Saturday, 9 December 2006

Language ( I wrote this better the first time but sod it)

As the world continues to get smaller day by day the individuality of the way people speak is becoming less apparent. Before the days of the influence of radio, television and the internet people used to speak differently depending on the town or region that they lived in. In Scotland for example the people of Aberdeen spoke differently from the people in Dundee, who again spoke differently to those who lived in Edinburgh and they spoke differently to those living in Falkirk who in turn spoke differently from those who stayed in Glasgow. They all spoke English with different accents, and they all had their own unique Scots words and phrases used only in their town. Despite the fact that each town was a mere 30, 40 or 50 miles from the other they had each, over many centuries, grown unique identities.

Today that uniqueness in speech between town and region is somehow being slowly diluted. There is something sad about that loss of identity. I like watching human behaviour, each individual has they own unique characteristics and it can be interesting to people watch to see these characteristics play out in real life mode much like a scientists watching chimpanzees interact in the wild. People do quirky things, and its entertaining. It’s the same with languages. Language is a powerful tool and there is no one right way to speak. There is the Queen’s English that ‘one used to have to learn if one intended to work for the BBC’ and then there is the English that you learn from the area you have been brought up in. Each form of English has their place.

Language is a constantly evolving beast, the words don’t change very often but they way we use them and the order we use them changes frequently. If I were to move to Edinburgh tomorrow I probably wouldn’t understand what the locals were saying to me. Not because they don’t speak English, they do, its just because they have their own unique phrases local to the area that I’m not familiar with. It might take me 2 or 3 weeks, maybe more, before I would feel confident that I was understanding the locals. This despite the fact that I’ve lived a mere 40 miles away from Edinburgh for most of my life. For example an Edinburgh person might say something like ‘You’ll have had yer tea then?’, someone from London might think that they are being offered a hot drink made from teabags, whereas a Glaswegian listening to the same question might well interpret the same line as ‘Well you’ll have had your dinner so I won’t bother offering you something.’, thus the Glaswegian would reply My mither knows you mither and if ye don’t make me some grub tonight after bringing me all the over here she will be made aware of yer inhospitable rudeness AND I’ll kick ye in the baws fer guid measure ye stingy fuckin’ bastid. Who dae ye think ye are not offering food tae the big man?’

Language can be fun for its differences. Differences in accent and colloquial speech should be celebrated. Well most of the time anyway. Lately though I’ve noticed a disturbing trend. The rise of ‘ned’ speak. Neds are a species of Scot that traditionally have lived in certain areas of the West of Scotland. You can recognize Neds by the clothes they wear but mostly by the way they speak. Neds speak with an accent that makes even me cringe but not only that they speak like they don’t have a High School education.

I lived the first 6 and half years of my life in areas that Neds were traditionally prevalent but if I dared to speak like them I got a ‘quick clip round the lug’ (Scottish for, quick slap in the ear) for my sins. However lately when I hear Scottish youths speak no matter what part of Scotland they are from, whether it the West of Scotland or the North East of Scotland, I hear Neds everywhere. It used to be insulting to be considered a Ned now it seems it be a right of passage. What’s worse is these children are actually passing their English exams (well some of them are) despite the fact that they are talking like lazy 9 year olds. Not only that they are not using perfectly serviceable Scottish or British phrases that have used for centuries but instead replacing them with American phrases instead.

I have many American friends and I have no problem with Americans using Americanisms. They are after all American, although I must admit I find the use of ‘mom’ instead of ‘mum’ is a little bit grating to my ear, not to mention ‘like ohmigod!!!’

It’s Americanisms with Scottish or British accents that I just cannot abide. It’s so wrong I can’t possibly tell you how wrong it sounds.

I personally can’t do accents, the only accent I can do is my own, which I don’t happen to like very much, thankfully I only hear it on rare occasions. I would love to be able to do other accents but my attempts to do an Irish or Geordie accent have all ended in failure. So instead I admit to taking phrases that I hear when speaking to people from the UK, America, Canada and Austrailia and trying them on for size in my own conversations sometimes. However I never intend to use them on a regular basis, but thanks to MTV that’s seems to be what’s happening everywhere I turn. Imagine hearing the following conversation

"Hey! How are you?"
"I'm good, thanks. You?"
"Yeah, good. Like ohmigod, that is, like, a ginormous bruise!"
"Yeah, I did it last week, tripping over this humungous rock in the middle of the … er, sidewalk."
"Go figure!"
"I know, I know, stupid. I had to be hospitalised."
"You are kidding me!"
"Nuh-uh. But hey, we're going to be late. Are you good to go?"
"You bet."

Now for those of you who have been blessed with having seen the Glaswegian export that is Taggart imagine the above conversation in a Glasgow accent. Now scream.

Americanisms are everywhere. You hear them spoken by newsreaders in London, teenagers in Skye and a huge variety of unexpected people in between. Propagated by American TV, music and film, they are ever-present in our day-to-day interactions.

The problem is not just that Geordies and Glaswegians sound like numpties (Scottish word for fools/idiots) when they say "enough already"; it's that colloquial American is the linguistic equivalent of the strip mall, slowly but surely homogenising English in the way that car-friendly shopping centres have made clones of cities around the world. Something has to be done. We've put on American English like a big collective verbal uniform

Yes, yes, I know: languages are always evolving. But we seem to have joined our hothoused planet in a process of accelerated change.

Now before I finish this post I thought I’d give those of you not in the know an introductory cookery lesson in Ned Speak. Unfortunately due to my upbringing I’m not overly familiar with Ned speak myself so I did steal the following from the BBC, oh how Auntie has fallen in 80 years.

This is your introductory cookery lesson for all you fat, pie-eating Jabba the Huts oot there that couldnae make themselves a cup of tea and huv tae phone in a takeaway when thur burd’s at the bingo. Nae more sittin’ stuffin’ yir fat coupons full of chippy grub anymore, for over this lesson we‘ll be gettin‘ gastronomic ned-style.

And tae start the course, where better to go than the land of posh nosh,
France. Today we’re going to make Coq au Vin (pronounced Cock ‘o’ Van), so called because it wiz invented by some French cock who drove a van, awright?


First of all ye huv tae get yirsel a cock. Nae funny business here, awright? We’re talking the feathered burd kind awright? An don’t start nobbin’ yir dinner or nothin’ like wee Barry tried last week at the party. The first rule of cookery is hygiene. So wash yir hands and try no tae drop any fag ash on yir grub.

So whit you do is get the chicken and ye get yir chib oot ’n’ ye cut its heid aff. Ma wee flick knife is the business for this bit, ye know? Then ye peel some garlics and shove them right up the chicken’s arse man. Mingin’, ye might say, but it says in this book it tastes lovely...
just don’t go trying tae get a winch afterwards, unless yer feedin’ it tae her as well.

Then ye get a cheeky wee bottle of red wine, and ye can use whitever label ye like, but being a traditionalist ah stick wey the Buckfast? As long as yer no huvin’ jellies for desert you’ll be awright, ’cause as the Airdrie boys will tell ye, Buckie and jellies don’t make for romantic dinners. Leave yir blade in the kitchen though? Just in case.

Now you probably only need a hauf bottle, so, if like me you’ve had a bit of foresight, you’ll have got a full wan instead and you’ll be huvin’ a wee shnifter while yir waiting on it cookin’. Just don’t get maukit drunk, fall asleep, and burn the hoose doon.

Right man, I’m getting bored ae this, so tae cut a long story short, you pour the buckie over the burd, wack it in the oven and wait aboot an hour or two.

Awright. That’s it fir the cookin’ lark fir wan week. Cheerio, and if yer cookin’ fir yer burd, make sure she does the dishes and you get yer nadjins for yer troubles. That’s all fae the glaikit chef.

Now that I have thoroughly confused you all, here ends the lesson of the importance in the differences of language. Sometimes it’s best not to understand a word. And if this doesn't upload this time I will surely give up, I can only be so stubborn at 1 :30am.


Just a Girl said...

Your No Writer title just doesn't seem appropriate in light of your huge posts...

Do Neds sound like they're from Belfast? That's how I heard it in my head and I ended up reading it aloud the same way.

Scotsman said...

Ok I'm going to chance my luck and reply to this comment in the full knowledge it probably won't even post. Do Ned's sound like they come from Belfast? Not really but then that is closer to the accent than say a Canadian accent. So unless you've seen a small independent Glasgow film like the Ratcatcher where the directors' often use young actors who are able to demonstrate a nedish type accent then I would stick with the belfast accent, it's close enough.
Speaking of the Ratcatcher I couldn't help but laugh when I saw it shown on BBC 2 Scotland a few years ago. The film was shown with subtitles despite the fact that it was a Scottish film, with Scottish actors speaking in English shown on a Scottish channel. I've watched a lot of French and Japanese films but that was the only Scottish film I've watched with subtitles and it really cracked me up at the time.

Just a Girl said...

Wow! It worked! You must have made nice :)

I've not heard of Ratcatcher. I'll look at the video store but I'd probably do better in Vancouver than here.

I wish I could remember the name of the Scottish film I saw that was also subtitled when released here. I was a little shocked but a lot of people were still confused even with the titles; then again it might have been that they didn't get the humour.

Scotsman said...

In a foreign country I can understand the need for subtitles, some people do find the Scottish accent hard to get used to but I never thought I'd see the day that subtitles would be used on the BBC for a homemade film.
As for the film I wouldn't bother looking for it if you haven't seen it, it's no Trainspotting. It did win some independent film awards at the time of release but I have a suspicion that they send those films around the world until it finally comes home with something that they can stick on the dvd box. I thionk the script writer wanted it to be Kes part 2 but never quite achieved that goal.

Just a Girl said...

As long as it sounds like Brigadoon there's no need for subtitles.

I've had friends walk out on movies because they couldn't understand the accent and I kept telling them to shush.