Tuesday, January 1, 2008


Irn-Bru (pronounced iron brew) is a carbonated soft drink produced in Scotland. It has been, in fact, the most popular soft drink in Scotland, and it is the only soft drink to out-compete Coca-Cola in its home market.

One of Irn-Bru's slogans is "Scotland's other national drink," referring, of course, to whisky. On a related note, it's often used as a mixer with whisky or vodka, and it's also reputed to be an excellent cure for a hangover, perhaps thanks to its generous measures of sugar and caffeine.

In my visit to the UK in August I ordered an Irn-Bru on board a train from London to Edinburgh. I mistook its bright orange can to mean it was an orange soda. Instead, it tastes a lot like liquified Sweet Tarts. That is to say, it's damn sweet and rather tart. I like soda - I love a good Coke - but I'm not sure how I feel about Irn Bru.

What I do adore, however, is Irn-Bru's Christmas ad; it is, as the Brits are so fond of saying, 'brilliant.' Please click the snowman below to watch. Keep an eye out for glimpses of Edinburgh's Forth Bridge, Edinburgh Castle, and the Christmas-time ice rink in Princes Street Gardens, and be sure to listen to the lyrics.

Not all of Irn-Bru's advertising over the years has been so endearing and beloved as this particular ad. Indeed, according to Wikipedia:
Over the years, advertising campaigns for Irn-Bru have caused upset. One billboard featured a young woman in a bikini along with the slogan, "I never knew four-and-a-half inches could give so much pleasure". Another featured a picture of a cow with the slogan "When I'm a burger, I want to be washed down with Irn-Bru". This billboard received over 700 complaints but was cleared by advertisement watchdogs. A billboard which featured a depressed goth and the slogan "Cheer up Goth. Have an Irn Bru." was also criticised for inciting bullying.

Irn-Bru clearly knows how to get attention. Considering their success, they seem to support the old marketing adage that "any publicity is good publicity."

To our friends and family back across the Atlantic, fear not - Irn-Bru is sold in the States! It doesn't appear to be available in the St. Louis area, but keep an eye out for that distinctive blue and orange can if you've ever wondered what would happen if you crushed up Sweet Tarts and added some water and carbonation.

Auld Lang Syne

Auld Lang Syne is the most famous of English-language New Year's songs, sung around the world throughout not only the UK but also the US, Canada, and Australia after the stroke of midnight. You may not recognize the title, but the first verse will surely bring the proper tune to mind, particularly on this, the first day of 2008.

Well, it turns out the song is Scottish! (Mark always thought it was German; one look at the lyrics below illustrates why.) No one really knows how this ballad - with words partially collected from an ancient oral tradition and partially written by Scotland's poet Robert Burns, then set to the tune of an ancient Scottish song - became so widespread. The title, like much of the song, is in the Scots language, and it translates literally into modern English as 'Old Long Since' or more poetically as 'Long, Long Ago.'

Considering the scant population (~5.1 million) of this remote, wilderness-dominated country, it's impressive to learn of the various influences it has had elsewhere in the world.

Auld Lang Syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup of kindness yet,
For auld lang syne!

And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp
And surely I'll be mine,
And we'll tak a cup o kindness yet,
For auld lang syne!

We twa hae run about the braes
And pou'd the gowans fine,
But we've wander'd monie a weary fit,
Sin auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidl'd in the burn
Frae morning sun till dine,
But seas between us braid hae roar'd
Sin auld lang syne.

And there's a hand my trusty fiere,
And gie's a hand o thine,
And we'll tak a right guid-willie waught,
For auld lang syne.