A scientist adrift among the parlous Scots

Hey, you Scots: Jerry Coyne is banging about in your country this week, speaking at the University of Edinburgh Humanist Society on Friday and Glasgow Skeptics next Monday. I hope some of you are planning to give him a haggis and a bottle of Irn Bru at some point (if you need an excuse to absolve you of guilt, you can tell him I made you do it.)


  1. says

    IRN BRU??
    You want to kill the poor chap!??!

    (Did you know that some years ago there was a Church of IRN BRU, where, mainly Glaswegian, people worshiped their sugary God?)

  2. Moggie says

    I’d like to hear more about the evolution of the haggis. Did you know that there are two different haggis species, the clockwise and the anti-clockwise? True story.

  3. says

    That’s what the essay says (though, sadly, it doesn’t go into the speciation any more than mentioning that lack of intercourse between the two).

  4. AshPlant says

    You’re just fruitlessly bigoted against Irn Bru, PZ, based on nothing other than direct personal experience. Call that skepticism?

  5. says

    AshPlant I didn’t read it as PZ being against IRN BRU, and my comment was only because you pretty-well HAVE to be a drunken (or overhung) Scot to survive it. (I’ve always thought that it could easily be the syrup from which other sugary drinks could be made)

  6. ChasCPeterson says

    Just realize that if you give Coyne a haggis, he’s going to post pictures of it for the entire internets to see, plus a gratuitous shot of whatever he’s wearing on his feet at the time. So you know.

  7. Dick the Damned says

    Anyone on a diet of haggis & Irn Bru is pretty much sure to be a bit parlous, eh.

    Nevertheless, he’ll be well-received in Edinburgh, I’m sure.

  8. evilDoug says

    Haggis is what you eat because you are too damned poor to afford anything else, and you can’t borrow any money from your relatives because they have short arms and deep pockets, and besides they were all driven out to make way for the sassanach sheep from which your great pudding is made. Haggis is romanticized dreck, much Prince Charlie, “.. a waster all his days.” [quotation from Strong Women Rule Us All by Brian McNeill, who also wrote No Gods (and Precious Few Heroes)]

  9. Sunday Afternoon says

    I see that Coyne will be speaking in the architectural abortion that is the Appleton Tower. This is memorable (to me at least) for being the location of my fist lecture as an undergraduate in 1989. Sorry to read that it is still there.

  10. chigau (無) says

    Why can I not find out what flavour Irn_Bru is?
    Most other soft drinks are identified as ‘cola’ or ‘orange’ or ‘grape’ or something.

  11. Dunc says

    Irn Bru is its own unique flavour. It’s not flavoured of anything else, it’s entirely synthetic.

  12. says

    We had Irn Bru in South Africa back in the day. But called Iron Brew and made by Coca-Cola. For the life of me I cannot remember what it tastes like. There is a website (linky) that says: “rosy vanilla, fruity flavoured great taste of Iron Brew”.

    No_True_IrnBru“, Scotsman?

  13. Moggie says


    Why can I not find out what flavour Irn_Bru is?

    The flavour is orange. The colour, not the fruit. Irn Bru tastes orange.

  14. Fred Salvador - The Public Sucks; Fuck Hope says

    I doubt I’ll make it to either of these engagements, but if anyone is thinking about giving Coyne either of these gifts might I suggest a more economical alternative; instead of haggis and Irn Bru, just give him some onion-flavoured sawdust and diabetes.

  15. DLC says

    Drink Irn Bru, eat Haggis and top it off with a fried mars bar for dessert. No wonder you folk like bagpipes.

  16. =8)-DX says

    absolve you of guilt

    NOT trying out haggis and NOT drinking Irn Bru is what you should feel guilty of if you go to Scotland. Being born in Scotland I highly prefer Irn Bru to Coca-Cola, Pepsi, or any other brand of refreshing soft drink. Sadly its about twice as expensive here =( and they only stock it in Tesco). And haggis is are actually delicious if fresh and quality prepared. Just thinking about the ancient times when hunting parties would scour the hills in an attempt to root out and kill ravening wild haggis in their natural habitat makes my mouth water.

  17. Menyambal --- in flagrante delicto says

    chigau, I liked Pocari Sweat. It took me a while to figure out the flavour was vaguely grapefruit, since the label wasn’t in English. And the name was really off-putting, since I’d just been reading about peccaries.

    It is indeed a sports electrolyte drink, not just a very odd soft drink. I took some powdered Pocari Sweat on on long bike trip, and was quite glad I had it.

