This is the 400th post here on Walking Talking. After much deliberation, I decided to go down the Dewey Decimal route. At some point soon, I will write a post based on a kind suggestion about 1618, also known as 400 years ago. For those uninitiated in all things Dewey, it is the system used to organise many libraries around the globe. Subjects have a number with many more past the decimal point to make it all very precise and specific. 400 is language. Recently I saw a Tweet encouraging more folk to write in Scots, the words of this country and the people who live here. In that spirit, and fitting with the 400 theme, here’s a post written entirely in Scots.
Ah dinnae write much in Scots. It’s the way Ah talk, ken, it’s the way Ah hink tae but when tryin’ tae be understood, Standard English wi’ an inflection an’ a smatterin’ o’ the right wurds is usually the way Ah roll. The other day, Ah saw a Tweet fi the poet Thomas Clark who said that writin’ in Scots ‘keeps ye honest. Staps ye fae gan aff on wan. An we coud aw dae wae a bittie mair honesty’. Ah dinnae disagree. A difficulty Ah huv writin’ in Scots is that there is nae standard version o’ Scots. Wurds ur different fi toon to toon, even bits o’ toons. The wurds Ah yaise ur maistly fi where Ah grew up in East Lothian, even wi’ the nearly five year Ah’ve spent livin’ in the Weege. Guid Scots wurds that appear in Scots editions o’ books tend tae need a glossary even fir folk like me since there ur many that didnae make it doon the A1 tae Dunbar. It wis like the Scots edition o’ Harry Potter an’ the Philosopher’s Stane wi’ characters, street names an’ even the names o’ the hooses in Hogwarts changed. There’s a case fir translatin’ but there’s also a point when it’s just no’ needit. Glad they did the book, like, but it wis still stupit. We should scrieve the way folk talk, the way folk hink, no’ workin’ a’ the time oot the dictionary. There’s no such hing as standard Scots an’ that’s fine wi’ me. Take the different versions eh The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson. There’s The Gruffalo’s Wean but ‘wean’ is a Weegie word. Ah say ‘bairn’. Hence the many different editions, the Orkney or the Dundee Gruffalos. Thon Dundonians, though, they speak Martian, a’ the pehs, circles, clubbies and ingin yins an’ a’. Ma point is that there is a danger o’ makin’ these hings too standard. Language is ever-changin’, ever-evolvin’ an’ it should remain sae.
There ur loads o’ guid books in Scots that folk should read. Yin o’ the best books Ah read last year wis Hings by Chris McQueer, written largely in pure undiluted Weegie. One o’ the maist famous Scottish books o’ the last thirty year wid be Trainspottin’ by Irvine Welsh, which has nae shortage o’ Edinburgh wurds, sayins an’ mannerisms in it, plus a fair few mentions o’ the Hibees tae. While the crime writer Stuart MacBride writes mainly in English, his books are aye fu’ o’ the Doric tae, even decipherable for those o’ us whae live south o’ Perth. Harder tae figure oot is The Tartan Special One by Barry Phillips, a wonderfully funny novel written in Dundonian and publishit by Teckle Books, a wee publisher whaise Dundonian pride is right there in their name. Writers like Lewis Grassic Gibbon, Nan Shepherd, Jessie Kesson, James Kelman, Liz Lochhead an’ loads o’ others bring Scots intae whit they write an’ their work is much better fer it. An’ us tae, like.
When Ah write like this, Ah usually end up wi’ a muckle grin on ma puss fi the pure pleasure o’ it. Ah write stories much mair than Ah write blog posts. Mair dialogues than anyhin’ else. They help me work through life an’ hink a bit tae. Yin character Ah love writin’ talks like Ah dae, ken, usually wi’ much swearin’ as again Ah often dae an’ like a hairy-arsed engineer fi the Pans wid. He speaks a hail load o’ sense an’ while Ah dinnae write him very often, Ah’m always gled Ah dae, fir the way ma pen rattles across the page. Like Thomas Clark said, it keeps me honest, plus it’s braw to write intae the bargain.
Ah wrote a bit here aboot Muriel Spark recently. She spent her latter years livin’ in Tuscany (as yeh dae, ken) but she wid huv tae come back tae Edinburgh every noo and again tae git the voices back in her heid, the inflections, wurds an’ everyhin else fi’ the folk o’ the capital so they could make her books mair authentic. Ah live in Glasgow an’ some Weegieisms huv crept intae how Ah talk, maybe even how Ah write, but Ah’m aye gled tae go tae the fitba an’ hear the right kind o’ voices a’ aroond me as we a’ watch the Hibs. When Ah git through tae Dunbar, that bit further east o’ Edinburgh an’ that bit broader tae, it’s a relief tae hear folk speak proper, even fir a wee bit. As Ah travel back hame, the wurds change wi’ each passin’ mile, goin’ fi braw an’ muckle tae ra champion, pure dead brilliant an’ wan insteid o’ yin. The wurds ur important an’ it’s guid noo an’ then tae hear yir ain an’ even read it on the page rather than it bein’ lost, tae me an’ everyone else.