Wednesday 21 September 2011

Scots As She Is Spoken! - Edinburgh Fog

When I was writing my short story Edinburgh Fog, one of the things I really wanted to capture most was the particular rhythm of the way people speak in Edinburgh. The characters in the story are young, modern, city-dwelling Scots. They’re more ‘T In The Park’ music festival than ‘tea with the laird,’ and let’s be honest, would be more likely to play rugby for England than spend their precious free time on a Highland holiday!

That doesn’t make them any less Scottish, though. These are people I know and love - fiercely proud of their Scottish history and heritage, and they look forwards, not back.

One thing that’s common to us Scots the world over is our vernacular language – the special words and phrases from childhood that we still use in our everyday speech right now. It doesn’t matter how grown-up and sophisticated you think you’ve become – some things never leave you. I’d like to share some of them with you now, and maybe you’ll start using them too!

Coorie up / coorie in - My favourite Scottish expression. To coorie up is to cuddle or to snuggle up tight, the way my kids do with me when we settle down in front of a warm fire on a cold night, preferably with a thick blanket wrapped around us. It’s about keeping the cold away, and being not just warm, but safe too.

Similarly, coorie in is what you do when you dive under the bedclothes on a chilly winter’s night and curl yourself up into a little ball till you’re as warm and cosy as toast. You’re safe and sound in your own little nest where nothing can touch you, not even the bogeyman. It’s a lovely expression.

Aye, right - You’d think the obvious translation of aye, right would be ‘yes, that’s correct,’ wouldn’t you? Wrong! Aye, right is just the opposite. Delivered with a sideways look and a voice dripping with sarcasm, it means variously ‘That’ll be the day,’ ‘pull the other one,’ or ‘I should co-co.’ A well-aimed aye, right, pal will pierce any misplaced enthusiasm, pathetic chat-up line or political rhetoric deeper than the sharpest dagger.

If you really mean, ‘yes, that’s right,’ you’ll need to employ ‘aye, right enough’ or ‘you’re right there.’

Numpty - This, in my opinion, is the best word ever invented to describe a twit, a moron, or anyone who’s view you simply don’t hold with. (see ‘political rhetoric,’ above.) Funnily enough, it’s often used immediately after aye rightAye right - awa’ ye go and dinnae blether, ya numpy!

Stoater / stoatin’ - Nothing to do with stoats…! But rather, glorious expressions of appreciation, admiration and /or enjoyment. See that bairn o’ yours, she’s a wee stoater! is an entirely acceptable way of describing one’s appreciation of the beauty of an acquaintance’s female offspring. Similarly, that wis a stoatin’ night oot last night could be translated as ‘what fun we had on our visits to various purveyors of wines and spirits last evening!’

If time is short, you can reduce it to one word and you won’t lose one iota of meaning – Stoatin’!

Glaikit - Confused, gormless, a bit dim. Can either apply to a habitually brainless individual, or to a person merely temporarily in such a state, eg, ‘are you in need of need some further enlightenment on a particular subject, my friend?’ can be rendered as Whit are you staundin’ there sae glaikit-lookin’ fir? Whit a numpty!

NB for the sake of variety, the word eejit! is entirely interchangeable with numpty.

Scunnered - Nothing describes that feeling of being thoroughly and completely fed up and cheesed off as the word scunnered, and is often followed by the speaker’s fervent desire to ‘skip school’ or ‘skive off.’ Thus, this job’s got me scunnered, I’m awa’ for a skive. Dinnae tell the boss!

Nippin’ or nip - To pinch between finger and thumb. Mammy, she’s nippin’ me! It’s also used to describe a headache, particularly one due to the effects of over-indulgence – whit was ah drinkin’ last night? Ma heid’s nippin’…!

Nae borra, pal! - You’re welcome, my pleasure, no worries. Speaks for itself.

Aw, naw! - You really have to draw the words out to get the full effect. It’s ‘oh no!’ of course, but somehow it has so much more impact. Heard all over Edinburgh when the winter weather becomes even more inclement is Aw, naw – snaw!

Peely-wally - pale, pasty, off-colour. You feelin’ a’right? Yer lookin’ affy peely-wally. Some people might say that us Scots are perpetually peely-wally, with our fairer than fair complexions, or as Billy Connolly would have it, we’re not just pale, we’re pale blue.

I hope you’ve enjoyed a brief look at my native tongue – no need to thank me, it was my pleasure, or I should say, nae borra, pal. Despite my twenty-plus years living in England, I still use loads of these fabulous Scots words and expressions every day. They’re pure dead brilliant!

Hopefully you'll feel the same away about the following excerpt which I hope captures the rhythm and humour of those Scottish characters I know and love so well.

Edinburgh Fog is released today by Muse It Up Publishing.


