June 18, 2006

A life without "outwith"

I learn new English nouns and verbs and adjectives all the time, but it's not very often that I learn a new English preposition. A story today in The Scotsman by Elizabeth Carr-Ellis "Polls predict Catalans will say yes to radical plan for devolution" taught me one, via this sentence:

However, opinion polls have claimed that more than 50 per cent of Spaniards outwith Catalonia are against the statute, with many right-wing politicians claiming it will begin the end of Spain as a country and leave Madrid with no-one to govern and no money to govern with. [emphasis added]

"Outwith Catalonia"? When I first read this, I wondered if it was a typo. But searching Google News this evening for {outwith} produces 97 results, for example:

Only two teams – Leiria of Portugal and Silkeborg of Denmark – of the 32 all-time winners have historically come from outwith the big four leagues of France, England, Spain and Italy.
I stopped saying yes to literary festivals outwith my native Scotland, in one of those fits of self-subversion – “That’ll show them”.
Edinburgh City Council health and social care director Peter Gabbitas admitted gaps in services existed, but could not say how many autistic people had to travel outwith the city to access care.
Outwith the pharma and healthcare sectors, China and India have been hogging much of the economic headlines of late, though Russia continues to offer attractive opportunities for UK firms.
In a rare move to make their views public, the Sheriffs' Association, which represents 90% of those who sit at Scotland's courts, claims the executive's proposals are unfounded and outwith the devolved powers of ministers.
CAB staff emphasised that the problems that arose were usually with the employment agencies outwith the region and not the companies and farmers employing them.
Catriona Mackie from VisitScotland said: “This was fantastic for Ayrshire and Arran as events have a huge role in attracting visitors from outwith the area to discover our beautiful scenery."

It's clear from the contexts that outwith means something like "outside of"; and from the sources, it's evidently a feature of Scots English. The OED says that it's "Now chiefly Sc.", and glosses its first sense as "1. Outside. a. In a position or place outside of; ... b. To a position or place outside of; ... "

Merriam-Webster's Unabridged glosses it as

1. chiefly Scotland : outside of : out of
2. chiefly Scotland : EXCEPT

and Encarta says

Scotland outside: outside or beyond

The word is not in the American Heritage Dictionary, which makes me feel very slightly better about not having noticed it until now. And according to LION, Robert Burns never used it; in fact it occurs in only 15 places in the history of English-language poetry, most of them from the 14th and 15th centuries, in contexts like this example from John Barbour's The Buik of Alexander (c. 1390):

7892 We be on hors all halely,
7893 Armit with speiris and with blasounis,
7894 Ane lytill outwith the pauilliouns,
7895 The standart dressed vp of Inde,

But by a curious coincidence, one of the four examples of outwith in 20th-century poetry comes from a sonnet by Hugh MacDiarmid about Catalonia, titled Der Wunderrabbiner von Barcelona. The source is given as "hitherto uncollected poems contributed to books and periodicals (1920-1976)". It's dedicated "To Else Lasker-Schüler", who wrote a book of the same title published in Berlin in 1921, so perhaps it dates from the 1920s.

1 Outwith the walls of Barcelona dwelt
2 A wonder-Rabbi humbly and alone
3 Whose eyes with radiance unearthly shone,
4 Whose holiness through all the land was felt.
5 The hearts of all he met a glance would melt.
6 The Jews adored him as their saintly own
7 And Christians, swift to throw the hostile stone,
8 Towards him at all times deferentially dealt.

9 There came a pogrom of the Jews at last
10 And naked corpses in the streets were cast.
11 The Rabbi deep in meditation came
12 Oblivious of the blood in which he trod.
13 Unseen the murderers stood beneath the flame
14 Of eyes that shone remote as th'eyes of God.


[Steve from Language Hat writes:

Nice to see my favorite Scots poet quoted on the Log! The Complete Poems has the Wunderrabiner poem as 1923.


Posted by Mark Liberman at June 18, 2006 09:53 PM