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  #1  
Old 08-10-2009, 06:12 AM
UncleFred UncleFred is offline
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Origin of (Incorrect) Sterotype of 'Cheap' Scots?

I once heard there was a vaudeville comedian who did a routine on a cheap Scotsman that was responsible for a widespread and incorrect perception of all Scots as being cheap.

Google has not willingly yielded information on this - if anything it supports the perception as being of much longer standing; does any one here know if this vaudevillian story is true or not and (bonus points) if true what was the comedian's name?
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  #2  
Old 08-10-2009, 06:45 AM
Lumpy Lumpy is offline
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No idea who the vaudvillean was, but the stereotype of Scottish miserlinessthriftiness goes way back, based on the fact that for a long time Scotland was dirt-poor. It's similar to the way the English used to make fun of the Scottish for eating oatmeal (which the English regarded as animal fodder), when it was a sensible adaptation to the cold, wet, short growing season in Scotland.
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Old 08-10-2009, 06:51 AM
Fear Itself Fear Itself is offline
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No McTavish
Was ever lavish.
~~Ogden Nash
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  #4  
Old 08-10-2009, 08:18 AM
WotNot WotNot is offline
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The music hall performer was likely to have been Harry Lauder, who had the catchphrase “Bang goes sixpence!”, but that was probably based on the punchline to a cartoon in Punch magazine from 1868, so it was older than him – and the stereotype's even older.
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  #5  
Old 08-10-2009, 08:25 AM
Earl Snake-Hips Tucker Earl Snake-Hips Tucker is offline
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Q: What is the difference between a Scotsman and a canoe?
A: A canoe tips!

Old joke, but I first saw that in a 9th grade English textbook! I have no idea about the relevance to the lesson anymore, presumably how words can have widely varying meanings.

Last edited by Earl Snake-Hips Tucker; 08-10-2009 at 08:26 AM..
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  #6  
Old 08-10-2009, 08:40 AM
Minnie Luna Minnie Luna is offline
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I married a thrifty Scotsman. His father was a thrifty Scot, as were his grandfather and grandmother. His sister is very thrifty as well. It may just be a trait of this particular family, but they are thrifty to the point of being miserly.

All hold professional degrees and make/made very good money, so it wasn't that money was hard to come by, they just didn't like giving away more than they had to.
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  #7  
Old 08-10-2009, 08:42 AM
Mk VII Mk VII is offline
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Lauder carefully cultivated the image of the Scotsman who is 'careful' with money, even in his daily life. It certainly made him wealthy and successful, but many Scots remain ambivalent about the image of Scotland which he gave the world. His act was popular in Canada, where there were many Scots immigrants at the time.
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  #8  
Old 08-11-2009, 09:15 AM
Beware of Doug Beware of Doug is offline
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That heritage of extreme poverty and bad agricultural conditions just generally has left its mark on the Scots in the form a sort of proud hardiness - bordering on hardness. Their national self-image, whatever that's worth, is of a people who disdain creature comforts and prefer to take things a bit raw.
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  #9  
Old 08-11-2009, 10:05 AM
astorian astorian is offline
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The Irish, historically, have been even poorer than the Scots, but have STILL told all the same jokes about penny-pinching Scotsmen.
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  #10  
Old 08-11-2009, 11:23 PM
t-bonham@scc.net t-bonham@scc.net is offline
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I seem to recall from school that there was a rather subtle joke in Shapespeare's Macbeth alluding to the cheapness of Scotsmen. So this would have been a common stereotype since at least 1606 -- 403 years ago.
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  #11  
Old 08-12-2009, 12:08 AM
Mister Rik Mister Rik is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lumpy View Post
No idea who the vaudvillean was, but the stereotype of Scottish miserlinessthriftiness goes way back, based on the fact that for a long time Scotland was dirt-poor. It's similar to the way the English used to make fun of the Scottish for eating oatmeal (which the English regarded as animal fodder), when it was a sensible adaptation to the cold, wet, short growing season in Scotland.
My understanding is that the English were blockading the Scots in an attempt to starve them into submission, and the Scots took to stealing oats from the English stables and cooking them up, and that's how oatmeal was invented. Not sure of the veracity of the tale, but there you go.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Earl Snake-Hips Tucker View Post
Q: What is the difference between a Scotsman and a canoe?
A: A canoe tips!

Old joke, but I first saw that in a 9th grade English textbook! I have no idea about the relevance to the lesson anymore, presumably how words can have widely varying meanings.
I'd always heard that one about Canadians.

