I have tracked down my prey! Perhaps I should explain my sense of triumph. When David, Barnaby and I were discussing terminology the other day, we talked about “taste” and “tasto”, but I mentioned that I had also encountered ‘tang’ as a way of describing the Scottish fiddling style. I knew I’d read about it in a piece of writing from the early 20th century. I knew it was written in connection with Scottish fiddlers, in the plural, rather than about one single fiddler. But could I remember where I’d read it? Apart from the fact that I’d found it by Googling for something else!
I have spent several hours since then, trying to find it again. My web history wasn’t helpful. Neither was my recollection of my researches into an Irish poet who was fascinated with Scottish poetry, particularly by Robert Burns.
Finally, finally, I have found it! William Honeyman’s ‘Strathspey Players’ was written in 1922. Yes, it referred to an authentic ‘tang’. We certainly do need to be aware of this article, as a historical piece of writing if nothing else. You can read it here.
But the word – I can now say authoritatively – is not solely applied to strathspey playing! Scottish whisky is often said to have a salty tang. There’s also a seaweed called Tang – it comes in yellow and blue! An interesting word, then, but perhaps not particularly useful to us! And now I can stop banging my head against a brick wall …