To continue my occasional series of jauntily compelling or otherwise curious excerpts from Scottish literature, today I've got another cracker. I recently mentioned the splendidly conceived book To the Hebrides, which combines, side-by-side, Dr Johnson's Journey to the Western Isles of Scotland and James Boswell's Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides. This anecdote from the text is a mischievous lesson in the incorrigibility of touchiness, vanity and the generation-transcending appeal of human vulnerability. Here is Dr Johnson, writing from the Isle of Skye:
"Among other guests, which the hospitality of Dunvegan brought to the table, a visit was paid by the Laird and Lady of a small island south of Sky, of which the proper name is Muack, which signifies swine. It is commonly called Muck, which the proprietor not liking, has endeavoured, without effect, to change to Monk. It is usual to call gentlemen in Scotland by the name of their possessions, as Raasay, Bernera, Loch Buy, a practice necessary in countries inhabited by clans, where all that live in the same territory have one name, and must be therefore discriminated by some addition. This gentleman, whose name, I think, is Maclean, should be regularly called Muck; but the appellation, which he thinks too coarse for his Island, he would like still less for himself, and he is therefore addressed by the title of, Isle of Muck..."