When Greg Morton returned to Edinburgh, it was to follow his dream of opening the smartest bar-bistro in town. Now Tellers’ is a huge success—but the truth is, deep inside, it means little without the love of his life.
Four years ago, he left Julia Brady behind in London to realize his business ambitions in his Scottish home town. By the time he’d recognized his mistake and admitted to himself he wanted her back, the grapevine told him Julia had moved on—and Greg had to face the fact that he’d been a fool.
When Julia appears out of the blue in Tellers’, he knows the only thing he should do is walk right up to her and say hello. But it looks like someone else has their sights set on her, and he’s a quick worker.
Is Julia about to disappear from Greg's life a second time - this time, for good?


' “Another pot of coffee, boss.”

Ben shattered Greg’s getaway plans as he slapped his notepad on the marble bar-top. “And Mr. Smarty over there says could that be with hot milk, because he wants a macchiato caldo, not freddo. I told him the milk comes hot out of the machine anyway, and is Freddo no’ that wee bloke with the big feet out Lord of the Rings? Don’t get smart-arsed with me, pal, is what I really wanted to say.” Ben curled a lip and turned to face the growing crowd in the bar as he waited for Greg to top up another coffee jug. “Mind you, for a smart arse, he must have something.”

Greg glanced over at the object of Ben’s ire. “How’s that?”

Ben gesticulated with his chin towards Julia’s table. “Look at him! Manky wee ginger git, and he’s got those gorgeous babes with him. What’s he got that I haven’t?”

“Well, let’s think.” Chrissie wandered over from the other end of the bar to join in the conversation. “Wit? Intelligence? Charm and personality?” she offered, giving Greg a sly wink. Any opportunity to wind up Ben about his ways with women usually wasn’t to be missed, but tonight Greg’s heart wasn’t in it. He pulled out a wooden tray inscribed with the Tellers’ logo and set the coffee pot down. “Probably just friends from work.” He half-filled a stainless steel jug with milk, jammed it under the foamer nozzle and let it rip.

Chrissie wrinkled her nose and nodded. “He doesn’t look like the world’s greatest lover to me, Ben. Your crown’s safe, big man.”

Ben grinned as he reached for the tray. “Aye. You’re right there. Watch me go.”

Greg frowned. “Go where?”

“To show lover-boy how it’s done, what do you think?” He flicked a look over his shoulder. “Those babes’ll be nibbling their complimentary biscotti from my hand before I’m done. Man, oh, man...gimme an older woman any day. There’s no substitute for experience. What age do you reckon?”

“Twenty-nine,” Greg said, with much more precision than he’d intended to let show. “Or thereabouts,” he added lamely, relieved Ben hadn’t noticed the fact that Greg could have given him Julia’s date, time and place of birth too, had he asked.

Ben tipped his head, weighing up the facts. “A bit older than my usual conquests, but then, what’s life if not a challenge, eh, boss?” He balanced the tray high on one hand and sauntered in the direction of Julia’s table, six-pack abs and butt muscles on display, looking like a walking anatomy chart.'

Edinburgh Fog is available from the UK Kindle Store, the US Kindle Store, and in all other formats from Muse It Up Publishing.

Read more about Jane at Home Is Where The Heart Is.


Rosemary Gemmell said...

Loved your post, Jane! As a west of Scotland native (I live nearer Glasgow than Edinburgh) I absolutely love all those expresions, many of which we still use! Another of my favourites which is used most frequently here is 'dreich' - nothing describes our miserable, drizzly wet days than this word.

Jane Richardson said...

Hi Rosemary! Yes, I know 'dreich' too! What a great word. I'm really glad you enjoyed the post, smashing to see you!

Jane x

Lindsay Townsend said...

Brilliant, Jane! I love numpty and I love Rosemary's 'dreich' - we get a lot of that where I live (I also call it Pennine Drab)
Congratulations on publication of Edinburgh Fog!

Alan Calder said...

Nice piece Jane. I certainly like 'dreich', the sound strongly supports the meaning, giving the word added impact. I like the word 'coothie', more of a north east word that implies a warm homely simplicity that modern life often obliterates. We could extend your theme to more complex expressions that abound in our regional vernaculars. Just yesterday I hear an old one about relationship building.
'Oh, ye need tae burn a stack o'peats wi her tae fin oot what she's like.'
My wife's granny had a good one. 'There's a Stroma everywhere.' Stroma is an uninhabited Island in the Pentland Firth that was abandoned by its inhabitants, the last ones leaving in the early sixties.

Jane Richardson said...

Thanks, Lindsay! I love 'Pennine Drab!' You can really picture it!

Jane x

Jane Richardson said...

Hi Alan, and thanks. 'Coothie' is good, I'd forgotten that, but you're right, it's such a descriptive word. Love the 'stack o' peats' too. We have a rich language, don't we!!

Jane x

Jenny Twist said...

I love all this stuff. I'm familiar with a lot of it. My sons were at Edinburgh and I'm a big fan of Ian Rankin. Glad to find this site, too. I think a lot of the best writing is coming from British authors these days.
Jenny x

Jane Richardson said...

Hi Jenny - yes, you'll definitely get a lot of these words in Ian Rankin's books, I should think. Val McDairmid is another, she was born not far from my home town in Fife. I'm glad you enjoyed the post! Thanks. :)

Jane x

Margaret Morton Kirk said...

