The Mash House

By Alan Gillespie

A tribal story about secrets, death and malt whisky

Thursday, 22 October 2020

How Come Ma Scottish Novel Isnae Written in Scots

Hiya mashheids,

As ye’ll maist likely hae picked up by noo, The Mash Hoose is a gey Scottish book. It’s aw set in the Scottish Heilands, it’s aw aboot Scottish fowk n the hings they get up tae, n Ah’m a Scottish lad masel. Hooever, it isnae scrieved in Scots. N so Ah wantit tae post youse a wee update explainin ma thinkin aboot it.

Ah’m fae Fife, n ower there it’s aw “ah ken this” n “d’ye ken whit a mean” n “where’s ma baffies” n “whit’s happnin, eh.” So Ah grew up wi this type ae speakin, n jist thought it wis an accent kind ae hing. A rough accent. Ah never wid ae described it as Scots or onything like that, it wis mair like slangwords which ye were meant tae suppress.

Efter school Ah went tae Stirling Uni for ma degree, n wan ae the optional units Ah picked up wis in Linguistics, which I wis gash at. Bit Ah mind this wis the first time Ah heard somebody talkin aboot Scots properly, sayin how it wis its ain language and shouldnae be dismissed as lesser than yer proper style ae speakin English. That wis a new wan oan me. But tae be honest I learnt mair fae bletherin wae ma pals about Ayrshire Scots (gads) and some bits ae daft Geordie (haway the lads) than onything fae fowk in Stirling itsel.

Bein at Uni n daein a degree in English, I read a bit ae Scots masel. Jim Kelman wis oan the readin list and Ah’d read Irvine Welsh n aw. Tom Leonard wis anither wan. But tae be honest wi ye, they werenae the Scottish writers I gravitatit tae – Ah was mair taken wi Iain Banks. He was fae Fife, like me, n his stories hud violence and funny bits n were gey Scottish. But they werenae written aw in Scots.

As a writer, ah’ve been mair drawn tae hings like accent n voice n quirks ae phrasing, raither than dialect. That’s jist ma preference. Ah’ve just feenished readin Graeme Armstrong’s book The Young Team aboot growin up in Airdrie, an it’s in guid phonetic Scots. Ye wid like it. Ah’m lookin forward tae Emma Grae’s Scots book wi Unboond n there’s heaps ae fowk a follae on twitter who are guid Scots supporters n writers n teachers - @Sayers33, @storiesbysamuel, @ColinBurnett16, @Lenniesaurus, @Historic_Ally, n mair that I cannae hink ae the noo.

Ah dae like writin in Scots, eh – this is aw comin oot the noo pretty natural. Ah dinnae ken loads ae Scots vocabulary, n ah cannae be scunnert tae look it aw up n translate it intae some mad patter. Ah dinnae hink that’s whit it should be aboot. N Scots is noo embedded intae the school system as a legitimate language in oor curriculum, which is guid, n wan ae they rerr occasions when Education Scotland’s no made an erse ae it. Ah dae like usin a bit ae Scots here n there when Ah’m teachin, but Ah must admit it’s no ma strong point. Ah did teach a unit oan Burns a wee while back that got a punt in the New York Times, which wis a bit ae a buzz.

But The Mash Hoose is set in the Hielands, n it’s inspired by ma ain experiences up there – n fae whit Ah saw, there’s much mair interest up north in promotin n preservin n educatin fowk in Gaelic raither than Scots. Which is fair enough n it jist shows ye how richly diverse aw these muppets in Scotland cin be.

So aye, that’s how come ma Scottish novel isnae written in Scots. Ah hope ye dinnae mind. It jist didnae seem tae fit in wi this wan, although ye’ll find a couple ae the characters’ huv a bit ae Scots in their dialect. But ah huv written a heap ae short stories in Scots afore, n dinnae fear, Ah’ll go back tae it again.

But fur me it hus tae fit the story, in ma mind, eh. D’ye ken whit ah mean?

Cheerio the noo,


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Zena Barrie
 Zena Barrie says:

I ken what you mean. Looking forward to it!

posted 22nd October 2020

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