Scotch tape no longer clings here.

Malcolm-MacKenzie1Malcolm Ian Mackenzie,
Naples, NY.

My mom and Dad immigrated from Canada in the early fifties with two children Canadian-born and eleven were born in the states. Growing we had a strong family identity as Canadians, but knew we also had Scottish roots through our dad’s family. My Mom’s family were Anglo-French Canadians, with an Irish twist. Upon my father’s death five years ago, I was reviewing legal papers and read through his birth certificate from 1921. It struck me when it said of his mother and father’s ancestory, Race; Scotch. To think that in 1921 a birth certificate would refer to the Scotch as a race astounded me. It illustrated how quickly our impressions of culture and ethnicity and national heritage can change. I have always been a bit puzzled by the social acceptance of calling Scotch tape “Scotch, “when it’s origin is derogatory slang depicting a tight-fisted, perhaps thrifty people. Most people do not realize today. I only recognize it because of my interest in words and their meaning, direct, implied, or acquired. This especially hit home to me a few years ago when President Obama was quoted in a newspaper article as stating that someone wanted to get off “Scot-free.”” No editorial response was uttered by the press or the readership. This would not be the case had he referred to another ethnic/national/racial group with such an offhand, careless, and socially accepted comment. This is the background of my six-word submission. The subliminal message of Scotch tape goes by us all cloaked in a handsome tartan.

Another six-word reflection from my past is from my family’s move to Rochester, New York as an eleven-year-old in 1965. After a casual introduction to a new neighbor boy a few years older than I, he stated to me upon hearing of our large family, “Twelve kids, you must be Catholic.”” It was news to me that that was the basis of my Catholic upbringing. (At any rate my parents celebrated their love with a thirteenth child the following year!) Years later I slowly realized he was a WASP from newspaper articles that I read.

We are all threads in the same fabric, part of the human cloak. At times we play a sleeve, at times a collar, and at others we are the tail. Time calls us into and out of fashion, sometimes very purposefully and at others strictly by happenstance and casual passing.

At any rate the slang use of Scotch doesn’t cling to this Malcolm.

Malcolm MacKenzie

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3 Responses to "Scotch tape no longer clings here."
  1. Alan says:

    I don’t mean to be obtuse but still only barely get this… is the implication that Scots are so cheap they tape things together?

  2. Tim Childs says:

    Scot-free is a bit liked saying someone welshed on a deal as well! It’s a small thing but I know what you mean. I have noticed that people are racist and prejudiced about each other; just witnessing the animosities between some Americans and some British people online is enough for me to see how petty and vain people can be! And don’t we all love to stereotype each other as well: the ‘arrogant’ French person; the ‘mean’ Scot; the ‘ignorant’ American; the ‘fanatical’ Arab and of course for us ‘English’ people, the ‘posh’ English person! All are stereotypes, and I can tell you that most English people are not posh, are not rich, are not aristocratic in any way, speak with a variety of very different regional accents and we live in all kinds of places, many in non-descript boring Working class towns where many people do minimum wages jobs and live regular ordinary lives. I expect that is the same everywhere to a point.

  3. christopherallen says:

    this is very insightful. I was thinking recently about the phrase “dutch courage” and “going dutch,” the first a play on the stereotype that the dutch are passive and lack authentic confidence and the second, although a custom, being associated with cheapness among some people. there are definitely undertones in these phrases that could arise offense. it’s amazing how they become so ingrained in our everyday vocabularies that we don’t even think to consider what they mean.

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