Monday, 24 January 2011

Accent on Speech

If you're reading (or writing) a Scottish character, do you like his or her direct speech to be in Scots dialect? I've seen this a lot in Scottish romance, and I imagine it must draw readers into the story more, make it more real for them, to have the accent constantly there - especially if they like Scottish accents :).

However, I've never been able to write speech in the "accepted" dialect - partly because, to me, Scottish speech is normal and I doubt I hear it as non-Scots would anyway. But I do love accents and different ways of speaking English, and in my direct speech I try to follow the rhythms and word patterns of the accents rather than altering the way the words are spelled, whether the speaker is English, American, Scots, Hungarian or whatever. Unless my character is taking the mick, of course :).

For Scottish characters, I also like to throw in some uniquely Scots words, some of which are pretty funny even to me! To illustrate, here's an excerpt from Hunting Karoly (now in print as part of my Seducing Scots anthology) - what happens when a modern, tipsy Glaswegian woman, meets a centuries old aritocratic vampire whose first language is Hungarian - and whose  fastidious taste buds are not impressed by the mal-nourished and frequently aloholic blood of Glasgow's finest. And exactly how many Scots words are there for "drunk?"

New in paperback from Ellora's Cave
(HUNTING KAROLY also available as an ebook)

The three Psychic Seductions novellas: Hunting Karoly, Guitar Man and Freeing Al - now together in print.

You're not meant to fall for the bad guy, are you?  Not the vampire, nor the possessed, nor the ex-con...

Reluctant Scottish psychic Jenny discovers her true talent is hunting vampires. Yet when that vampire is the evil, sexy gorgeous Karoly, in his quite inappropriate antique kilt, will she be able to fulfill her potential?

Ellie is a strong psychic with a messy personal life. When she decides to clean up the latter, the last person she needs to encounter is carefree Scottish busker Chris, the best ever one night stand from her naughty past. Especially when something evil within him threatens them both.

When the vampiress Draguta, Karoly’s ex, comes to the Scottish Highlands with a social mission, she’s distracted by local pub landlord, Al MacNab – a large, sexy man with a dubious past, a lot of secrets, and some alluring bondage gadgetry in his cellar.


    Against my better judgment, I crossed the room and sat down beside him. I needed to sit somewhere before my knees gave out. “I can’t believe I’m having this conversation.”

    “Why, what do vampire hunters usually talk about?”

    “I’m not a vampire hunter,” I said impatiently. “I’ve never even seen a vampire in my life, apart from you. And in case you hadn’t noticed, I was never the one doing the hunting!”

    “But you’re still here.”

    I frowned. “Why am I still here?”

    By way of answering, he lifted the wine bottle.

    I sighed and held out my glass. “You think I’m a total wino. You think if you drink my blood you’ll pass out for three nights.”

    “I’d certainly get a little tipsy.”

    “I’m not tipsy,” I confessed. “I’m completely rat-arsed.”

    Glancing at him to see the effect of this admission, I saw the gold lights dancing in his eyes. Was he laughing at me again?

    He said, “That’s another thing about this city. I speak seven languages fluently, including English, yet I understand only one word in five of anything that your people say to me. What the hell is ‘rat-arsed’?”

    “Drunk,” I said. “Extremely drunk. Like Eskimos have lots of words for snow, Glaswegians have a thousand for drunk. Fu’, maroculous, arse-holed, stocious, pissed, steamboats…”


    “Don’t ask. And don’t mock. This is a fine city.” I sniffed, growing maudlin. “Oh it has its problems, sure, but there’s nowhere better…”

    He blinked at me. “Are you encouraging me to stay in your fair city, vampire hunter?”

    “Why should I care?” I muttered into my glass. “I won’t be here.”

    “You will be at your Centre, fighting spirits?”

    “Or not,” I said darkly.

    “How did you set fire to your hair?”

    By the time I’d explained that, both of our glasses were empty and he was laughing quietly. More surprisingly, perhaps, so was I, realizing for the first time that it was a funny story more than a personal tragedy.

