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Re: Language

At 11:51 16/01/01 -0500, you wrote:
Seems that I am two quiet by far but I just noticed a snippet on language and gaelic. My understanding was that many of the Argyllian Sinclairs spoke Gaelic or 'Scots' depending on the generation and time period. I suspected that many of the Caithness Sinclairs were speaking Norse. But that left me wondering what language the Sinclairs spoke. We assume that the "Bloodline" may have spoken several languages through the advantages of education and my reading suggests that such notables as Henry would have Latin, English, Norse and perhaps Swedish. But that leaves the matter of language very open asnd the point well raised. In say 1800 how did the majority of Sinclairs communicate? Scratching my head.... Neil Toronto/PEI/Argyll

Originally, the Sinclairs would have spoken Norman French which would have been gradually replaced by
English or Lowland Scots (a bastardised form of English which is, thankfully, dying out).  The Sinclairs of
the Isles would have spoken Norse whilst those of Argyllshire (Cairds, McNecaird, McNokerd, McNakard,
Tinkler) would have spoken Gaelic.

Even in my young days, the Strathmores i.e. the Bowes Lyons spoke only French on Fridays.  This was
undoubtedly the reason why the present Queen Mother (a redoubtable 100 year-old lady who is patron of
our Clan) was able to address the French Nation in fluent French during the last World War. The European
aristocracy invariably spoke French.  I understand that some of the more formal communication between
the House of Lords and the House of Commons is still conducted in Norman French.  At one time, the
English Kings had more land in France than in England and, as there was always an entente cordiale
the Scots and the French, it isn't surprising that the bastardised English (referred to above) was studded
with some brutally mangled French words e.g. a gooseberry was a grozer, a segment of orange was a gussie,
a serving dish was an ashet and so on.  One of Sir John Sinclair's daughters actually wrote a book defining
these French hangovers from the days of the Stuarts.  There was quite a vocabulary.  The area around Rosslyn
was even known as "Little France"

Prince Henry would have spoken French, Lowland Scots and Norse.  We also know that he was familiar
with Latin because that was the language in which he addressed Nicolo and Antonio Zeno. The Benedictine
monks were responsible for teaching the Sinclair children at Rosslyn.  Latin would have been the
medium of that instruction.  It was even obligatory when I was at school (for which I am eternally

Gaelic was never the national language of Scotland and to pretend it was is a complete distortion of the
situation.  Gaelic was brought in by the Scots from Ireland and remained mainly a language of the Western
Isles.  In the South of Scotland Cymric was spoken until it was overtaken by the bastardised Anglo-Saxon
of which I have spoken.  Recently, on the list, we have been addressing the meaning of the prefix Auch but,
if we look at two other very common prefixes i.e. Inver and Aber (as in Inverness and Aberdeen) the inver
is Gaelic whilst the aber is Cymric - both words mean "at the mouth of" so Inverness means 'at the mouth
of the River Ness" whilst Aberdeen is an abbreviation for "at the mouth of the Rivers Dee and Don".

Today, there are about 250,000 Gaelic speakers in Scotland.  Half of those would learn it at their mother's
knee whilst the other half would learn it in the mistaken belief that they were going back to their Scottish
roots.  In the same way the Scots welcomed "The Stone of Scone" back to Scotland when it was nothing
more than a block of red sandstone which had been the stopper for a bottlenecked dungeon but which
Edward I had fobbed off to the English as "The Stone of Destiny" on which all Scottish Kings had been
crowned!!  The real "Stone of Destiny" (made from black basalt) had never left Scotland.  Edward I knew
this.  The Scots of the day knew this so when it was offered back to them at the Treaty of Northampton,
they refused it because they knew it was a fake.  Alas, today's Scots do not know their own history so
they go through the pantomine of 'welcoming' the stone back just as they are prepared to go through the
agonies of learning a language which was never theirs in the first place.

Niven Sinclair