An American Teen (That Doesn’t Speak Scots) Wrote Half Of Scots Wikipedia

An American Teen (That Doesn’t Speak Scots) Wrote Half Of Scots Wikipedia

Imagine if every time you went to Wikipedia, you had to suffer through some foreigner's mockery of your language just to learn about Ben Folds's surprising number of wives or if you missed anything from Channing Tatum's filmography or whatever. That's the situation speakers of Scots, the native language of the Scottish Lowlands, have been enduring for eight years. 

The Scottish Lowlands gives you Susan Boyle to bring you some joy, and this is how you pay them back?

It recently came to light that fully half of the Scots version of Wikipedia was written by a 19-year-old North Carolina dude who had been editing the site since he was 12 years old. Was he a particularly precocious middle-schooler whose family is maybe a little too into their Scottish heritage? Nope. He couldn't speak Scots at all. He was just writing in a vaguely Scottish accent, presumably based on the universally enjoyable canon of Scottish Twitter.

It's not that nobody noticed -- the talk pages are filled with people saying "Hey, this person clearly doesn't speak Scots" -- but outside of the tiny number of people who speak the language, nobody cared. In 2016, Mental Floss even published a fawning article about the site. Since few people were contributing at the time that he got in on the ground floor, he was given admin privileges, allowing him to silence detractors until a Reddit post blew the whole thing open. He didn't mean any harm; he just picked a weird hobby in sixth grade, and then he got in too deep -- like pogs, but with international fallout. Honestly, there are worse things for a preteen to get up to.

Shoplifting and questionable haircuts don't put the future of an entire language in jeopardy, though. Now, there's talk of deleting the whole thing because machine learning systems often crawl Wikipedia to learn languages, but it seems like they're focusing on the wrong thing there. If the robots are learning languages from, say, some guy's 6,000-word synopsis of "Boyz-n-the-Hood," we're all doomed.

Please send Manna Scottish tweets.

Top image: Katrin Hauf/Unsplash


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