Sunday 29 June 2014

The Perils of Listening in English, Part 1

Being a ferry-louping in-comer, from south of the river (or at least the Pentland Firth), it's taking me a while to tune my ear in to some of the Orcadian dialect.

Both Our Lass and I have become aware that the language continuum between English and full bore Orcadian is much wider than the 'either one or the other' that we had initially thought.

In conversations with work colleagues, customers or clients, it has been apparent that there's a level of dialect which can only be described as 'half throttle'. By this I mean that it is delivered slower and with fewer dialect words than if the conversation is between two Orcadians.

At this early stage in our education, we are grateful for this relaxation of the official language, especially as two Orcadians in conversation would not necessarily speak in this fashion.

Having said that, there are pitfalls aplenty and, unfortunately, yesterday I committed a faux pas at work. A customer pointed across the yard and asked if we wanted any chairs for our recycling site. My gaze followed in the direction of his outstretched arm and I saw several plastic chairs stacked beside a walkway. I quickly responded with a full description of the usefulness of plastic chairs for a project that donates loose items of scrap to schools to encourage creative and imaginative play at break times.

The customer listened intently and patiently, but with an increasing amount of confusion. When I paused for breath, he hurriedly said, "Not chairs... chars! Those glass chars over there."

In the Orcadian dialect, the English 'j' is pronounced 'ch', especially at the beginning of words. And I had walked straight into the linguistic minefield.

Crestfallen, I looked beyond the chairs to a box that was full of empty jars.

"Er, yeah, we accept those, too," was all I sheepishly managed to say, as I looked for a handy fish box to crawl under.


laligalover said...

Easy, give them some propa Geordie like,
Whees i' the netty?
Gan canny or we'll dunsh summick.
What fettle bonnie lad?

Imperfect and Tense said...

I am not sure that is the best way to achieve full two way understanding.

For instance, 'What fettle bonnie lad?' translates as 'Whit like the day, beuy?'

And that was the easy one...

Katie (Nature ID) said...

Without actual sound, you did pretty well explaining, and I shared it with Andy. So, to remind me which brand of peanut butter he does not like, he just said, "Chif is for cherks." He's a quick learner, that one.

Imperfect and Tense said...


Fay McKenzie said...

Happens to us all.........I'm suffering a bit from 'East Neakian' words mesel.

Imperfect and Tense said...

That's Fifers for you!

Anonymous said...

Please could we have a translation for us living south of the Watford gap!!!

Imperfect and Tense said...

Mon Capitan! How are you doing?
Which bit did you want translating?

Our Derek's geordie phrases were:

1. Whees i' the netty? "Pardon me for asking, but who is using the toilet facilites?"
2. Gan canny or we'll dunsh summick. Please slow down or we may well lose control of the vehicle and crash."
3. What fettle bonnie lad? "How are you doing, my good man?"

Does that help?

Anonymous said...

Thanks all is now clear spoken could have had ago but not written!!!!!!!
Cpt Sundial

Imperfect and Tense said...

I guess at this stage, I could mention the following, taken from

Wor: Wor Lass means our missus, when a chap is referring to his wife. Wor is the Anglo-Saxon word oor meaning Our the w has crept into speech naturally.