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Ailis’s Anterins i the Laun o Ferlies
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in Synthetic Scots

Alice’s Adventirs in Wonderlaand

By Lewis Carroll, translated into Synthetic Scots by Andrew McCallum

First edition, 2013. Illustrations by John Tenniel. Cathair na Mart: Evertype. ISBN 978-1-78201-026-5 (paperback), price: €12.95, £10.95, $15.95.

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Thon airt,” quo the Baudrons, waffin its richt luif, “bides a Hatter. An thon airt,” waffin the ither luif, “bides a Mairch Maukin. Caa by whitiver ane ye like. They’re baith gyte.”   “In that direction,” the Cat said, waving its right paw around, “lives a Hatter: and in that direction,” waving the other paw, “lives a March Hare. Visit either you like: they’re both mad.”
“But I daena want ti be gaein amang doitit fowk,” quo Ailis.   “But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Och, ye canna help but dae thon,” quo the Baudrons. “We’re aa gyte here. I’m gyte. You’re gyte.”   “Oh, you ca’n’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“Hou dae ye ken I’m gyte?” Ailis speirt.   “How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“Ye maun be,” quo the Baudrons, “nor ye wadna hae cam here.”   “You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn't have come here.”
Cat Clárach
Lewis Carroll is a pen-name: Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was the author’s real name and he was lecturer in Mathematics in Christ Church, Oxford. Dodgson began the story on 4 July 1862, when he took a journey in a rowing boat on the river Thames in Oxford together with the Reverend Robinson Duckworth, with Alice Liddell (ten years of age) the daughter of the Dean of Christ Church, and with her two sisters, Lorina (thirteen years of age), and Edith (eight years of age). As is clear from the poem at the beginning of the book, the three girls asked Dodgson for a story and reluctantly at first he began to tell the first version of the story to them. There are many half-hidden references made to the five of them throughout the text of the book itself, which was published finally in 1865.    
Ailis’s Anterins i the Laun o Ferlies is a translation of Lewis Carroll’s classic tale into synthetic Scots.    
Synthetic Scots is the name given by the poet Hugh Mac­Diarmid to a project that sought to rescue Scots as a serious literary language from the cloying sentimentalism and the music-hall self-mockery into which it had degenerated by the early 20th century. This project was prefigured in the work of writers like Violet Jacob and Marion Angus, Robert Louis Stevenson and George Douglas Brown. Alongside Mac­Diarmid, the project was pursued by Robert Garioch, Alastair Mackie, Alexander Scott and Sydney Goodsir Smith; while, in more recent times, Edwin Morgan’s transla­tions of European poetry are among the most powerful examples that we have of synthetic Scots. In Morgan’s trans­lations of poets ranging from Racine to Mayakovsky, Brecht and Neruda, there is an affirmation of the Scots language which amply demonstrates its expressive power, often outdoing the heights and depths of sensibility that might be possible in English. They also confirm MacDiarmid’s estimation of the potential of a reinvigorated Scots as
    “a vast unutilised mass of lapsed observation made by minds whose attitudes to experience and whose speculative and imaginative tendencies were quite different from any possible… to-day. It is an inchoate Marcel Proust—a Dostoyevskian debris of ideas—an inexhaustable quarry of subtle and significant sound.”
    —The Scottish Chapbook Vol 1, No 8, March 1923
Synthetic Scots is a literary rather than an oral phenomenon. No one speaks synthetic Scots, though it does draw on all of the language’s various regional dialects. It also draws on the Middle Scots of the great Makars of the 15th and 16th centuries and the “Scots of the book” or “Standard Scots” that emerged during the late 17th and 18th centuries, and which is embodied by writers such as Allan Ramsay, Robert Fergusson, Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, Charles Murray, David Herbison, James Orr, James Hogg and William Laidlaw. Modern synthetic Scots is also very much a “language of the book”, the vocabulary and orthography of which can often appear artificial—and even contrived—to those few native Scots speakers who remain. The chief sourcebook of the originators of synthetic Scots was Jameson’s Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language (1808), which was the standard reference work for the Scots language until the publication of The Scottish National Dictionary in 1931. Writers and translators nowadays have the magnificently comprehensive and definitive Dictionary of the Scots Language from which to draw their materials.    
Synthetic Scots had and continues to have a profound effect on creative artists in Scotland. It even inspired the contemporary Scottish painter, John Bellany, who—on encountering MacDiarmid in the 1960s—made it his aesthetic project to “paint in Scots”. It has hardly reached the general public, however; it is not taught in schools, it is almost entirely absent from Scotland’s print and broadcast media, and it does not enjoy anything like the governmental support that Scottish Gaelic enjoys. It remains pretty much exclusively an experimental language of poets and writers, which is exactly what it set out to be. In that respect, synthetic Scots is perhaps no different from the “Scottis” of the great Makars or the “Scots of the book” of the 18th century revival.
Ailis’s Anterins i the Laun o Ferlies is offered as a contribution to the canon of synthetic Scots texts. Because the original is such a popular and well-loved tale, skillfully crafted in simple, clear and undemanding language, but losing none of its literary excellence for all that, the hope is that Ailis will contribute to making Scots more accessible to both Scottish and non-Scottish readers alike.
    “[A]mong our new dialecticians, the local habitat of every dialect is given to the square mile. I could not emulate this nicety if I desired; for I simply wrote my Scots as well as I was able, not caring if it hailed from Lauderdale or Angus, from the Mearns or Galloway; if I had ever heard a good word, I used it without shame; and when Scots was lacking, or the rhyme jibbed, I was glad (like my betters) to fall back on English… Let the precisians call my speech that of the Lothians. And if it be not pure, alas! what matters it? The day draws near when this illustrious and malleable tongue shall be quite forgotten… Till then I would love to have my hour as a native Maker, and be read by my own countryfolk in our own dying language…”
    —Robert Louis Stevenson,
    Underwoods (London 1887)
—Andrew McCallum    

HTML Michael Everson, Evertype, 73 Woodgrove, Portlaoise, R32 ENP6, Ireland, 2013-05-01

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