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Today’s post is brought to you by the combined forces of my linguistics textbooks and last weekend’s trip to a mountain I can’t quite pronounce.

Ben A'an dead tree

On Sunday, we rented a car with a group of friends. Our goal: an impromptu hiking trip in the Highlands, to take advantage of what might be the last warm day of the year.

Side of Ben A'an

“But in 1204, King John, in a remarkable exercise of bumbling ineptitude, lost Normandy.”

– Language Contact: An Introduction

NTS plays hide-and-seek on Ben A'an

An interesting fact about Scotland is that costs perhaps half as much to rent a car with a manual transmission as one with an automatic. Consequently, while all of us theoretically can drive a stick-shift–most of our friends being European–we take care to be on very good terms with our one friend who is really comfortable driving stick on the wrong side of the road. (To be fair, this isn’t difficult. Staying on good terms, that is.)

View from near the top of Ben A'an

Driving stick on the wrong side is a little more complicated. How do I know this?


I signed on as the second driver. As we got out into the country, I got behind the wheel, and with much “get to the right!”, “to the left—I mean right!” and “don’t hit the pedestrians!” brought us safely the last 20 minutes to our destination. My heart slowed down eventually.


It seems that a leprechaun was abroad that day. He appears in two of these picture. Can you spot him?


I am told that the look on the next driver’s face as I eased out of the parking space was a study in hilarity. I suspect she was reacting to the intense look of concentration on my face. Needless to say, I did not hit anyone’s car. (According to all laws of geometry, the woman’s car was actually perfectly safe, regardless of my skill.) Sadly, I was too busy concentrating to see her expression.

Dead tree, Ben A'anSince highland roads are both hilly and twisty, I got much experience in shifting in those miles. And thus were two birds killed with one stone: we went hiking, and I got to play with a stick shift at no danger to Mumsy’s transmission or heart rate.

“As the old saying goes, you cannot prove that a platypus does not lay eggs by producing a videotape of a platypus not laying eggs.”

– Language Contact: An Introduction