Wee Scoops

Measure for Measure

How to do a Scottish Accent. Probably Part 1, but I maybe won’t bother with part 2. Who can say?

Today, or was it yesterday, I didn’t “get” a joke, this is until I re-read the joke in an English accent. (Tilly, this is no criticism of you, only of me and my slow brain. Love your work). It was based on “morning” and “mourning” being homophones. Just like how that Joseph song doesn’t rhyme very well north of the border *drew back the curtain…ah-ah-ah… to see for certain…*

Not long after, a (Scottish-but-living-in-England) friend was lamenting her child’s school’s efforts to convince her child that the sound “or” should be pronounces “aw”.

You see, “aw” has no r in it. How can it be a representation of “or”?

Ah, you don’t pronounce the “r”. So, what’s the point in the “r”?

ANYWAY For the benefit of all people wanting to put on a good Scottish accent, here are the basics:

1. The Scottish Vowel Length Rule aka Aitken’s law (I think)

Although I don’t know what the rule is, as such, it manifests itself in the following quirks. In Scots the word “greed” is said with a short “ee” sound, whereas in the word “agreed”, the vowel length is longer, as in the rest of the English speaking world (except perhaps Canada). The same variation can be seen with “tide” where the vowel is short and “tied” where the vowel is long, unlike in other accents where these words are identical to the ear.

2. The Glottal Stop

Or should that be glo’al? If you miss out “t” in the middle of a word, it helps with the Sco’ish accent, particularly if you are going for a casual, informal one.

3. Pronounce the ‘h’ in ‘wh’

In most accents, the ‘h’ has been lost. So that Wales and Whales become the same thing. Alarming. And if you whine about wine, you might as well be wining about whine, which would make no sense. You pronounce it by kind of blowing a bit. Makes “whisper” a bit more onomatopoeic, I reckon.

4. Preserve the x phoneme

It is the ch in loch, Pitlochry and Auchtermuchty. It does not sound like ck. Ever. Except, sadly it is fading out a bit. To make the sound, open your mouth, raise the back of your tongue up and exhale, making a noise like a hiss of a gas lamp, over your tongue.

And now to practise, use these:

Which witch whined about the wine?

As the tide came in I tied my shoelaces.

Bottle of white wine.

To finish, I leave you with this song from The Proclaimers. Sing along now… (please suffer the few seconds of advert that precedes the quality Scottish singing)

Single Post Navigation

21 thoughts on “How to do a Scottish Accent. Probably Part 1, but I maybe won’t bother with part 2. Who can say?

  1. Applause, applause, applause!

  2. I appreciate the lesson. You know how much I love Scottish accents and your country. I have to confess that we have a commercial that features two Koreans from Scotland. It is hilarious to see two Koreans speaking with Scottish accents.

  3. Scotstig on said:

    Awww hen, ah think yer definin’ the Glasgae acsunt there! The east coast and eeland acsunts are a wee bit different, ye ken, F’t like, Mish Munnypenny?

    • No these are good for all Scotland, and even descendants of emigrants.

      As I say, there could be subsequent parts to this for regional accents. Then there’s the whole dialect/Scots thing.

  4. Amazing. I think only someone who has been there could get it.
    In reference to the “morning” joke, doesn’t it work as “loose rhyme”? Are the differences so important to understanding that loose rhyme is a total snag to the flow of things? Or is it only allowed in poetry?

  5. Wow! My audience is getting tougher by the day!

    Hehe (that’s he-he in English; not sure what the Scots translation is) 🙂 I really enjoyed this post. The one thing I’ve learned since starting the Joke a Day is that humour is extremely subjective; but I never thought about accents. I learn something new every day (which is how I like it).

    I love The Proclaimers. Not sure how many albums they made, but I have three. Does that make me an honorary Scot?

    Great post all round.

  6. BTW, is it a bottle of white wine or a bo’al of white wine or would it be easier to just get in some Bucky?

    Further to my initial post I now how an official list of things that don’t sound anything like “or” including “al”, “au” and “our” and don’t even get me started on what “The Government” thinks rhymes with “air”.

    Yes, I have officialy become one of “those” parents.

  7. DavyJones Captain on said:

    Oi, don’ yew thik tha’ the other Ameerica’ns weel get this? Sco’ish accen’s are hard to come by withou’ grewing uppa in Sco’land.

  8. I’m joining in a little bit late here, but as a Scot-living-in-England, I know just what you mean with the different pronounciations of things. Not only am I Scot-living-in-England, but I’m a teacher too, which makes for a few misunderstandings, but also some exasperations on my part when words are not spelled correctly. The prime example is ‘our’ and ‘are’. How many times have I seen children write ‘my friends are coming round to are house’, when what they really mean in ‘our’ house. In an English accent ‘are’ and ‘our’ sound the same. Which and witch is another example. In my accent they sound completely different! 🙂

  9. They have a glottal stop in the Bronx as well, where both my mother and wife originated. What’s up, though, with the glottal stop replacing the “t” generally in
    British speech and its being the “in” thing? I remember Tony Blair doing it just to show he was au currant.

    By the way, “or” here in Brooklyn (where there are actually many accents) could be pronounced “oo-ah.” In the section where I currently live “Catholic” is pronounced “Kat-lick.” Of course, we are overrun with yuppies from foreign lands like Indiana and Michigan, so who knows what the language will sound like a generation from now.

    • In Ireland the pronunciation of Catholic is pretty much Kat-lick also – maybe the Bronx is full of Irish descendants?
      Tony Blair’s most irritating speech quirk for me was the way he started to answer every question with, “Now look,” which was really patronising. Nothing to do with his accent. It was okay.

      Thanks for your comments 🙂

  10. Then there’s the yogh a strange character that typesetters reckoned was too rare, so they replaced it with a z. It explains why the polician’s name is shortened to Ming Campbell as Menzies should really have a yogh where the z is.

  11. We are interested in moving to Scotland, although I’m not sure I want us to learn to speak like a Scot. Nonetheless, would you be able to advise me and my wife. So far, after having looked into Inverness and Ayrshire, we’ve sort of dropped Dundee. Neither of us have ever been to Scotland, so any suggestions would be gratefully received.

    • Hi there – I’d be delighted to advise 🙂
      But it all depends on what you like to do… What are your top activities? There are wildernesses, cities, wetter areas, windier areas, golf, coastlines, history… IT depends what you want to do. If you give me your top five favourite things to do – I’ll point you in the right direction.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: