So here is an image and with it, I’ll assume, a good deal of blank faces. Possibly a small percentage understand the insinuation straight away, but they aren’t much amused. The rest perhaps sigh their askance, “Ho-hum, so what’s this then?” Let’s parse it shall we? There is text. It reads, “An then yer arse fell aff.” This is Scottish vernacular; A phrase employed to call out the tell-tale wafting of bullshit particles into a nasal cavity. Below the text we have a kilt. Taking into consideration the inclusion of legs and socks, surely purposeful, we could assume that the focus is not the kilt specifically but rather the tartan pattern itself. A good assumption, making an ass of no one. So what are we left with then? Why, a calling-out of the incredible hokum which is the “ancient Scottish clan tartan.” That’s what.




What interests me here is not that an industry would prop-up a line of bullshit to make cash, obviously,
but that an entire population would so willingly abandon reality and not only adopt the bullshit in its stead but perpetuate it for generations… well, it leaves you kind of speechless.

It makes modern complaints of “tartantry” seem altogether more amusing. More than that knowing the truth transforms the burly, bagpiping, kilted figure that your mind conjures at the mention of “Scottish” into an entirely more complex figure. Where as initially you might have felt vaguely embarrassed or guilty at your mind’s involuntary employment of such stereotypical imagery, now you almost have to laugh.
 
I mean, think about it… who the hell is that guy anyway? An “ignorant oversimplification” of a fictional romantic character amalgamated from various traditions and conceits who himself is masquerading as an historical figure? A caricature of a false historical ideal who none the less reflects, on some level, the actual modern figures who have adopted the fiction as a fact and by their action made him real? How do you even begin to approach a creature like this emotionally or philosophically?

Truth is I haven’t the faintest idea. I just think the whole thing fascinating. But then I am a Morrison lad after all, and whatever else he is, that burly, farting, bagpiping, kilted figure with his balls exposed to the Scottish wind is quite possibly me coosin!

Anyhow, crazily longwinded though this post was , I hope at least a few among you soldiered through and enjoyed.

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03.19. filed under: history. humanity. life. people.


Longwinded or not, this is yet another amazingly readable and well-researched piece. (Or, I suppose, you just know everything).

First time commenter, just throwing a ‘huzzah’ your way.

posted on 03.19 at 08:18 PMlee


Jaime doesn’t know everything, lee. Just everything interesting, maybe.

Reminds me of Patrick Stewart’s Saturday Night Live appearance, discussed here before I think. In one sketch, he’s a Scottish psychotherapist. “Well, ye’ve still got yer problems, laddie, but at least yer piss drunk!”

posted on 03.19 at 10:05 PM.


Yes, you are a blogging god.

Thank you as always.

posted on 03.19 at 11:07 PM.


I’ll have you know that we Rutherfords have a tartan and it’s filthy English propaganda to claim otherwise.

I don’t know whether we also have our own line of shortbread and tea towels.

posted on 03.20 at 03:54 AMHarry


@Lee: Thanks. Yeah, research. I worked on this post on and off over a period of three days. I spent a tiny portion of the time creating that first image, scanning the other images, and actually posting the thing. Most of the time was just trying to make sense and put in a sensible order all the disparate info I came across. This was a knotty one for sure. (p.s. thanks for commenting, you ought to do it more often. It’s free and is proven to not only reduce cholesterol but to whiten teeth as well.)

@Tom: Indeed! I say that to myself every morning at the office.

@John: “Blogging God” ...which puts me where? Somewhere below the Lord of the Burrows and the Lord of the Dance in the pantheon?

Actually, there is already a Lord of the Blog, and if he hears you talking that way I shudder to think what might befall us both!

@Harry: You damned Rutherfords! I’ve had just about enough of your clan. Always snatching up all the best mutton cuts and oatcakes before we Morrisons even make it to table.

posted on 03.20 at 07:58 AMjmorrison


@j: I’m loathe to blow sunshine up anyone’s ass, but it is the weaving together of all the disparate facts that feel as if they’re from a brazillion different sources that makes this such a fine read. I believe in English classes we called it “synthesis”, and it was frikkin hard.

Now that I’ve joined the community, I’ll try to post more often, though I’m often frightened by the intellectualism. :)

(PS Thank you for the real-word captcha form)

posted on 03.20 at 11:48 AMlee


I am rendered inarticulate both by a fit of giggles (from reading your un-commentators and your comments-back) and a fit of awe (cue the harp glissando) for your copious, curious mind and posting patience.

:-)

posted on 03.20 at 09:43 PMLori Witzel


This has become a permanent station in my blog travels. If you’re in the mood maybe you could try next the japanese kimono, I’ll bet it’s interesting ;)

posted on 03.22 at 05:32 AMRicardo Reis


Absolutely wonderful timing, Jaime. I spent the morning looking at tartans, as I practice the olde traditional art of Highland dancing. Which is, of course, as ancient as the tartans we wear.

@Harry: You Rutherfords do make a wonderful Irish dancing hardshoe, if it’s any consolation.

posted on 03.22 at 12:58 PMAshe


Long read or no, this entry is a perfect example of what I’ve come to expect when I drop in—entertaining, edifying and esoteric. Thank you.

posted on 03.25 at 03:44 PM.


As far as the question of Scots complicity is concerned, you have to differentiate between the different types of Scots. The natives, among whom one finds my family on my father’s side (I’m half-Scots, half English), give less than a damn for the heritage cliches unless they can be sold to tourists from England and elsewhere.

I usually find that the ones who love the tartan and clan myths tend to be the upper class English families who annexed huge swathes of the place during the clearances or those who emigrated to Canada and elsewhere and who now yearn for their roots. The well-meaning Canadians who run Coulthart.com have a page of unlikely coats-of-arms for the Coultharts, another spurious and often bogus offshoot of genealogy. My family were working class farmers and hunters, not lairds who had their own crests or, for that matter, their own tartan.

That aside, I did wear a kilt once (and have to admit that some guys look very sexy in them), at a wedding when I was about five or six-years-old. The sporran was fascinating (that thing that hangs over the crotch) since it’s essentially a male purse made from horsehair and leather with little pockets in the back. I actually liked the jacket the best; black velvet with silver buttons. Wish I had one like it now. But you can keep the tartan, thanks; that stuff is just plaid with pretensions.

posted on 04.15 at 04:04 PMJohn Coulthart

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