If 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.
Irn 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.