Thoughts about who I am are often very connected with language. I’ve always lived in places where there’s a pretty strong local dialect (actually, to be fair, that’s true of most of the UK , but however) and as a ‘blow-in’ I frequently find myself adopting this dialect. I arrived in Glasgow 12 years ago with, by Northern Ireland standards, a fairly soft accent. I quickly picked up a Weegie twang and was frequently mistaken for a Scot. Also, on one occasion, as English, but there had been drink taken by that stage, so I didn’t take it personally. 6 years in Glasgow was followed by just short of 2 years in Dundee (twa pehs wi’ peas and an onion ‘ing an a’. Trust me, it makes sense there) and then a move further north to Aberdeen .
To go off on a bit of a tangent, there is (for my 2 non Scottish readers) a soap on up here called River City . It explores the lives and loves of residents in a fictional bit of Glasgow and had for a couple of years a character called Roisin, who was from Aberdeen . Now, Roisin’s accent really needs to be heard to be believed. I couldn’t find any clips of River City on youtube, but this is the actress Joyce Falconer – a pretty good example of the Aberdonian twang.
I was convinced this was a total put on. Surely nobody actually spoke like that? Then I moved to Aberdeen . Oh. My. God. Until you’ve heard the Doric in full flow, you really haven’t lived. I’ve lived here for 4.5 years now and I still struggle to keep up with folk who live out in the sticks, where the dialect is stronger, but I do not so bad in Aberdeen city itself. Now I know the correct response to ‘Fit like?’ (it’s chavin’ awa’, in case you were wondering), I know that when someone refers to ‘my loon’ they mean their son, not an aged and cuckoo relative and an invite to ‘hae’ a bosie’ means getting a hug.
So far, so good, but a by product of all this lovely new language is that my Northern Ireland dialect has fallen by the wayside. I now speak about rolls, not baps, tattie scones, not potato farls. Minker has replaced steek and ‘you must think I zip up the back’ has replaced ‘do I look like I came up the Lagan in a bubble?’ Which is fine I suppose, until I meet up with someone else from N.I or head home for a visit. I feel sad (or maybe sentimental?) that I’m not using this language on a regular basis. To look at, I don’t look Irish (dark hair, green/brown eyes, pale as a cadaver, could be from anywhere) so what marks out my tribe membership is what comes out when I open my mouth. After 12 years that’s a hotch-potch of Scotland and Northern Ireland influences, with a dash of my ‘news reading’ voice thrown in for good measure. Of course, the obvious answer to all of this would be to move home, but that’s not something I see happening in the near future (though I never say never) so I suppose this internal – and now external – monologue about who I am will continue.