

  27. In America, sullen means "bubbly" or "cordial."


    perhaps it is a type of cordial I am not aware of, otherwise he is still a dog! Actually, that is why no one asks him his religion, he knows that dog is god spelled backwards and he believes himself to be one. ;)

  28. For the most part I don't think you'd be asked your religion directly, but there are ways of working it out, and if you live in a small enough place someone will notice which church, if any, you go into.

    I do remember an American friend telling me that she had experienced, not outright antagonism, but an underlying feeling of hostility because of her religion. I forget the details.

  29. After my three-vodka din din, I have difficulty tracking your opening segway (or however you spell it); however, I have always loved that the Cajuns are renegade Eat Canadians (typo but I'm keepin' it), and you seem to be expressing knowledge of this fact, which makes me smile mistily.

    Acadia, hmm-mm, now that's some tasty melancholy.

    As for Scotland, I am not from there, but until he was 10 my partner lived there (near Overtown, which is in the middle somewhere methinks).
    His pa grew hothouse flowers for the neighboring village markets before emigrating the whole damn family to Canada when he was an elderly 60 years old, which is a courageous step in my books, as at 60 I plan to be peaceably sipping whiskey on my porch morning noon and night with zero plans to move my ass anywhere, and what vigilance I have left will be devoted to making sure no youngsters step on the lawn.

    I have always harboured a secret little dream to one day visit Scotland and find a nice hill in the Highlands and run free-for-all down it, bellowing, before throwing myself in a loch for a power-swim.

    I am open to suggestions on locations that can accommodate this dream.

  30. I spent a happy couple of years working at Balmoral Castle every August to October. Miles from anywhere it was therapeutic after the main London base and the staff (locals) were so friendly and welcoming to us outsiders. The Stables had a hall which was used for scottish country dancing and the main Castle ballroom for the Ghillies ball as a thank you for the staff at the end of the season. It is still one of the best places I have lived and worked in and I would have loved to stay permanently but it wasn't to be.

  31. Sage mentioning Scottish country dancing brought back some memories to me too. Everyone had learnt the dances so any dance or party you went to was liable to have the Eightsome Reel, Dashing White Sergeant or Strip the Willow, or any number of others. It was great fun, much more sociable than modern dances. You don't need any great skill to join in, just a case of remembering or following the moves, and there was always someone to push you in the right direction.

  32. A bonspiel. This rarely happens nowadays and didn't happen during our time in Scotland. If it gets cold enough for a loch to freeze over completely safely, an impromptu curling match is held. I can still recall the look of excitement on my boss's face when he thought it was getting close to cold enough. Apparently everyone would just take off and absenteeism from school and work would be at an all time high.

  33. I have to say that this post was an inspiration for me putting my memories up on my blog about the time I worked at Balmoral.. that's what I like about blogging you get inspiration from many different sources.

    Cheers all.

  34. Last offering - some Scottish banks issue their own banknotes including a £1 note, no longer available in England. Strictly speaking they aren't legal tender according to the technical definition. They are however universally accepted in Scotland, but you can spend many a happy moment trying to persuade an English shop assistant to accept one.

  35. Well, Max is back. And look at all the fine comments for me to read!

    Petra! Bible Belt, eh? Not to disagree, because I am sure you are right, but I do have one minor point to add. Southern Bible Belt (to me at least) means Southern Baptist. And that means there are no parties to be invited to. Not my kind of parties, anyway. But I am sure they do keep to themselves. And, I thought you were from New York? Brooklyn, I'm guessing, from your earlier "bust my chops" comment. I know you are not an athiest, just a godless heathen. I well have Vicar Ezra visit you. Ezra Likely, as you may not yet know, is the Chaplain over at the Slap & Tickle, and is a direct descendent of Lord Likely. He has what you need for your redemption, child. Trust me. :)

    Debbie, please stop talking over my head. It's my blog and I have a right to know what you are saying. You are insulting me again, aren't you?

    A., This is going to sound naive, but I didn't think you had the huge variety of religions in the UK anyway. Isn't everybody either Church of England or Presbyterian? Ok. Probably not. But only a few compared to the 3 zillion over here, right?

  36. Grumpus! You came! Or at least you showed up. Cool! Even while officially on hiatus. Your loyalty brings tears to my eyes. And, despite your low tolerance for alcohol - typical for a Canadian, I've heard, if Canucklehead is the norm, you have attempted to impart some sort of semi-intelligible second-hand information about Scotland.

    But first, do I detect a little slippage of your vodka-loosened tongue? May I surmise that the quaint fishing village that spawned you was in Nova Scotia? Really? Close? Ha! New Brunswick! Damn right! One more drink and I will have you pinned down. You are too dreamy about "Acadia".

    I will continue to ponder that one while I thank you for the interesting story of your Scot-boy's family. That's pretty cool. And, as you say, gutsy. My advice: lose the dream about rolling down a green hillock and splashing into a cool loch. Grumpus, some of us will NEVER go to Scotland, and I think we all know who we are. Of course, with your connections, he may have a desire to visit the fatherland someday, and might even take you with him. So there's that going for you. Could be. Outside chance, at least.

    Thanks for the comment.

    PEI? I'm running out of guesses. I know in my bones you are not born in B.C. Must I torture it out of you, girl? I will, you know. :)

  37. Sage and A., thanks for the memories! I can picture it all in my head. What a good time that must have been! Thank you also, Sage, for the additional info on your blog.

    Scotland has it's own money? Sort of? Now that is something that never even crossed my mind.

  38. One more memory, something reminded me - Helensburgh near Glasgow has the reputation of being incredibly rainy. A friend lived there for a year. She told me she had been aware of what she considered an urban myth but said, still with some disbelief, that she had been able to put washing out to dry on only one occasion the entire year. She said they had to move on because she couldn't stand it any longer.

    From a comment in a Scottish newspaper earlier this year, after an article about storms battering Britain which in fact mainly affected the south of England and provoked an outcry of "southern softies":

    Update from Helensburgh:

    It's rained all day.
    It was raining last week.
    It'll probably be raining next week.
    In summer, the rain will get warmer.

    BBC Helensburgh,
    Feckin soaked.



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