I SAY, the popular comic character Our William - "Our William, Your William, why, he's Everybody's William!" - is to help weans learn Scots through an online initiative developed by the National Library of Scotland.

Who needs a state when you've got a language? "Oor Wullie's guide tae Scots language" aims to help primary children appreciate the tongue's richness while helping breathe new life into it.

What's the Scots word for hoorah? Of course we've never had much to cheer about so perhaps there isn't one. This being Scotland, somebody Scottish is bound to be against it anyway. Is there a Scots word for boo?

Outrageous. In a free society, anyone who believes in lingocide should be imprisoned. Be that as it may, I welcome this initiative, while remaining as confused about Scots as the next Scot. I'm not getting into the language or dialect debate, as The Herald's storeroom is running low on exclamation marks. Besides, if top experts can't agree on it, what chance does a leading ignoramus like moi have?

All the same, I suppose I should make some pedantic academic attempt to define my terms. According to that fine authority, Wikipedia, Scots is the Germanic language spoken in Lowland Scotland and parts of Ulster, though the accompanying map associates it also with the North-east (Doric) and Orkney and Shetland where it is, frankly, rife.

The North-west, the Western Isles and (historically) the South-west have their Gaelic, too, along with what is now mostly a majority form of Scots. I think.

Hell, nothing in Scotland is straightforward. We can't even take language for granted like normal countries. One of the reasons we lack self-confidence in speaking is doubtless down to language, accent, call it what you will. You hear foreign footballers confidently speaking their accented English while our players are tongue-tied and shy.

I've known broad Scots speakers cower linguistically in Englandshire. Our actors are often the same. The likes of Ewan McGregor - a "proud Scot but" Unionist, surprisingly - affect English accents where the role need not demand it. In politics, former prime minister Broon famously dropped his r's in a pathetic bid for acceptance. Or pathedic, as many Scotch (the mot juste in their case) persons would say, subsdiduding d for t to avoid the glottal stop. But we're straying into pronunciation here.

Let's revel in some words: braw, drookit, scunner, muckle, wheisht, dreich, shoogle, stooshie. What are they like, eh? Direct, earthy, entirely free of pretension - a reflection of us or how we once were. Wasn't it lovely watching Scandinavian dramas to hear them unselfconsciously saying braw, hoose, oot and noo?

I couldn't imagine the Scottish woman I heard in an Embra public library the other day using these as she affected an English accent ("Ow kaye?"). There's a post-Union history of this with the Scots language put down, disavowed and sneered at by aspirational Scotchmen (ever our worst enemies) on the make in the 18th century.

The irony about confident use of language is that it should never be self-conscious. Whether trying to sound Scottish or posh it won't come out right. You'll sound like you are trying. I've heard people in Shetland pronounce the same word three different ways in a couple of sentences (much like the forced, self-conscious talk of going "to Scotland").

That sort of thing speaks of the need to codify the tongue, which would have to be in writing. The Norwegians, I believe, codified their language some time ago but, as we proved on September 18, we are not Norwegians.

At present, in Scotia Minor, individuals make up their own Scots prose, writing it as they speak it, with attendant variations between, say, Glasgow and Aberdeen. There has been a wonderful explosion of this on yonder internet, particularly on football fan websites, where folk write confidently and well in their own form of Scots.

Speaking of football, a famous linguistic occasion occurred when Celtic were bringing on an unrated Italian player. The English observation "Oh no, not Annoni on as well" was rendered by one fan as: "Aw naw, no Annoni oan an aw noo."

Help me, Robert, that's pure poetry, so it is.