scottishblogIf I’m being totally honest, there are probably places in Scotland where they really do talk like that.  In fact, many years ago, when visiting Aberdeen, (150 miles from Glasgow where I lived) I struggled to figure out the nationality of the people sitting at the table next to me in the restaurant. Were they Dutch? Scandinavian?  Turns out they were Aberdonians, but with their Doric accents, I could understand very little of what they said.  (Eg Fit like?  –  How are you?)

Writing accents in a novel is tricky. Too much can turn readers off by pulling them out of the story as they try and work out what you’re trying to say. Too little can have a diluting effect as your story could be set anywhere.

As a Scot who’s lived in Canada for many – many – years, here are some common contemporary phrases I notice when I go back to Scotland on holiday. If you’re writing a modern day novel set in Scotland, you might find some of them useful to add a little colour to your setting.

Wee – Scots use this a lot.  Wee monster.  Wait a wee minute.  Wee boy.  It’s a wee way up the road.
Wean – (sound like wane)  A small child.
Rubbish – Garbage/trash.
Hiya! – Hi!  Hello!
Outwith – eg Outwith my control. – Outside (out of) my control.
On your tod – On your own.
Suss out  – Figure out
Uh-huh – yes
Aye – yes
Wheeching along – moving very fast.  eg wheeching along the road
Scooshie cream – Canned whipping cream.
Dead – Very.  eg dead nice
Toilet – Washroom
Bahookie – Butt
Cooker – Stove
Hoover – vacuum.  (I’m going to hoover the carpet)
Messages – groceries.  (I’m going for the messages. I’m just going for the shopping/groceries)
Kirk – church
Chum you – Accompany you.  eg How about I chum you along the road?
Go down the town – Go downtown.

irnbrulolliesIrn Bru is Scotland’s soft-drink equivalent to whisky. In fact, I think I’m right in saying that Scotland is the only country in the world where its own homemade soft drink outsells the other ‘big two’ soft drink companies. The adverts claim it’s ‘made from girders’, and I have it on good authority that it’s great for treating a hangover. As you can see, you can also buy Irn Bru in ice lolly/popsicle form. (Check out this classic Irn Bru Commercial and see how many Scottish landmarks you can identify.)

Alcohol is sold in all supermarkets and village stores. The only time it’s not available is on a Sunday morning until 12.30pm – when you should be in church.

Children are usually allowed in lounge bars and pubs – with their parents – until 8pm.

Midgies (Scottish mosquitoes) arrive in May and go right through the summer until August. They are a tiny, but major, irritation and can spoil a holiday if you’re not prepared. To avoid them, stick to the beach, make the most of a windy day, or make sure you’re wearing repellant.

The longest running police drama in the UK was ‘Taggart’, set in Glasgow.

Glasgow Kiss/Glasgow Coma Scale. One leads to the other. A Glasgow Kiss is a vicious headbutt. The Glasgow Coma Scale is the scale used in hospitals worldwide to assess consciousness (or lack of it!) following a head injury.

There’s a (friendly!) rivalry between Scotland’s two major cities, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Depending on where you’re from, you might say that the best thing about Glasgow is the road to Edinburgh, or…  You can have more fun at a Glasgow funeral than you can at an Edinburgh wedding.

Back in the 18th/19th centuries, Glasgow was a major centre for the international slave/sugar/tobacco trade and was known as the ‘Second City’ of The Empire.

The three major Scottish Banks (Royal Bank of Scotland, Bank of Scotland and Clydesdale Bank) all issue their own banknotes.

The Screen Machine is a truck that brings a mobile cinema to the Scottish Isles and remote Highlands so locals can catch up on the latest films.


All you need to know about Scotland in four items!

GTrayI’m excited to have  Sarah Kades writing on my blog on Wednesday.  She’ll be talking about her visit to Scotland, so I’ve decided to keep with the ‘theme’ and examine a little about the history of Scotland today and some of its great writers on Friday’s post.

Arriving in a Glasgow hotel room, we found the following four items waiting for us; a bottle of Scottish spring water, a bottle of Irn Bru, a Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer and an apple. My husband commented that those four items told you everything you needed to know about Scotland, so although I might be stretching things a little in places, here I go!

waterWATER: As part of an island nation, Scotland is surrounded on three sides by water. The sea has exerted a great influence on the country’s history and culture. It has brought invaders (Romans and Vikings), Christianity and commerce (fishing, sugar and tobacco trade, oil and gas) to its shores.

For an island nation, it also harbours over 790 offshore islands within its total boundary, the main ones being Shetland, Orkney, and the Inner and outer Hebrides, but there are plenty more.  The Isle of Arran, which I’ve written about before, is only 2 hours travel west of Glasgow and known as Scotland in Miniature.

Because of its latitude, Scotland should experience similar winters to Scandinavia, but the presence of the Gulf Stream protecting its shores means that even in winter you can always find palm trees on the west coast.

Don’t forget the water which is essential in whisky making – uisge beatha – literally the water of life, or the rivers and streams famous for their salmon.

And… oh yes, it does rain in Scotland.  Sometimes quite a lot.  But that’s what makes it such a lush, green and beautiful place.

irn burIRN BRU: A local soft drink, produced since 1901, it continues to outsell the giants – Coke and Pepsi – in Scotland. As such, I think it symbolizes the uniqueness of Scotland and its people who posses a real warmth and friendliness – but also a bloody-mindedness.

Over the past few hundred years, Scotland’s influence on the world has been way out of proportion for its size of population. Although many factors are involved, some credit is often given to John Knox, an influential Presbyterian minister, who insisted that every single child in Scotland (rich or poor ) learn to read the Bible. An educated population gave Scotland a huge advantage during the Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution.

According to Wikipedia, 75% of US presidents can claim some Scottish Ancestry, and the first permanent settlement in America – Jamestown – was named after a Scot.  (King James VI of Scotland/I of England.)

Scots make up the 3rd largest ethnic group in Canada and the first prime-minister of the Dominion was Scots-born Sir John A. MacDonald.

caramelTUNNOCK’S CARAMEL WAFERS: Like Irn Bru, Tunnock’s is a successful Scottish company, created in the 19th Century and still going strong. (It’s also one of the few food companies who continue to refuse to make ‘own’ label products for supermarkets.)

Much has changed in the Scottish economy since I was a child. At one time, Glasgow was known as the Second City of the Empire because of its strong industrial base and I still remember the fading days of shipbuilding, steel, coal mining, car manufacturing, sewing machine manufacture and railway engine building in the Central Belt.

That has all gone now.  Modern industries include Oil and Gas, Banking and Finance, Computing and Pharmaceuticals while the traditional agriculture, forestry, fishing – and let’s not forget whisky! – continue to flourish.

appleAPPLE: Hmmm.  Scotland’s diet is not the healthiest in the world – remember that this is the country that gave the world the ‘Deep Fried Mars Bar’!  Even a Scottish government report admits that the Scots’ poor diet is the second major cause (after smoking) of poor health.

But… Scottish food is amazing.  Here’s just a ‘taste’ of what’s on offer.  Haggis, Cullen Skink, Finnan Haddie, Smoked Salmon, Black Pudding, Mince and Tatties, Square sausage, Stovies, Blaeberries, Lanark Blue Cheese, Cranachan, Marmalade, Oatcakes, Butteries, Tablet, Tattie scones, Shortbread, Heather Honey.

So there you go, a brief  look at Scotland through four items found in my hotel room.  But there’s so much more that I haven’t even touched on. The scenery for one thing.  It truly is gorgeous.

I guess there’s only one thing for it – you need to come here and see it all for yourself!