AneYinWan

Beginning on 21 February, International Mother Language Day, many Scots language organisations are celebrating the diversity of Scots via #AneYinWan. Here we explore the significance of this hashtag.

Most Scots speakers will recognise ane, yin and wan as different ways of expressing the cardinal number one.

Ane is found in many areas of Scotland from the North East coast of Moray and Aberdeenshire down to Lanarkshire. In Caithness the spelling changes to ain; so my ain true luve can mean either ‘my one true love’ or ‘my own true love’. Before a noun, however, ane/ain is often reduced to ae.

In terms of Scotland’s population, yin is the most widespread form of ‘one’. It is found throughout the Central Belt and lowland Scotland, and in Ulster Scots as well. It has been immortalised, of course, by The Big Yin, Scotland’s nickname for our own Sir Billy Connelly.

Wan is documented in many of Scotland’s dialect areas, including West Lothian, Ayrshire and Fife, and also in Glasgow, where it is the most common form of ‘one’.

Other dialect areas have their own forms too: Aberdeenshire has een, which is also found in Shetland although usually with the spelling ein; wen, a variant of wan, on the other hand is recorded only for 1950s Orkney.

For many of us, two or more of these forms can sit comfortably side-by-side. So too for our forebears:

Penny anes and twopenny wans.” The elegance of wans, as compared to anes, was to the mind of the town only a due recognition of the might of wealth. (1894, Fife.)

That yin wi' the black funnel? That’s wan o’ the Anchor Line. (1964, Glasgow)

All of these forms look, and in most cases sound, very different from one another but – like their Standard English counterpart one – they all originate in the same Old English word, ān ‘one’. Given their differences in spelling and, especially, pronunciation do you agree with the dictionary editors’ decision to treat ane, ae, yin, wan and een, ae as entirely different words? Or given their common history would it be better to treat them instead as variants of the same single word?