    Irn Bru I might try. Haggis maybe, if it was humanely killed.

  18. says

    Irn Bru tastes better than Coca Cola, Haggis as many commenters have noted is delicious if properly made, but I think that my fellow Scots should really have a whip round and present him with a bottle of Caol Isla, so that he knows what we really want to drink.

  19. madscientist says

    Not sure about Irn Bru, but there’s nothing wrong with a good haggis – at least the innards are cleaned out, unlike a few offal recipes I know from Italy (but hey, there’s not really anything wrong with that either).

  20. Dick the Damned says

    Something definitely to be avoided is halal haggis.

    (The thought of them, strung up by their longer leg, & bleeding to death, is just too much.)

  21. Moggie says


    a bottle of Caol Isla, so that he knows what we really want to drink.

    Fuck yes. I’m sipping a Moch right now. Not as much punch as the 12yo, but still gorgeous.

  22. Menyambal --- in flagrante delicto says

    Chigau, I didn’t know if you liked Pocari Sweat or not, but guessed so. I wrote poorly, and it looked like I thought you didn’t.

    Calpis was good, too. I thought it was milk-based, but I hadn’t realized it was fermented. I had a hell of a time getting it, though, as I’d somehow got the name mixed up.

    Speaking of names, the Indonesians I hung out with pronounced “Pocari” in a way that was different from their usual language pattern, which would have made it “poCHARRReee”, and it came out like I’d say it. I attributed that to TV advertising.`The “Sweat” part came out as “sweet”, though.

  23. jefferylanam says

    Irn-Bru tastes almost like, yet not at all like tangerine. Caol Isla, or to my taste Lagavulin, is more of a proper thing to offer a guest, especially if you’re going to feed him haggis. Finish off the meal with a bit of tablet, which also goes well with whisky. (And yes, Firefox, that is how it’s spelled!)

    Brian McNeill is a legend. I saw him perform in Campbell, CA on the night before a Highland Games. He mentioned that he would be performing for Prince Charles at Holyrood. The next day at the Games he was performing wearing a T-shirt from on of the sponsors of the Games, Bad Boys Bail Bonds. I suggested to him that he should wear it to Holyrood.

  24. Rodney Nelson says

    I found a discussion of Irn-Bru on the intertubes:

    The smell immediately reminded me of Inca Kola, so maybe I’m completely losing it, or maybe there’s actual science at play here, I don’t know. But anyways don’t worry because the taste is nothing like Inca. Unfortunately the taste is somewhat flummoxing, and thanks to the limits of the English language, you’re not going to like how I describe it. It’s basically a plain, sugary flavor, with like a light, cumulative orange melody playing somewhere in the background. Imagine if you will a watered-down orange soda, without the water-y taste.

  25. evilDoug says

    I hadn’t thought about it earlier, but Coyne is an Irish name, and there was a time when the Irish were not held in high esteem in Edinburgh

    Ae nicht in Auld Reekie A walked doun the street
    Whan a saucy big polis A chanced for tae meet
    He glowert in ma face an he gied me some jaw
    Sayin whan cam ye owre, bauld Erin-go-Bragh?

    Well, A am not a Pat tho in Irelan A’ve been
    Nor am A a Paddy tho Irelan A’ve seen
    But were A a Paddy, that’s nothin at aa
    For thair’s mony’s a bauld hero in Erin-go-Bragh

    Well A know ye’re a Pat by the cut o yer hair
    Bit ye aa turn tae Scotsmen as sune as ye’re here
    Ye left yer ain countrie for brakin the law
    An we’re seizin aa stragglers fae Erin-go-Bragh

    Dick Gaughan explains.

  26. chigau (無) says

    Moggie #23

    The flavour is orange. The colour, not the fruit. Irn Bru tastes orange.

    It took me a while but I understand.
    It’s like the flavour of purple jelly beans.
    (’cause there is nothing else that tastes like that)

  27. Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD says

    There’s definitely some citrus flavouring in Irn Bru, plus almost a spicy warmth, but yes it is very hard to describe.

    My grandparents used to live near the Girders factory where it was made.

    So, born in Scotland I have had copious amounts of Irn Bru and haggis, but I draw the line at deep fried mars bar. I won’t even eat non-deep fried mars bar. (though I do use it in a slice recipe)

  28. JohnnieCanuck says


    Gaughan sings several more verses than what you quoted. Do you have the rest? I couldn’t make out everything he sang, though I was able to make out the written words quite well.

    Any clue as to the relevance of the image posted with the song?