Leader: Glasgow patter is slowly changing

Glasgow Central Station. Picture: John Devlin
Glasgow Central Station. Picture: John Devlin
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Scummindooninbuckets! To the untrained ear, it sounds like an unwieldy mash of vowels and consonants, but anyone from the Dear Green Place will know its meaning only too well, especially during a drookit autumn.

Stanley Baxter’s Parliamo Glasgow did a great deal to capture the inimitable and expressive voice of his home city. In the decades since, the veteran comedian’s acclaimed sketches shed light on the Glaswegian patois, others like Michael Munro, Billy Connolly and Kevin Bridges have continued this proud tradition, serving as ambassadors of a tongue that can at once abrasive and amusing.

No accent, however, is immune to change or external influences, as shown by a new study from the University of Glasgow’s laboratory of phonetics. Its researchers found that the hardy accent has changed discreetly over the years, in part due to the prevalence of London-based voices on television shows.The word, think, for example, is increasingly pronounced with an “f” at the start, while the word, people, has a Cockney-inspired ring to it, pronounced as “peopo”.

For those who fear Glasgow’s voice is in danger of becoming homogenised, there is good news. The lead author of the study, Professor Jane Stuart-Smith, found that Glaswegian, like other accents in Scotland, is staying close to its roots, at least compared with other UK regions.

Or at least that it is how it seems to our ears. Were a time traveller from 1915 Glasgow to pitch up in the middle of Buchanan Street today, chances are they would be bamboozled by the voices around them. They – and we – need not fret. The evolution of language is a thrilling thing. What is important is that the character remains.