THERE'S something nasty about social niceties.
They make you do things you might not want to do.
Take tipping. You get an indifferent meal and apathetic service, but still you leave a tip. Well, many folk do. The brave demur. Others feel that tipping is a socialist duty, like paying tax. Some suffer from Gallogarçonophobia, a fear of French waiters.
Just occasionally, you leave a tip because the meal has been tip-top and the waitress a wellspring of joy. But, mostly, we do it out of habit or duty or social convention.
More than all these things, though, we don't want to be thought mean. Mean? Yes, the charge rings a bell. Isn't that what we Scotch folk are meant to be? Yup, that's our reputation.
The Lord only knows how it began, though a secret summit involving Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein concluded: "It may have originated south of yon border." I can't believe that.
Hard-to-believe brings me an English-based newspaper noted for its vicious anti-Scottish coverage which this week deigned to commend us for being the biggest tippers in the UK. Never one to miss a trick, though, it used the opportunity to have a go at the Welsh.
This afforded the Irish and French some respite. In fact, even "the North" (of England) regularly gets it in the neck. Technically, this is a paper that shouldn't sell anywhere furth of the Home Counties, as it hates us all. Soon, its increasing insularity will mean that only its own HQ will escape the venom and, even then, it'll start slandering the folk on other floors until only half a dozen of the most hardcore nutters are left in a bunker, ranting at the rest of the world.
On this occasion, the Welsh were fingered for being the meanest tippers. There wasn't much evidence for this, other than a survey of 2000 citizens by top professors at mobile phone app Click A Taxi. They found that Glaswegians and whatever Edinburgh folk are called were twice as likely to tip a cabbie as the average Britisher.
The headline figures were that one in 10 Scots never tipped compared to one in four Welshonians and one in five Englanders. Curiously, the worst cities for tipping were Birmingham, Leeds, Bristol, Norwich and Nottingham.
When an aggrieved Welsh person asked where about in Wales he could find these cities, Dave from Hastings opined: "They probably meant Welsh people living in those cities." Toto Kubwa from Cyprus, meanwhile, an obsessive anti-Scottish commenter, added: "Nice to see the Scots are not tight-fisted with English money. It's time they earned their own." We'll take that as another vote for independence.
The whole angle of the story is that, in a surprise development, a study has gone against the prevailing myth of Scottish meanness. True, thrift is often generated by poverty, and poverty has been a feature of Scottish life for the past 300 years. But studies usually show the poor are more generous than the rich and, indeed, that Scots are among the top donors to charity.
Yet we remain fair game, and not just for that newspaper's divisive bitterness. In Germany – a country you'd have thought might feel chary of slating other peoples wholesale – bargain goods are often advertised at "Schottische" prices.
The Scandinavians are just as bad. Once, I was visiting an old Norwegian church and the resident cleric asked where I was from. When I said "Scotland", he laughed and said, "Oh, you must be very mean."
This from a minister with a cloth, and a supposedly progressive Norwegian. The funny thing is they don't like it when you come back at them, saying "And you must be very boring", while imitating their haw-di-haw accents.
Nowadays, the new social niceties of political correctness mean you can't say anything about anybody – except the Scots. For some reason, we've escaped the strictures. One imagines the United Nations resolution: "No people will have a go at any other people, unless it's those mean chancers, the Scots."
Well, taxi for slander, and here's a tip: shurrup and gie us a break.
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