Great post. I returned home to the Highlands a couple of years ago after a long exile down south, so I'm having to re-learn a lot of the Inversneckie favourite current expression, to denote befuddlement, is 'my head's mince!' (though I don't think it originates up here).

Currently contemplating the great tablet dilemma in my novel-in-progress - do I wimp out and substitute 'fudge' for our national sweet treat, or do I stick to authenticity and hope people can work out what I mean? Tricky!

Christine London said...

As a Yank that writes Brit setting and characters (oft of the Scot variety) interacting with those Stateside, I always appreciate adding to my bank of idiom. I just love the Scot sensibilities and humor.

Margaret-It is always a challenge to answer the question "do I stick to authenticity and hope people can work out what I mean?" It has been the hallmark of my writing to make sure we Americans, who are much less familiar with Briticisms than you are with our turns of phrase, (thanks to American TV and cultural imperialism) understand my Brit characters. Makes the writing all the more a fun challenge! At the end of the day, I think we must go for clarity made more attainable through contextual clues. Having the American character to show their ignorance via raised brow or throat cleared in confusion is a great tool to beg clarity. Making a fool of ourselves is a good method too. (Cameron Diaz character in The Holiday: " have to plug it in over here." in reference to her ignorance of Brit switch on plugs.)

House trading with some folks in Edinburgh this summer was a bit of magic. Seems they had even more tales to bring home than I as they spent some time not only beach bumming but Hollywood celeb cruising here in my hometown of Los Angeles. Our admiration and love of each other on both sides of the pond shall always provide interest and fun.

Thanks for the wonderful post!

Christine London
christinelondon **dot** com

Jane Richardson said...

Margaret, hi! 'My heid's mince' is fab, I do remember that describing something as 'mince' in Edinburgh meant it was rubbish, hopeless. I think Edinburgh has its own particular way of speaking with words that come and go depending on what's 'trendy!'
Fudge - hmm, that is tricky. I'm sure you'll find the way through. The other week I described the BBC Scotland comedy show 'Fags, Mags and Bags' to an American friend - needless to say, it was NOT what she thought it was!!
Thanks for dropping in. :)

Jane x

Jane Richardson said...

Christine, you've pretty much summed it up! We truly are 'two nations divided by a common language,' and long may it remain so! I've worked it the other way around, writing American characters and trying to get them right as a British writer - thank heavens for my US critique partners, without whom I'd be lost!
I'm trying to imagine your Edinburgh house-swappers spotting the celebs and the comments they might have made - it takes a LOT, as I'm sure you discovered, to impress someone from Edinburgh!
Thanks for dropping in to chat. :)

Jane x

Anne Duguid Knol said...

Keeking in to say congrats on a braw book and saw whitna thrash you're having here. I didna ken sae mony o' us wiz Scots.

Tablet--I'm drooling already--much nicer than fudge I reckon.

Thoroughly enjoyed the article and the crack. Feeling nostalgic as I clump awa tae ma bed in ma baffies.

Savanna Kougar said...

Jane, if I ever write a Scottish heroine or hero, I'll know who to bother with questions.

Congrats on your release!

Hywela Lyn said...

What a great post, Jane. My first crit partner came from your neck of the woods and he sent me a paragraph which was written in a Glasweigian accent. I wish I could remember it now, but it ended with furryboots ye frae - which apparantly meant "whereabouts are you from?" I still use the term 'furry boots' and think of him!

There are a lot of Welsh phrases that are used frequently too, even when speaking English. 'Coorie up' would be 'cwch', 'it's raining again' or 'dreich' would be 'it's bwrw glaw' and 'numpty' would be 'twpsin' (twp means dim or stupid) words and phrases like this are heard all the time when I go back to Wales, and I grew up with them.

Congratulations on your new release. I loved reading the excerpt, and I think you handle the dialect beautifully. It's so easy to 'overdo' this sort of thing, but it comes across so naturally and I could hear the speech in my head!

Wishing you even more success, my friend! XX

aarbaugh said...

Well done! (that's one I learned from my Scottish friends). I've been to Scotland twice in the last two years, each time spending nearly two weeks mostly in the same town. It's in the Argyll & Bute area. Your comments make me miss my friends over there. My novel-in-progress is set in that area and in the US. I'm sure I'll need another trip over there for research. At least once. LOL.

Jane Richardson said...

Annie, you speak my language in more ways than one! Great to see you, thanks for coming over :)

Jane x

Jane Richardson said...

Savanna, it's a deal! Lovely to see you. :)

Jane x

Jane Richardson said...

Lyn, thanks so much. I agree, dialect can be very hard to write, actually, I think it's best not to try! I tried to go for speech rythmn, and I'm delighted you think it's worked!
I love the Welsh words.
Always super to see you, thanks so much for dropping in.

Jane x

Jane Richardson said...

Hi aarbaugh - well, any time you want to discuss language and British-isms, you know where to come!
Thanks for dropping in. :)

Jane x

Anonymous said...

Now I really want to read this.