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Sexy Scottish dialect stuns the senses

"Doon the toon". Zapped? Just means "down to the local shop" in Scottish. I was not alone in trying to get accustomed to words like 'weebee', 'aiyee' and 'chileaoo'. Many poor loons and quine (Scottish word for boys and girls respectively) like me were struggling too. Discover more with Rohit Jaiswal in From the Varsity.

india Updated: Jan 09, 2004 13:27 IST
Rohit Jaiswal
Rohit Jaiswal

It was voted as one of the sexiest dialects in Europe yes, I am talking about the Scottish dialect - and once considered a competitive advantage for multi-national companies with the call centre in Glasgow because callers would find excuses to carry on talking so that they could hear the attractive Scottish accent. But for many, especially international students, this accent proved to be a test of imagination and common sense in early days.

Many like me who were familiar with Chaucer, Lawrence and Shakespeare and had packed their bags in the quest for knowledge and fun and the 'real' Scotch whisky - assuming that we could floor a British with our English - had no idea what awaited us in Scotland!

It was a typical wet Scottish day when I alighted at the Edinburgh Airport, looking like a lost soul whose body was in Scotland and mind in Nagpur, India. Yet, I plucked up all the remnants of courage and years of experience and walked up to the smiling lady at the immigration counter. And from the moment she spoke began my journey into Scotland, where intelligent guesses and lip-reading became the key to survival.

I was not alone in trying to get accustomed to words like 'weebee', 'aiyee' and 'chileaoo'. Many poor loons and quine (Scottish word for boys and girls respectively) like me were struggling too.

According to Joseph Ramanair from Malaysia, doing his Masters in Teaching English, a conversation with a Scottish was like filling in the blanks. You either asked the person to repeat or took a wild guess. But asking the Scots to repeat was not the best option for introverts like Stathis Tryfonopoulos from Athens. He confesses that there were times when he consciously avoided breaking ice with a Scots as he knew he would not be grasp a single word due to the speed with which they spoke and the way they rolled their "r" like "grrreat" and "garrrls" for "girls".

For others like Senthil Kumar of India, the only way to avoid an embarrassing situation was to stand still and look dazed, so that the speaker would take some pity and speak slowly. According to Samuel Tengey from Ghana, people outside the university assumed everybody to be a Scottish and familiar with words like 'buck it', 'nips and tatities' and loch'. Unfortunately, many were not and for them, every grrrroming (which means time before sunset) added new words to their vocabulary. So students like Samuel began maintaining a diary of such words and now know that "buck it" means "throw it away", "nips and tatities" means "parsnips and potatoes" and "loch" means "take".

However, even after ten months, the unscottish still get their share of surprises. Just recently I heard some one shout 'Gin awa' doon the toon n git mi a bottle o thon ginger, n dinnae hing abbot neither.' Zapped? It simply means 'please could you make your way down to the local shop and get me a bottle of pop and don't delay!' Curiously, we were not alone in this linguistic test. Even many British students found it tough to comprehend some conversations.

It is not difficult, then. to understand the reason when we hear some like Vito Canale say: "Ah wis knackered aiefter the first rooound n hsd an ice pack cos a wiz roastin kak the sun. It wiz doun but they would nay apply the heat rule" if translating Justine Henin-Hardenne's narration of her ordeal of how hot it was during her match against Serena Williams.

I am often reminded of the person who jokingly said 'Welcome to Scotland' at the immigration counter seeing my puzzled face and the effort in trying to understand the words. But they say speech just constitutes a miniscule part of a conversation that can also take place through emotions and body language. This is where Scotland and their people, with their warm heart and patience, make the journey to this mountainous country a wonderful experience full of hard work, some embarrassment and pleasure.

(Rohit Jaiswal is a post-graduate student at the University of Stirling)

First Published: Jan 09, 2004 13:27 IST