Scotland’s “Senga Syndrome”

Leslie Hills worked as a teacher in Scotland for several decades starting in the 1960s. Writing about her experiences in the 1990s, she mentioned Senga Syndrome:

Years later I heard my experience summed up by a very senior official in Lothian Region. The Senga Syndrome he called it and when pressed for an explanation by his male east-coast audience, explained that Senga, a name found only among the working classes in the West, was Agnes backwards and Senga was the typical Glasgow working class girl from a state school, who goes to Glasgow University, does an Ordinary degree, goes to Jordanhill College and returns, if she has ever left, to live near and teach in her old school or very close to it. Unfortunately this cruel description was largely accurate.

Senga Syndrome reminds me of Germany’s Kevinismus and of Sweden’s y-name syndrome. In all three cases, a certain name or type of name emerged to symbolize (in a derogatory way) a particular group or class.

Senga, FWIW, might be Agnes backwards, or it might be based on the Scottish Gaelic word seang, meaning “slender, lanky.”

Sources:

  • Hills, Leslie. “The Senga Syndrome: Reflections on Twenty-One Years in Scottish Education.” Identity and Diversity: Gender and the Experience of Education, edited by Maud Blair, Janet Holland, and Sue Sheldon, The Open University, 1995, 51-60.
  • Senga – Behind the Name

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