Dial a dialect

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I have enjoyed the little spat on The Scotsman letter pages over the past week or so concerning accents.

It reminds me that we used to have a regular contributor (from Galloway!) to this page who repeatedly claimed to speak “Scotch” exactly as Burns did.

Now, I was born and bred on an Ayrshire farm not far from the poet’s birthplace and am old enough to have had daily conversation with people who would have grown up a little over a century after his death, long before the influence of television, travel, or even radio. They would have needed a glossary to fully understand his writing, so I think we can take it that Burns himself did not speak exactly as the eclectic Scotch he wrote. Indeed, having a Kincardineshire father and an Ayrshire mother, he probably spoke differently at home and elsewhere .

Speaking of which, later in life I worked with some lads from Peterhead. It amused us that my rural Ayrshire and their urban Doric led to mutual incomprehensibility – the lingua franca of (more or less) standard English was essential.

Accents are fine and enrich our lives. The over-emphasised use of a mixture of accent and local idiom in some circumstances can be downright rude – but I have to admit it is a very effective way of dealing with nuisance phone calls !

(Dr) A McCormick

Kirkland Road

Terregles

Dumfries