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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

The Patter Strikes back?

A Glasgow Scots bookIn the 20th and early 21st centuries the dialect of Glasgow has been the subject of several research projects and popular books. 

Research into the health of the language (of which work by Dr Caroline Macafee has been prominent) has tended to show that the dialect has been subject to ever increasing erosion due to continuing negative attitudes in education, indifference by local authorities and government, and the exclusion of Scots from all but humorous stereotypes in the media. 

In more recent decades the media have made a deliberate attempt to tar Scots speakers in Glasgow with the negative image of the ‘Glasgow ned’. Despite these problems, several popular works have appeared which illustrate the language. The principal books are:

‘Laugh Out Loud at Talking Glasgow’, Albert Mackie (Blackstaff Press, 1978) ‘The Illustrated Glasgow Glossary’, Albert Mackie (Blackstaff Press, 1984) ‘The Patter’, Michael Munro (Glasgow District Libraries, 1985) ‘The Patter Another Blast’, Michael Munro (Canongate Press, 1988) ‘C’mon Geeze Yer Patter The Glasgow &West of Scotland Phrase Book’, Peter Mason (Seanachaidh Publishing, 1988) ‘Bud Neill’s Magic – A Collection of Bud Neill’s Pocket Cartoons’, Ranald MacColl (The Cromwell Press, 1997). 

In all the above books the language is presented in a humorous way. Common forms of the language are often spelled in a way to make them seem peculiar, or particular to Glasgow. For example, 'geeze' is simply the general Scots 'gie's' - short for 'gie us' ('give me'). Other words are rolled together to make the Scots seem incomprehensible, such as 'gonnygeeze', which is just 'gaunae gie's' ('going to give me').

Imagine if you never heard, for example, English, except in humour, what opinion would you have of that language then? This reflects the way in which the Scots language is treated by the media. Ironically it is Glasgow-based speech that is probably the most widely heard in the media – in such programmes as ‘Chewin The Fat’ – and which has exerted an influence on other forms of Scots in modern times. 

A brief survey of Glasgow, made by Dr Dauvit Horsbroch in 2002, showed that despite the support now given to other languages in the city (such as Gaelic), there was no institutional support for Glasgow’s native language. Various organisations, including Glasgow City Council, St Mungo Museum, ScotRail, and The People’s Palace either appeared surprised at the suggestion or reluctant to become involved in any policy making on behalf of Scots (though the People’s Palace does include some Scots signs). 

To read a recent academic article about Scots in Glasgow, please follow this link to 'Glesca Dialeck i the Modren Warld' by Dr Caroline Macafee which appeared in 'Lallans' number 61 in 2002: http://www.lallans.co.uk/language.html

There is a volunteer organisation called The Glesca Scots Speikers’ Curn which seeks to promote the language within the Glasgow region. It does not appear to have a current website. The local contact for the Scots Language Society in Glasgow is Jack Stuart via the Society e-mail on mail@lallans.co.uk. If any visitors know of any Scots-related events in Glasgow please drop the Centre a line.

To hear 'Oor Hamlet' in West Central Scots please follow this link: http://www.scotslanguage.com/articles/view/669