Nonfiction

wee bit of Scottish – etymology with adriana psaltis

22 February 2015

Two weeks ago, I left Melbourne to set off for my exchange program at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. I had two connecting flights: the first from Melbourne to Dubai and the other from Dubai to Glasgow. All was going well until halfway through my second flight, I realised that something felt quite different. No longer did I have young Australian tourists talking to me about travelling to Budapest or a group of Kiwi school principals rambling about an educational trip to Spain. Instead I was surrounded by a whole bunch of people speaking in a language that I couldn’t understand: flight attendants included.

The Scottish accent is notoriously known for being the hardest accent for non-Scottish English speakers to grasp – and each of Scotland’s four main dialects progressively gets worse than the last.

The Insular dialect is spoken in the archipelagos to the north of Scotland – Shetland and Orkney. In this region, speakers replace the auxiliary verb ‘to have’ with the verb ‘to be’. In other words, where we would say, “I have just done the washing,” Insular speakers would say, “I am just done the washing”. The Orcadians of the Orkney Islands also invented their own word, ‘whar’, which can be used simultaneously for both the words ‘where’ and ‘who’, because it’s probably so cold up there that they can’t afford to waste breath!

Moving down to the mainland, we have the Northerners who say ‘mune’, ‘spune’ and ‘gude’ instead of ‘moon’, ‘spoon’ and ‘good’. Further south, speakers of Central Scots are very fond of the word ‘coonciljuice’, or as we know it ‘council juice’, which means tap water. The term arose from the fact that the Scottish don’t pay for tap water in their homes. Lucky bastards!

Finally, there’s Southern Scots, the strangest dialect of them all. In the southern town of Hawick, a dialect called Teri Talk is used, whit div ee think? I can only just understand it when I put on my best Scottish accent. Have a go at this sentence: ‘R e gan doon the street?’

Thanks for reading, me lads and lasses!


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