Clearly, languages are not Bill McLean’s strongest suit (Letters, 6 December), if he thinks “I was like” is a part of “dialect in Scotland”. Moreover, his letter takes an imaginative ramble through areas that bear no relation to what I wrote in my tongue-in-cheek letter at all. Do they put something hallucinogenic in the water in Mr McLean’s part of Fife?
For his information, legend hath it that this odd expression first appeared when Jonathan Ross interviewed Madonna. The latter used this bizarre turn of phrase and was asked what on earth it meant by Mr Ross. Since that time, it has taken over the speech of young people all over the English-speaking world, so its classification by Mr McLean as specifically Scots dialect is puzzling, to say the least.
According to Mr McLean, “Scottish usage” confuses me and I am, apparently, “unable to understand dialect in Scotland”, suggesting that I must obtain “no enjoyment of accents, colloquialisms, word usage et al”. Perhaps he is confusing me with someone else.
There are lots of Grays about, of course. This one, however, has a reasonable grasp of two or three languages and enjoys etymology as a hobby.
Indeed, I am able to identify singularly useless, vague and ugly usage thanks to my linguistic skills in ancient, mediaeval and modern languages, which was the point of my letter.
The “sturm und drang” of Mr McLean’s letter serves merely to demonstrate his opinions, that where my letters are concerned, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. It might help, when next he puts pen to paper, if he were to read the letter he wishes to criticise!
Andrew HN Gray