It’s all about Scottish-English this week. Here is a guest blog by Nick Gillard about English spoken by “Weegies“.
I was born in Glasgow (Scotland’s largest city) where English is spoken but not quite as we know it, Jimmy*.
Like Liverpool, (perhaps Glasgow’s closest cousin) over 50% of “Weegies” are Irish Catholic in origin (potato famine refugees) and that means while only a few miles down the M8 from the Capital City, Edinburgh, we could not be more different in the way we speak.
Glasgow instantly challenges you with fiercely abrasive consonants whilst Edinburgh charms and beguiles with the neo-Classical beauty of her modulated vowels (think Miss Jean Brodie in her prime). And it’s not a friendly rivalry either. “Edinburgh isnae bad but Glasgow’s miles better, by the way …”
Above all, Glaswegians make the English language funny. They pride themselves on it. And delight in phrase making and the rhythm of words. It’s no coincidence the Celtic cities of Liverpool, Glasgow and Manchester are all musical ones. You may not understand us though. It can easily confuse and disorientate the first time visitor. It’s not just that the accent is thick. And it is – extremely at times. But it can often escalate into a kind of Celtic (or Rangers) Creole – an impenetrable Gorbals Swahili.
In fact, when I first moved to England – two things struck me immediately. Taxi drivers will not accept Scottish pound notes regardless of how you reason with them. But more to the point, when you do reason with them they do not understand what you are saying. Accent and money were so different that the fundamental structures of life fell apart even before you’d left Kings Cross station.
Scottish national treasure, Stanley Baxter must have had a similar experience. “Parliamo Glasgow” remains a tour de force to this day – rejoicing in the diversity of the English language in a pre-Billy Connolly/Rab C Nesbitt world.
Take a look big man/wee man (delete as appropriate). That’s my patter…
Teach Yourself To Speak Scottish – 4 – Parliamo Glasgow
* When conversing in licensed premises in the city and have temporarily forgotten a person’s name, it is perfectly acceptable vernacular to address them as “Jim or Jimmy” regardless of gender.Email this Post
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An elderly woman who lived next door to us when I was a kid was from Glasgow. When we were out in the garden playing she used to shout ‘Whist, whist!’ (sounding like weest). We always took it to mean ‘BE QUIET’-but I’ve never known for sure.
One of my favourites with Weegie English is substituting ‘though’ with ‘but’ at the end of a sentence…
‘He’s a’right, but’ – typically follows an intense criticism of said character.
Any ideas where this comes from?
He’s a right butt?
Shane, it’s ‘Wheesht’ and you’re right, she was telling you to shut up!
Nick – funny you should mention Parliamo Glasgow – I work for the very publisher that publishes the book! We released an audio CD version of at Christmas too… (Shameless plug over). When I tell folk that talking Scottish is about removing as many vowel sounds and consonants as possible, I always use the ‘Can I have a pound of butter for tomorrow’ one – Cunnahuvvapunnaburrafurramurra (hahaha!)
There was a feature in the TV news at the end of last year about new Weegie-speak and the example they used was great, overheard on the terraces at Ibrox or Parkhead, I don’t know which team has a player called Anoni, but the expression was ‘Oh no, Anoni is on as well now’, which cam out as ‘AwnawAnonisoninawnoo’ (!) Barry!
Actually, I think barry is more an east coast thing, but I may be wrong… (we’re not all Jean Brodies on the East side, ye ken! Hahaha!)
Thanks Vikki. Parliamo Glasgow lives on! That is great news.
Do you remember Victor and Barry? They were the Glasgow equivalent of Ms Jean Brodie. Morningside meets Kelvinside.
You are absolutley right – generalizations never work – especially in Scotland.
Yer but no but…..
How nice to be reminded of Parliamo Glasgow. It’s quite sound linguistically, in that it recognises the importance of recurring chunks. One I remember from the show was ‘sanoffie’, which can be used to create sentences like ‘Sanoffie cold day’. Deconstructed, this means: ‘It is an awful’ (or ‘awfully’), hence: ‘It is an awfully cold day’. You can recycle this endlessly.
I love Victor and Barry! I wonder if the High Life is available on DVD?
I find it very interesting what you are doing on this page. Here we can find the answers to our doubts, or at least, to some of them. Thank you very much.
So, Nick, would Glaswegians use the term barry to say something was good? Or is that an east coast thing?
You know I never heard that before. We did used to day “gallus” when I was at school which meant something was very good or “pure dead brilliant”. Do you remember that?
I can’t believe it! I was going to comment on the AwnawAnonisoananawnoo too!
It’s difficult to imagine how a visitor to our fair city feels when confroned with a native. Fortunately, in “Notes From a Small Island” Bill Bryson does a damn fine job. I explained to my Catalan girlfriend before our visit to Glasgow at Hogmany/New Year that if Bill Bryson can’t understand us then the chances of her understanding anything in a room full of drunkards in the east end of Glasgow at Hogmany were slim.
Joe – Hahaha! Did you see that news item too?
Nick – I don’t really use pure dead brilliant, but I know it, and I remember it as Prestwick Airport’s quite cringy advertising! I do use pure to mean really or very though… I always thought gallus meant cheeky in a kind of chancer but with charm kind of way…but it is more of a weegie word, so I’ll bow to your superior knowledge!
Oh deary me! PISH! Shona Spurtle! That brilliant theme tune! I SO remember The High Life! It was absolutely frickin’ hilarious. A Scottish Comedy Classic, if ever there was one. Plenty of clips on YouTube and DVD available from amazon. Lots of great Scottish English in there also…
Great blog, incidentally.
As we’ve now moved on to Welsh week, I thought it would be appropriate to include one of the greatest exponents of “Scottish English” in this blog – the recently departed ‘Voice of Rugby’: Bill Mclaren (“15 stone on the hoof etc”). This is how they speak in Border country. Bill had the most amazing vocabulary. Here’s a reminder: