Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Written Scots

I recently read The Smiling School for Calvinists, a book of short stories and snippets from life in Broughty Ferry near Dundee in Scotland. It's full of surreal adventures and insights into urban Scottish life but also there are moments where the narrator takes time out to lie on the roof of his multistorey block of flats and watch the geese fly by.

What I didn't like about the book was the Scots. I love the Scots language, but it annoys me when a writer just uses variant spellings of English words to make us think we're reading Scots. Where are the real Scots words in this book? I think I counted four or five. No dippit, or glaekit, no haar or stramash. The value of Scots is surely in its unique, characterful and colourful words (see the sidebar links for Scots Language to find some of these words) not in the variant spelling of the words that are spoken by everyone who speaks English, particularly as there is no standardised form of Scots spelling, even within this one book there are two variant spelling for some individual words.... I know that using too many real Scots words would potentially put off a lot of readers outside of Scotland, but then so does the variant spelling and its always possible to include a glossary.....

What do readers think?

2 comments:

Terresa said...

While I haven't read this book, I'm curious what you might think of Diana Gabaldon's Outlanders series? A few of the books in that series take place in Scotland, however, two hundred years ago.

I traveled to Scotland for the first time in October. I enjoyed Edinburgh, the highlands, Glasgow and Braemar and every hill and small town in between. What a rich and fascinating history, culture, people.

Crafty Green Poet said...

HI Terresa
I haven't read Diana Gabaldon's series, but i think my partner has, so I'll ask him...