Sunday, February 26, 2006

I'm Scottish!

Since coming to Japan, I've frequently been referred to as "English". It's not something I make a big fuss over, particularly as Japanese doesn't seem to have a clear distinction between British and English. Once or twice when I've tried to explicitly describe myself as Scottish, people end up drawing maps and trying to place this small country somewhere in the vicinity of Norway and Sweden, so I've pretty much given up bothering. But every so often, I feel it's worth reminding people where I come from :-)

Scotland is mostly famous for whisky, haggis, and deep-fried delicacies such as Mars bars, pizza, and the aforementioned haggis. On the sporting front we specialise in curling and elephant polo (unfortunately, this time the curlers finished 4th and 5th in Turin - the women even lost to Japan). Many famous scientists and inventors are actually Scots, including people like Alexander Graham Bell who many USAians may think of as one of their own (he emigrated and founded Bell Labs). As well as his telephone, probably all readers will have benefited from the work of John Logie Baird (TV), Watt (steam engine), Dunlop (pneumatic tyre), McAdam (tarmac roads), Kirkpatrick Macmillan (bicycle), Napier (logarithms), Fleming (penicillin), Maxwell (his equations) and others too numerous to mention.

Of course jingoistic nationalism isn't really a rationally defensible attitude. These white men all died before I was born, and I had precisely nothing to do with the Scottish rugby victory. But that won't stop me from enjoying it :-)


LuboŇ° Motl said...

You forgot the most famous among your fellow Scottish, namely the Loch ness monster.

Anonymous said...

I need historical help on the seizure of a place called Annan during a war between Japan Russia and France somewhere in the early 20th century and GUESS WHAT your name came up. In case you want to help or are interested in corresponding with me I am

Anonymous said...

The Scots horrified even the Romans. Giant orange-haired hugely muscled monsters swung mammoth swords in the interval between hangovers and drunken reveries fueled by the finest hard spirits on planet Earth. Imagine if Hadrian had envisioned containing the men.'%20th'%20Glen.html

Anonymous said...

I am a Japanese scientist working at the same institution as James does.

If the place you talk about is the place which was called Annan (An-nan) in Japanese in the early 20th century, that is Vietnam (more precisely, the central part of Vietnam). The region became a colony of France in late 19th century, and temporarily seized by Japanese army during the Second World War. Russia (Soviet Union) came later to "help" the Vietnamese communists. I do not think that it has something to do with the war between Russia and Japan in 1904-05. Neither do I think that it is related to James' family name.

By the way, I guess you are Scottish too. I vaguely remember the same family name ... and now I find who that was. The first dean (1873-1882) of the College of Engineering of the University of Tokyo (actually not a part of the University then) was Dr. Henry Dyer who came from Glasgow, says one of the web pages of UT. Teachers from Scotland helped establish modern higher education of engineering, also physics as well, in Japan.

Anonymous said...

James - as a scot "oer the watter" you may wish to enlighten you Japanese friends on the truthe of scottish climate and culture and such matters as the midgie, haggis and kilts. Please drop by and bring a wee dram and a lrage pinch of salt. Slange.

Anonymous said...

PS you might also explain to them that some of us are clearly dislexic!

Anonymous said...

In fact, I would claim that Bell was Canadian. That is clearly where his heart was and where he retired and eventually died.