I have said this before – and I will no doubt say it again – but I think it's amazing how any one person manages to communicate with another. We encounter the problem all the time online. The world may be shrinking but it is still a very big place and I often have to have a think about what words I choose to use in my blog because I know I'll have to explain them so that my non-British readers will be able to follow me. I don't always do it because oftentimes the context will sometimes make it clear what I'm on about.
In my daily life I don't use nearly as many Scotticisms as you might expect and the ones I do use are often for effect in exactly the same way as I might use an Americanism especially since I've managed to acquire an American wife and a few of her expressions have rubbed off just as she has adopted a few of ours. And, after being here about twelve years, she can just about say Edinburgh right (that would be Edinburruh in case you wondered or at least something quite close to that) although she still gets dollars and pounds mixed up on occasion. Probably the main one I use is 'no' instead of 'not' as in "I'm no doing that," (emphasis on the 'no') although since I changed jobs a few years back and no longer associate with the riff-raff I used to, I've pretty much dropped that. I certainly don't talk like Aggie and Shuggie.
I'm frequently amused when I hear foreigners attempting a 'Scottish' accent just as I expect an American would shake their head if they heard me attempt an 'American' accent because there's no such a thing. I would imagine with big cities like New York there would be a variety of accents just as there is in Glasgow because there are a number of accents. Aggie and Shuggie hail from Govan on the south side of the city. I've never lived there although we did rent a flat in the nearby Gorbals for a couple of years but even then it was in the posh bit. The Gorbals of my childhood no longer exists; all the tenements have been replaced by blocks of flats and even some of those are due for demolition. Ironically there are tenements in the west end that are quite sought after; we rented one there for a year although I wasn't that impressed actually.
I mention that because our landlady had a profound accent, a Kelvinside accent, which sounds, as Billy Connolly so succinctly put it as if someone's talking with jawries in their gob (i.e., marbles in their mouth). The English have a similar accent kicking around which I would classify as 'Hooray Henry', an expression, coined by the American Damon Runyon, I just learned. In both cases the accent is an affected one: Listen to me, I'm superior to you, can't you simply hear it in my voice? A lady from Kelvinside would never in her wildest dreams call the lavatory 'the cludgie' if she referred to the fixture at all.
Let me tell you a story though. No, first let me tell you about Stanley Baxter. Baxter is a veteran comedian and impressionist – he's 82 now – and I grew up with him on the television. Baxter's shows pulled in huge audiences on both the BBC and ITV during his heyday. The Stanley Baxter Show ran for eight years on BBC1 between 1963 and 1971, while The Stanley Baxter Picture Show was broadcast between 1972 and 1975 on ITV. His last main show, Stanley Baxter in Reel Terms, aired on Channel 4 in 1996 and he's actually doing a one-off this Christmas believe it or not.
One of the things he'll be best remembered for is Parliamo Glasgow in which he treated Glaswegian as if it was a foreign language. The two 'words' I think everyone who saw him will remember will be 'noohoosferra' and 'cudyegoa' and these even wound up in adverts Baxter used to do for tea if memory serves me right, e.g. "Noohoosferra cuppa tea" and "Cudyegoa wee biscuit wi that?"
This is the kind of thing best seen rather than talked about although there are a couple of Parliamo Glasgow books kicking around.
You can view a video here along with an interview with Baxter.
Now, I promised you a story. When I was an IT trainer one of my trainees was a lady of Indian extraction although she has a pronounced English accent – Birmingham I believed she hailed from. She wore a sari every day as a matter of course. Anyway, she had moved up to Glasgow to be with her family who ran a small corner shop and, as is typical in her culture, she ended up serving behind the counter. On her very first day a young boy came into the shop looking for 'ginger' and so she tried to sell him a bottle of the spice completely oblivious to the fact that in Glasgow 'ginger' is a common euphemism for any carbonated drink. It was how he responded to her that struck her: "Bloody English," he said before storming out of the shop. What's striking is that it was her accent that he took offence to and not her colour and indeed this says a lot about how the Scots view the English.
Eventually this found its way into a poem, albeit years later. The result you can read in this month's issue of The Ranfurly Review. The poem is called 'Bloody Foreigners'. Taking my cue from Stanley Baxter I also provided a translation.