Och, come oan! Ye ken “bidy-in”? No?

Someone who bides with you, I said, reverting to English. M starts to get it, I see understanding grow in his face. A partner.

Hearing Frances speak, I just started speaking with a Scots accent. She thought I was playing the comedian, she never thought I was Scots. She took some persuading, as she had not heard any Scots in my accent before. But then when she said in Ayrshire people still used Lallans vocabulary, I was surprised she did not understand it.

She moved to Yorkshire at the age of 9, and the children at school mocked her for her accent. Strange: the accent then is plastic, and most people learn their accent from those their age, rather than family. In my case I adopted my mother’s English accent because I cared more what she thought than those my age; possibly Frances rebelled against her peers. She lived in London, then N–shire, and at work spoke with an English accent like mine, for professional reasons. I could not place her accent more precisely than “Scots”, I don’t have a good ear even for the differences between Glasgow and Edinburgh, though the Wick accent, with “til” replacing “to”- as in “go til the shops”, or Doric, with f for wh as in “fitt-e daein- faur-e gaein?” stand out for me.

So she has a Scots accent, but in Ayrshire she has to ask people to speak slowly and clearly, as if a foreigner, and to explain vocabulary such as “bidy-in”. Whereas I can recite When pedlar lads leave the marketplace, and thirsty neighbours meet neighbours; when market days are ending, and folk begin to take to the road [home], as we sit drinking ale, and getting drunk, and uncommonly happy… But I had recited Crowdieknowe since childhood, but needed Iain to tell me the “lift” was the sky.

Why would my Scots accent come out just then? It never did, you know, before I went to University, even perhaps before I went to Oldham. I didnae speak like that at home, or at school. I spoke standard English. I have spoken to Frances before. So I had a Scottish accent even though I cannot recall speaking with it.

surrender gracefully

6 thoughts on “Anglo-Scots

  1. Funny thing about languages and accents, if young children are exposed to different one long enough they may not even be aware that they understand or speak it until exposed into a situation when it all comes out “naturally” – psycholinguistics have a role in that. I do love all accents in Britain and UK 🙂


  2. Noo, d’ye mean accent, or the Scots leid here? The twa are nae ane and the same thing. Tae argue that Scots is a dialect o’ the Inglis, ye micht as weel say that Inglis is a dialect o’ Scots, for the twa grew and evolved wi’ differing influences, and ye hae tae gang back in history tae trace the origins.

    Scotland, like ilka land, has lang been a melting pot and meeting place o’ cultures. Up tae the 11th century, ye still hud the Pictish and Briton influences, whiles Gaelic wis the tongue o’ the Scots wha geid us Alba. In the Jarldom o’ Orkney, the language o’ Norn wis spoken.

    The sou’-east, sic as Lothian and the eastern borders had lang had Angle settlers, wha spoke the Anglo-Saxon o’ the Inglis. Incidents in history atwixt the twa nations were tae change a’ thing fore’er.

    When Macbeth became King o’ Scots (1034), Duncan’s ‘taniste righ’ (king in waiting) Malcolm fled intae England, and acceptit by the royal court o’ Wessex. It wis wi’ help o’ Earl Siward o’ Northumbria that he took the Scots throne in 1057-8, and that wadna be forgotten. In 1066 there wis the Norman Conquest o’ England, and Saxons in the nor’ fled tae the only place they cud; across the border intae Alba. Wi’ them they brocht their tongue, which assimilated wi’ the influences a’ready in Alba, and sae whit we ken as the Scots leid grew frae there.

    There is a letter preservit in the British Museum, written by a Bishop o’ Dunkeld in 1169, in which he bemoans “The Kingdom of Alba is becoming known as Scotland.” (canna see that e’er catching oan).

    Scots had it’s ain influences, as weel as thae mentioned above, including Norse and middle French, which came in maist during the time o’ the Stewarts, when the land wis fu’ o’ French troops. Inglis wis mair Norman French. Interesting tae note that the Northumbrian village o’ Pity Me, taks it’s name frae the Norman Petite Mere – little sea.

    I’d like tae ken wha decidit that we canna speil oor ain leid, for it wis ance the tongue o’ thae radicals – ermm, lawyers. There’s a case recordit in the Advocates Library in which a prosecuting council statit, “Come awa’, come awa’ Meester Magistrate, and let us hingit thae twa demned scoondrils for the henious crime o’ hamesucking.” Hamesucking is hoose-breaking while the occupant is in, still oan the statute books o’ Scots Law I believe.

    Yir reworking o’ a passage frae Tam o’ Shanter in Inglis wis painfu’ tae read and I wadna care tae hear it recitit like that. Dinna forget that Robert Burns wis teelt that if he wrote in Scots, his poetry wadna sell. Twa hunnert years later, the Proclaimers were teelt if they sang in Scots, their music wadna sell. The high heid yins were wrang oan baith counts.

    Aye, wi’ a’ need Inglis tae communicate, and ye’ve probably noticed that I kin write it very weel. I’m somewhit proud o’ ma command o’ the Inglis language. When speaking though, I speak Scots – broadly and proudly. Maybes because I’ve nae had the Inglis influences ye describe. But at the end o’ the day, it’s a major pairt o’ ma culture, and if ye cannae speil yer ain tongue, whit culture dae ye hae at a’ in the end?

    No’ for ain moment accusing ye o’ sic, Clare, but the moment I saw “Anglo-Scots”, I winced. Years ago an American white supremacist group, the League of the South, boasted o’ their “Anglo-Scots Culture”. I hae aye thocht that’s neither ane thing nor the ither. Maybe’s I’m wrang in that. I kin see hoo ane wi’ cultural influences o’ baith sides o’ the border cud ca’ themseels sic.

    I dinna ken if ye realise it, by the wey, but jist twa days ago wis the anniversary o’ the birth o’ Christopher Murray Grieve – Hugh MacDiarmid – the man wha gied us the term for lowland Scots; Lallans.


    • David I’s kingdom went as far south as Doncaster.

      Hamesucken was still a crime when I did my degree, but was not charged, because if any part of the crime was not proven, the whole fell; rather, fiscals charged assault, criminal damage, burglary etc. It may not be, now: Westminster never had the time to tidy Scots criminal law, but Holyrood has. Assault was common law, but is statutory now.

      There were five dialects of English, of which Scots was one, and the South-Eastern one became dominant. English orthography was standardised around 1600, Scots assimilated to it around 1700. Until then the language is called “Middle Scots” with certain peculiarities: the plural formed by -is not -s, as in onto the ded gois all estaitis,princis, prelotis and potestatis. The present participle was formed by -and not -ing. Scots lawyers still say “timeous” rather than “timely”.


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