Supermarkets blamed for traditional term “Burns Nicht” being axed


SUPERMARKETS are being blamed for the vast majority of Scots dropping the traditional term “Burns Nicht” in favour “Burns Night”.

The Scots Language Centre complained firms such as Tesco were cashing in on the poet’s worldwide fame – while dropping the word Burns himself would have used.

Michael Hance, director of the Perth-based centre, saw red when he visited a Scottish Tesco store and saw a consumer-friendly sign for “Burns Night”.

As well as the “ch” sounds disappearing there has also been warnings that the “wh” sound faces extinction


He said: “But I remember it was always a Burns Nicht.

“This week we celebrate the birthday of Scotland’s greatest poet at a point in our history where many people can no longer produce the basic sounds of the language he wrote in.

“The commercialisation of Robert Burns’ birthday, I think, is one of the reasons people are struggling to pronounce the ‘ch’ sound – they’re losing touch with their heritage.

“In the last 15 years this has changed.

“Even some businesses like family owned butchers have dropped the ‘nicht’ for ‘night’.

“Visit Scotland who are responsible for our heritage have also changed.”

Mr Hance said the “ch” sound – called the “velar fricative” by language experts – was once the mark of a true Scot.

“I don’t know if people still say it, but there used to be a phrase you’d say to prove you’re a true Scot – ‘It’s a braw, bricht, moonlicht nicht, the nicht.’

“If you couldn’t say that you were in trouble. But this is becoming more and more common.

“We need to protect Scots words, which are different from Gaelic, because it’s part of who we are.

“The problem is that this new form has spread and now very few people say ‘nicht’ which would have been the form used by Burns himself.

Mr Hance noted place names like Auchtermuchty, Lochwinnoch, Balloch and Ecclefechan were also causing problems for people who considered themselves to be Scottish.

As well as the disappearance of the “ch” sound, Mr Hance warned that the “wh” also faces extinction.

“The emphasis of the ‘h’ sound in whisky or Scots Wha Hae is also dying out and it is meant to be pronounced. It’s not meant to sound like a ‘w’ on its own.

“A good example is when you hear people talking about ‘whales’ and you don’t know if they’re talking about the sea mammals or the country.”

The Burns poem Here’s To Thy Health contains the line: “Gude nicht and joy be wi’ thee.”

The Scots Language Charity is a Perth-based charity that promotes the Scots, the collective name for the dialects ‘Doric’, ‘Lallans’ and ‘Scotch’.

Visit Scotland appear to make no mention of a Burns Nicht on their website.

Their advert for a Burns Supper reads: “Held on the anniversary of Burns’ birth, the celebrations were originally started by some of his close friends a few years after his death and now Burns Night is celebrated across the world each year.

“You can join in with the festivities at many restaurants across Scotland that host formal Burns Night dinners or you could even organise your own Burns celebrations.”

Asda confirmed they would change product signs to ‘Burns Nicht’ if there is was sufficient demand from Scottish customers.
Helen Broadwood, Asda Scotland Marketing Manager, said: “We currently use the word ‘Night’ as opposed to ‘Nicht’ in our point of sale/advertising.

“We fully support the Scottish heritage to the extent that we have dual Gaelic/English signage in some of our stores.

“To date we haven’t had any requests for traditional Scots spellings to be used in our advertising, however, if the demand is there it is certainly something we will consider.”


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