Macaroni: Rich Linguistic Fare

Back from Pistoia nearly two weeks ago now, but Italian food is still playing on my mind in the shape of a particular kind of pasta very familiar to Scots: macaroni. But this is macaroni with a twist – linguistic macaroni, or “macaronic language” as Wikipedia has it.

The seemingly seismic nature of the recent Scottish elections, in which the SNP achieved what was supposed to be impossible for any one party – an overall parliamentary majority –  has been remarked upon in countless fora and media. But I’m particularly impressed by this commentary from an old Facebook friend, Ryno Morrison, who has kindly allowed me to reproduce it here.

Dàn an Taghaidh 2011

by Ryno Morrison on Tuesday, 10 May 2011 at 22:56

Diardaoin , gu tràth sa mhadainn, I started thinking of my votes
Gu dearbh cha robh e furasta, so I started taking notes
Bha paipear bhòtaidh lilac ann, with prospective MSP’s
Is iad seo a bhios dh’ ur riochdachadh, in your con-stituency

Bha fear le dath na piodse, your region’s list of choice
Gu roinneil ‘s ann bhios seachdnar ann, to give you all a voice
Agus an uairsin pàipear eile, with Yes or No for the AV
Loma làn de roghainnean, for your choices one, two, three.

Ailig beag na Nàiseantaich, is really keen to be
A Chiad Mhinisteir a rithist, he’s got more to do says he
Lion e an t’àit le poilis, he stopped charging for our pills
‘S bidh na h-oileanaich cho beartach, they won’t have any bills

Annabal nan Tòraidhean, she is sensible and prim
Ged is caol tha teans’ a Phartaidh aic, of being ever voted in
Cha bhi h-uile rud an asgaidh, we’ll need to pay our way
Tha seo reusanta is fìrinneach and brave for her to say

Tha Tavish air shàrachadh, with the marriage of ConDems
‘S tric e ‘g innse nach do chòrd e ris, the pact of us and them
Ma gheibh e steach don Riaghaltas, public spending he will trim
Cha bhi drochaid an Dùn Èideann and the trams will get the bin

Nise, Iain Grey na Labaraich, a timid man is he
An uair chaidh fear a’ bhruidhinn ris, to a pie-shop he did flee
Ma gheibh e steach don Riaghaltas, he’ll put Scotland back to on top
Bi taighean don an òigridh ann and Big Bonuses will stop

Ach tha Alba nis air bhòtadh – the peoples’ choice is SNP
Tha mhor-chuid aig na Nàiseantaich, to govern as they please
Bi Fil-ò-ro anns na h-Eileanan, the Western Isles will be all go
Le Bursday Pàrtaidh Alist’r Allan, ‘s e a nis am BIG Four-Ò

It’s great to see the macaronic tradition, which, as Wikipedia informs us, has a long lineage stretching back to Roman times, if not beyond, is still alive and kicking in the twenty-first century. ‘S math a rinn thu, Ryno! Often looked down on, particularly by those with a standardisation agenda, for me it has a true demotic, irreverent spirit, echoing in verse the natural humour and vigour evidenced in the everyday code-switching and/or mixing behaviour of fluent bilinguals like Norman Maclean. Vulgar indeed in a very Latin sense, and none the worse for that!

(PS. Why stop with bilingualism, by the way? If that was a macaronic poem, then is this a macaronic video? Never mind the quality – feel the width!)

About Gordon Wells

Language learner and teacher (English, Gaelic, Hindi and Urdu). Interested in bilingualism and creativity. At home in the Hebrides.

Posted on 10/06/2011, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Is glic a rinn Ryno, gun teagamh. Bu thoigh leam òrain “macaronic.”

    “A true demotic, irreverent spirit, echoing in verse the natural humour and vigour evidenced in the everyday code-switching of fluent bilinguals” … beautifully put, Gordon!

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