    Reaching across him for the bottle, I hiccupped. “All right, Charlie,” I said, splashing the last of the wine into the two glasses more or less equally, “What’s your story? What’s with the accent?”

    “I do not have an accent,” he said with dignity. “My English is perfect.”

    “Leesten to heem,” I mocked, “creature of the night…!”

    “It’s been a long time since I tasted a vampire hunter,” he said conversationally.

    I hooted derisively into my wine glass. “You won’t touch me—I’m too pissed for your refined taste buds.”

    “Are you sure about that?” His deep, suddenly soft voice caused my stomach to lurch. I glanced up to find his darkened eyes on my lips. Worse, his hand resting on the sofa back moved and grasped my hair. Not that there was much for him to get hold of, but he managed to pinch enough of it between his strong, cool fingers to tug my head back.

    His touch on my scalp was electrifying. Terror and lust seemed to have become the same thing, especially when his mesmerizing gaze dropped to my exposed jugular.

    “A word to the wise, little vampire hunter,” he whispered. “Never bank on it.”


:) Now, just for a laugh, see if you know or can guess the meaning of the following Scots/Glaswegian words - I'll tell you if you're right tomorrow!
1. Bahooky
2. Maroculous
3. Stoatin'
4. Nyaff
5. Wean
6. Stoor
7. Ashet
8. Pruch
9. Haver



  1. If by writing speech in dialect you mean something like 'Some hae meat an canna eat', I have a low tolerance for it.

    I'm a huge Kipling fan and enjoy the Barrack-Room Ballads and Soldiers Three stories, but eminent critics have made a strong case for all of them being better if Kipling had written them using standard orthography. For me, Kipling's three soldiers (Cockney, Yorkshire, Irish) come to life through his representation of their speech patterns, but I think it only works because Kipling had the equivalent of perfect pitch for speech. In the hands of any other author, a few dialect words thrown in here and there are more than enough. long as they're authentic. It pains me to read books where stereotyped Englishmen/Irishmen/Scotsmen/American use stereotyped expressions -- and use them incorrectly.

    Oops, I'm off again. 's your fault for bringing up such a fascinating topic. Bless you. :)

  2. :) I try, Jud! Thanks for your thoughts!


  3. I was talking about dialect over on my LJ this weekend just gone. Mostly I prefer to see it conveyed by word choices and speech patterns, but we had a fun debate over 'up at farm' vs 'up at t'farm' vs 'up at Farm' for one of my Derbyshire villagers.

    I like proper modern Scots as produced for some official documents, but not many authors from elsewhere in the world seem able to get it right.

  4. Hi Stevie - I'll bet everyone had a different opinion too :).

    Modern Scots in official documents? Can you give us an example? I'm curious :)


  5. Hi Marie,

    I honestly can't remember where I saw it, except that it was some years back (possibly when I was in Cambridge, which would make it at least ten years ago). I'm stumped as to even which council was supposed to have been trialling the idea. The example I saw certainly read authentically, I remember.

    Everyone certainly has a diffent opinion on dialect!

  6. I don't mind if there is authentic dialect or not. I can't imagine the amount of time it would take to write it out correctly. What I do mind is watching a movie and the actor does not have the correct accent.

  7. Stevie, I never heard about that - how interesting!

    Good point, Cindy - I'd find it VERY time-consuming! And consistency would be a problem for me too if there's no standard spelling. "Wrong" accents can be jarring, I agree...


  8. Don't know about Modern Scots in official documents, but I've done a lot of reading of old Scots in official documents -- part of my research into Freemasonry. I'm talking about late 16th, early 17th century here. Leaving aside the chaotic spelling, most of those documents are fairly easy to read -- except for the spattering of Scots vocabulary. One or two phrases I still haven't been able to decipher, even with the help of the best research tools available.

  9. I like when an author uses a dialect in a book. It brings an authenticity to the story and doesn't have me thinking and reading in American English.

  10. How fascinating, Jud! I'm envious - although I have to admit I could never train myself to read seventeeth century hand writing :(. As to the vocabulary, maybe you just need to track down the right (probably very elderly) Scot? :).

    Hi She! That makes sense, adding depth to the story's world...