Dictionary trawling
in Bad English
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Chapter two discusses a group of Scottish writers, working as academics and translators as well as poets, whose poetry of the later 1980s and 1990s employs a synthetic, ‘dictionary-trawled’ Scots language in the context of a Scottish turn towards an internationalism of minor languages. Rather than being drawn from the lived language of everyday experience, their ‘Scots’ is a highly synthetic, neologistic medium, indebted to Hugh MacDiarmid’s ‘synthetic Scots’, salvaged and reinvented from sources as diverse as antiquarian dictionaries, contemporary media culture, and digital technology. The chapter discusses Robert Crawford’s early, ambitious techno-Scots poetry which casts itself, in its unsystematicity and unboundedness, as capable of internationalising English – part of a wider movement of ‘barbarian’ linguistic-literary insurrection across the formerly colonised world. It concludes with David Kinloch’s intimate poetry, incorporating a queer, dictionary-trawled Scots always on the verge of vanishing, a language that bridges the gap between past and present, living and dead, and stands for affective bonds between people and languages. The chapter concludes by considering, via Kinloch’s poetry, the wagers and risks that come with claims to solidarity on the grounds of language.

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