Interestingly, my maternal grandmother, who was of Scottish descent, tended to use the word "Scotch" to describe somebody who was pathologically cheap thrifty, like her sister. (It was always interesting to me that both of them grew up during the Great Depression, in the same family, and came out of it with distinctly different views on handling money. Both were careful with their money; in my grandmother it manifested as careful management of savings and smart investments, but in her sister it came out as over-the-top penny pinching, like keeping her house uncomfortably cold in the winter simply because she wouldn't turn up the thermostat (and then moaning about how cold she was). Both were college educated and worked in the same profession (teaching), so it's not like my great aunt was markedly poorer than my grandmother.)
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  #12  
Old 08-12-2009, 02:03 AM
t-bonham@scc.net t-bonham@scc.net is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mister Rik View Post
My understanding is that the English were blockading the Scots in an attempt to starve them into submission, and the Scots took to stealing oats from the English stables and cooking them up, and that's how oatmeal was invented. Not sure of the veracity of the tale, but there you go.
It seems unlikely.

First, oats in a stable would normally be the raw whole grain. It has to be processed (rolled, ground, or cut) to produce the oats or oatmeal that humans eat.

Second, that is certainly not the invention of oatmeal. That was recorded as a human food long before -- it was a common meal of Greek soldiers in Trojan War times.
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  #13  
Old 08-12-2009, 02:43 AM
caligulathegod caligulathegod is offline
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"If it's not Scottish, it's crap."
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  #14  
Old 08-12-2009, 02:51 AM
caligulathegod caligulathegod is offline
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Originally Posted by Mister Rik View Post
Interestingly, my maternal grandmother, who was of Scottish descent, tended to use the word "Scotch" to describe somebody who was pathologically cheap thrifty, like her sister. (It was always interesting to me that both of them grew up during the Great Depression, in the same family, and came out of it with distinctly different views on handling money. Both were careful with their money; in my grandmother it manifested as careful management of savings and smart investments, but in her sister it came out as over-the-top penny pinching, like keeping her house uncomfortably cold in the winter simply because she wouldn't turn up the thermostat (and then moaning about how cold she was). Both were college educated and worked in the same profession (teaching), so it's not like my great aunt was markedly poorer than my grandmother.)
"Scotch is a drink; Scots are a people. But we're both great-tasting! "

Last edited by caligulathegod; 08-12-2009 at 02:52 AM..
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  #15  
Old 08-12-2009, 06:19 AM
Capt. Ridley's Shooting Party Capt. Ridley's Shooting Party is offline
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The Scots are so tight a few of the competitors in last year's highland games refused to let go of the caber.

Having lived amongst them (and with them ) for years, the stereotype isn't that far wide of the mark, especially if they're from Aberdeen .
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  #16  
Old 08-12-2009, 06:34 AM
Floater Floater is offline
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A Scottish friend of mine once told me that the jokes originally were directed at Aberdonians (he's from Aberdeen himself) from a Glasgow point of view. When they travelled south the English reasoned that if Aberdonians are thrifty and Aberdeen is in Scotland then all Scotsmen must be thrifty.

A number of years ago the Swedish State Railway Company had a campaign that two people could go for the same price as one, illustrated with two Scotsmen. A Scottish expat immediately complained about it on the grounds that it was degrading and eventually the company changed their advertising. Another Scotsman, however, informed me that that particular person was so mean he usually had tears in his eyes when he came out of the toilet.

Apart from that my own assessment of Scotsmen is that they are usually far too generous for their own good.
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  #17  
Old 08-12-2009, 07:36 AM
Baron Greenback Baron Greenback is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Capt. Ridley's Shooting Party View Post

Having lived amongst them (and with them ) for years, the stereotype isn't that far wide of the mark, especially if they're from Aberdeen .
Yup, Aberdonians are notoriously tight. They are also the source of most of the sheep-shagging stuff.
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  #18  
Old 08-12-2009, 07:44 AM
jinty jinty is offline
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According to John Prebble's book Culloden (I read it 20 years ago so this is IIRC), it first came about after the battle of Culloden in 1746. The battle was devastating to the highland economy, because in its aftermath the Duke of Cumberland (the victorious general) let his troops go on a confiscating spree. They ransacked the houses and stole the livestock and basically took anything portable and of value, which left the population dirt-poor.
Anyway the Inverness garrison were the ones Prebble credits (if that's the word) with originating the Scottish joke, since they thought it was great fun making meanness jokes about the penniless townspeople.
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  #19  
Old 08-12-2009, 08:21 AM
The Stafford Cripps The Stafford Cripps is offline
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Originally Posted by Struan View Post
Yup, Aberdonians are notoriously tight. They are also the source of most of the sheep-shagging stuff.
Eh, no, the source of the sheep shagging stuff is stupid people from the central belt who think that people who live in a city of 200 000 people are crofters. These same people also overlook the fact that Glasgow is closer to the real Highlands than Aberdeen is.
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  #20  
Old 08-12-2009, 08:55 AM
carlb carlb is offline
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I can't contribute to the main point of the thread, but I can share an anecdote of using this stereotype to one's advantage.

