OUTLANDER author Diana Gabaldon has clarified a tweet in which she claimed that the SNP were responsible for the word “Scotch” falling out of use in Scotland.

The American author was responding to a query from a fan who was interested in the kind of hat Sam Heughan’s character Jamie was wearing in an episode of the Outlander TV series.

Gabaldon said the hat was a "Scotch bonnet", which is more often referred to as a tam o’ shanter.

However, in her response she also said that the SNP were instrumental in usage of the word “Scotch” falling out of use after they “got into power in the mid-20th c.”

The National reached out to Diana Gabaldon and asked her to clarify what she meant by her tweet after a professor of Scottish history disagreed with her interpretation.

She sent the following response:

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“This was in answer to someone who asked what sort of hat "he" was wearing in the notorious "ghost" scene from Season One of the OUTLANDER show. Well, there are two gentlemen in that scene, and they're both wearing headcoverings, but from the general shape of the discussion, I assumed the questioner meant Jamie (the Highlander), rather than Frank (snappily-dressed post-WWII gent). So I said that if it's Jamie, he's wearing a Scotch bonnet with a feather in it.

“However: I know from years of experience of people coming up to me at book-signings and informing me (often while finger-wagging; a dangerous thing to do if you're within biting distance...) that 'only tape is Scotch! The word is SCOTS!'  (Mind you, none of these people are Scots, and many of them are plainly the sort who would spell 'whisky' with an 'e', so I merely smile pleasantly and sign their books.)

“Because: I actually do quite a bit of research when writing these books (and have been doing, for the last thirty-five years). A lot of said research involves reading things written by actual Scottish people--both fiction and non-fiction--and that's why I feel reasonably OK about saying that most things written by Scottish people through the late eighteenth, nineteenth and early 20th centuries used the word 'Scotch' without the slightest blush.

I have (for example) a book written by Sir Harry Lauder: My Best Scotch Stories (London, 1929). And then there’s I Love A Lassie (Or Ma Scotch Bluebell) – Vintage Sheet Music (Francis, Day & Hunter, 1906).

"Granted, Sir Harry was a 'stage Scotchman', and thus perhaps not totally representative of linguistic norms , but he isevidence that no one at the time thought there was anything wrong with the word 'Scotch' as being an adjective implying that whatever it was had something to do with Scotland. 

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"Today, though, the majority of non-Scottish people I talk to (about Scotland or the books or the show) are Extremely Careful to use only the word "Scot", while sedulously avoiding "Scotch" (even when they really ought to be using "Scots" or "Scottish" as the adjectival form).  That's why I inserted the parenthetical remark indicating that "Scotch Bonnet" was historical and as such, in no way offensive.

"Being a thorough-minded person, though (friends and relations are prone to tell people who ask me questions to be careful, because there's a substantial risk that I will actually TELL them...), I thought that I should (within the bounds of a single tweet) indicate something about the use of 'Scot' vs. 'Scotch', as so many people are careful these days to avoid the latter at all times, fearing incorrectness.

"Now, I think that you (or perhaps your readers) may be confusing correlation for causality with regard to my tweet, but the fault is really cultural idiom.By which I mean: there were several shifts in usage that occurred through the middle of the 20th century, and these correlated roughly with the growth of the SNP into visibility. (That's what I mean by "came into power''--not that they were running the government but that they had achieved some political representation.)

"Whereas it's common in the UK to equate 'power' with whomever is actually the party at the top (for the moment...) I don't mean to imply that the SNP dictated a change from "Scotch" to "Scot/Scots/Scottish" (or that they could); merely that I see the linguistic change occurring roughly parallel with the emergence of the party. Chance is that an underlying development of nationalistic feeling is driving both political and linguistic developments.”

Gabaldon’s first Outlander book was published in 1991.

It has sold more than 25 million copies worldwide and spawned a successful televised series starring Scottish actor and independence supporter Sam Heughan.