Conversations

Vowels, consonants, inflection and idiom: these
four qualities influence the Scottish brogue we all love to listen to.  Vowels
seem to work differently here; come consonants work overtime — the r’s for
example – and some, like the t at the end of a word, are on permanent vacation;
our speech lifts at the end of a question we ask, but the Scots lilt almost
every sentence; and idiom — I have a story for you! 
 
When the Scots speak of time it helps to remember
the rules of Roman numerals: if a number comes before the hour, subtract.  “Five
eleven” means 10:55.  “Eight half” means 8:30.  I have no idea what “ten ten”
would mean because I have never heard it.  I think they prefer to use quarter
and half units.
 
Idiom is the choice of words within an area or
group of people.  Instead of counter-clockwise the Scots say
“anti-clockwise”.  And when you get a round trip ticket they call it
“return”.  I was at the desk at the Cal-Mac ferry asking about the connection we
needed to make with the bus on the island of Mull.  The genial agent gave me a
time schedule and marked the times I needed.  I asked about the price and what I
heard was “Ten pound per ton.”  My jaw unhinged and I asked with incredulity,
“Tney charge by the ton?”  His eyes danced as he said, “Oh my, no.  Ten pounds
return.” 
 That sent both of us into
fits of giggles which caught the eyes of everyone in the terminal.
 
We’ve had several conversations where as we
have walked away Curt has said, “Did you understand a word of what he said?”
and I had to admit that I had no idea.  Getting directions is particularly
difficult because we are so unfamiliar with the place names and the place names
all have Gaelic flavors.  The few names we know are pronounced in such a
different way that we would never recognize them in speech. 
 
With one notable exception, the Scottish people
have been kind and engaging.  A few times people have mistaken us for native
Scots – that was before we spoke.  People have heard us speak and have initiated
a conversation asking us where we are from.  “Toby” the gregarious man on the
plane told us all about his travels in Billings, Montanta, and Cheyenne,
Wyoming.  The man in the gift shop in Iona cracked me up.  “Are you Americans? 
I love America.  I love Las Vegas.  I love south Florida.”  Hello?  What is a
man who loves Las Vegas doing on the island of Iona? 
 
We saw one couple in the ferry terminal, on the
ferry, on the bus, on the second ferry, and at various points on Iona.  We
always nodded to one another, but in the shop they approached us.  Are you from
the states?  We are too.  Are you in ministry?  As I began to shake my head in
the negative, my husband smiled and said, “Yes!  My ministry is to love my
wife.”  That just may be my favorite moment of the trip.
 

Our favorite Scot is Annabelle.  What a character! 
She was our B & B host on Iona.  We asked her to join us for breakfast but
that seems to be against protocol.  However, after breakfast, we went into her
living quarters and soon we were seated at her table talking for over an hour. 
Her brogue has the thickest burr we’ve heard.  Lively and opinionated, she had
us laughing.  Annabelle and her husband John are two of the six remaining
native islanders on Iona.  They both have lived there all their lives.  She was a
teacher, he was an engineer, but they farm sheep and help their son with his
farm.  Her house was warm and comfortable, an extension of her personality. 
When it came time to pay her, she said, “Ach, I am so poo-er at this.  I just
want to have you here as my friends.  I hate the money part.” 
 
 

Our 1% guy, the one who was not friendly, was
painstakingly painting a boat surrounded by six boats near the
dock.  We watched him a minute and when he stepped back to examine his work,
Curt asked, “Do you own all these boats?”  He stared for a good thirty seconds
— or was that a glare? — before saying “New.” (No)  We kept on walking.  Under
his breath, Curt said, “He only responds to questions in Gaelic.”
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3 thoughts on “Conversations

  1. I can sooooo relate to understanding or not….. I had trouble with the Brits myself.  Perhaps it was because I thought it was English and since I spoke English there would be no barrier.  Hah!!   I had less trouble understanding the French and the Germans. 
    Good stories 🙂

  2. Now I’m curious as to what the entire population on the island is, if there are only 6 “originals”? That’s amazing. And what do you mean by your “1% guy”? I’m w/ Curt on the accents. I am TER-RI-BLE with understanding just about any accent. I hope you have better luck w/ the English 

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