A number of years ago we were on a coach tour through England, Wales and Scotland (not my preferred mode of travel, but I digress). On the bus were two young ladies who had recently graduated college (one from Australia, one from New Zealand), doing their see-the-world thing before gaining employment.

Anyway, after spending the night in Edinburgh, they told of having a wonderful time, and not paying for any drinks. They would simply strike up conversation in the pub, talk about where they were from, and casually mention the stereotype in their homeland about the penny-pinching Scot. It would seem that young men became very eager to disprove that particular stereotype, and drinks ensued.
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  #21  
Old 08-12-2009, 09:15 AM
Swallowed My Cellphone Swallowed My Cellphone is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WotNot View Post
The music hall performer was likely to have been Harry Lauder, who had the catchphrase “Bang goes sixpence!”, but that was probably based on the punchline to a cartoon in Punch magazine from 1868, so it was older than him – and the stereotype's even older.
<tangent> I have a Harry Lauder album. It used to be my dad's (aye, a Scotsman). Lots of old drinking songs on it, IIRC. </tangent>

ETA: Oh, and my dad's family was certainly thrifty, but it had more to do with being in the U.S. during the Great Depression. The great, great grandparents weren't tightwads, but I don't believe the were big spnders either.

Last edited by Swallowed My Cellphone; 08-12-2009 at 09:20 AM..
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  #22  
Old 08-12-2009, 10:40 AM
Baron Greenback Baron Greenback is offline
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Originally Posted by G. Odoreida View Post
Eh, no, the source of the sheep shagging stuff is stupid people from the central belt who think that people who live in a city of 200 000 people are crofters. These same people also overlook the fact that Glasgow is closer to the real Highlands than Aberdeen is.
Ok, butt is a better choice of word than source
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  #23  
Old 08-12-2009, 10:48 AM
The Stafford Cripps The Stafford Cripps is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Struan View Post
Ok, butt is a better choice of word than source
If anything, that makes it seem even more obscene!
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  #24  
Old 08-12-2009, 12:52 PM
Staale Nordlie Staale Nordlie is offline
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Calivinism is the likely source of the stereotype.

From http://www.coe.uga.edu/~rhill/workethic/hist.htm :
Quote:
Calvin taught that all men must work, even the rich, because to work was the will of God. It was the duty of men to serve as God's instruments here on earth, to reshape the world in the fashion of the Kingdom of God, and to become a part of the continuing process of His creation (Braude, 1975). Men were not to lust after wealth, possessions, or easy living, but were to reinvest the profits of their labor into financing further ventures. Earnings were thus to be reinvested over and over again, ad infinitum, or to the end of time (Lipset, 1990). Using profits to help others rise from a lessor level of subsistence violated God's will since persons could only demonstrate that they were among the Elect through their own labor (Lipset, 1990).
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  #25  
Old 08-12-2009, 01:50 PM
Mister Rik Mister Rik is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by caligulathegod View Post
"Scotch is a drink; Scots are a people. But we're both great-tasting! "
Well I know that, and I'm sure my grandmother knew that, but this was coming out of her mouth very late in her life when her mind was going and she tended to say things that nobody would have blinked at when she was young but are inappropriate stereotypes now (most notably, she commented on my town's large Hispanic population by complaining that "they steal our women with their reputations for being great lovers!")

Anyway, the word "Scotch" was what they used to mean "thrifty" when she was young, so that's the one that popped into her head and came out of her mouth. (Also, don't forget there is, or was, a bargain grocery brand called "Scotch Buy".)
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  #26  
Old 08-13-2009, 05:50 PM
johncole johncole is offline
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I have a vague and elusive memory of an anecdote which detailed how the City of Aberdeen embarked on a very large and expensive civic improvement scheme (lots of granite) only to declare itself bankrupt when called upon to pay up.

This anecdote is referenced here.

For the lowdown on the most miserly Scot, see here.
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  #27  
Old 08-14-2009, 12:07 AM
Askance Askance is offline
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Wonderfully, this stereotype is the source of the name of Scotch Tape:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wikipedia
Use of the term "Scotch" in the name has a pejorative origin. To cut costs 3M applied the adhesive only to the edges of the tape. A remark was made by a St. Paul automobile detailer that the "stingy Scotch bosses" needed to put more adhesive on it. Scotty McTape, a kilt-wearing cartoon boy, was the brand's mascot for two decades, first appearing in 1944. The familiar plaid design, a take on the Wallace tartan, was introduced in 1945
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