IT’S a five-letter word which dates back centuries and has survived countless changes in cultural and linguistic fashion.
But now the Church of Scotland has outraged Scots language experts by banishing “anent” – meaning about or concerning – from its legal documents and deciding to go back through hundreds of pieces of old church legislation to purge the word from these as well.
This week’s General Assembly – which has been dominated by the row over gay ministers – was told the word “anent” should be dropped because no-one else used it and no-one understood why the church still did.
But defenders of the Scots language were shocked at the move and accused the Kirk of disregard for one of Scotland’s native tongues.
Most church legislation is given a title such as “Act Anent Discipline of Ministers”.
But a report by the Kirk’s legal questions committee said: “While the old Scottish word ‘anent’ has served the Church well for many years it is a term which has dropped out of common usage.
“Many people find it difficult to understand our continued use of this term in the title of contemporary legislation.”
Chris Robinson, director of Scottish Language Dictionaries, was taken aback at the move to ban the word.
She said: “I find it very surprising the Church of Scotland should have such disregard for one of the three indigenous languages of this country.
“There are plenty words used in the church or legal or other fields that are much rarer and more specialised, so why pick on this helpful, harmless, innocent, useful and much-loved little word?”
Michael Hance, director of the Scots Language Centre, said: ”It’s a bit odd that the Kirk, a centuries-old institution, impervious to change, should have selected this Scots word and decided to remove it.
“I’m sad to learn of this decision. What are they going to do next – drop the word kirk?”
A Church of Scotland spokesman said the decision had not been taken lightly – but it believed that the change would make documents more accessible to the wider population.