Ken More

Ken More – Graffiti on Old College

I was walking by Old College yesterday when I saw this graffiti on the side. I didn’t make much of it, but my flatmate pointed it out and gave a perfunctory ‘heh.’ “Know more,” he said, in his upper-class Scottish accent. And so I started thinking. It’s possible that this was more than just standard idiotic gang graffiti (if anyone else gets annoyed at seeing ‘œ’ all over town, you’re not alone.) It might be a statement about the Scottish-English dialect. ‘Ken’ is a notoriously Scottish word, meaning ‘know’. So, when one translates this statement into Standard English, there’s a pun: No more & Know more. The homophones would probably be glossed over by most, to be honest – I suspect that the pun wasn’t the original intention of the author . But if they were intended, I think this is a pretty witty way to say that the Scottish dialect, or culture, or what-have-you, is being forgotten (hence the imperative) and must be either revived or relearned or studied. The statement is about as vague as my argument for it, which is a bit of a problem, so I’ll stop trying to explain it.

It’s actually a pretty clear cut translated pun, I think. Another good example of a pun like this would have been used by the Cyclops in the Odyssey. Odysseus, not wanting to be known by his real name, gave the name ‘ou tis’, meaning ‘no one’. However, another way to say this would be to use the other negative: ‘metis’. This is a pretty witty pun, as that is a homophone with Metis, the god of cunning. So, when the cyclops has lost his eye and is calling for his kinsmen, he’d be saying in effect that both ‘no one’ and ‘cunning’ caused the issue. Quite…well…cunning. (The actual text may not use this form, but it was certainly known to the Greeks. Or, at least, to the Greek teacher at Edinburgh.)

Of course, another possible reading of the graffiti and it’s polysemic meaning comes from where it was drawn: Old College. Given the cuts that are being proposed to higher education, and the march today at 11:15 from East Market Street, I find the building it was placed to be a very suitable choice, really.

This entry was posted in Linguistics Musing. Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.


  1. stu
    Posted July 25, 2016 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Going to solve this wee mystery for you 🙂

    Ken More (or Kenny More) is a guy i know. When there was work being done on the University, he innocently painted his name on the wall as the brushes were brand new & in a pot of water. Turns out the water was a corrosive chemical and stained his name there permanently. And voilà a mystery was born and now solved 🙂

    • Posted August 1, 2016 at 12:20 am | Permalink

      That is awesome! Saw this the other week, on a short trip back. Super funny to know that’s how it started. Thanks Stu.

    • Kenny Stewart
      Posted August 27, 2016 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

      When did Ken write his name?

  2. Posted April 10, 2020 at 12:48 am | Permalink

    Thank you for your article. Seeking accurate information is one of the biggest concerns for its younger generation. Thank you for generating
    high-quality content. There’s so much information and much more advertising online it is actually
    tough to find worthy and relevant info. These days, nobody visits
    libraries where you can discover primary sources. In the digital
    world, you play distinct

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>