Divided again by a common language; being an Australian in Scotland

by Anna Blanch on July 21, 2010

Living here in St Andrews is a little different to the rest of Scotland – for one, noone notices my accent here, or at least accents are a dime a dozen and so noone comments on it. But, just like when i was in Texas, in the ol’ US of A even though the language everyone speaks, sometimes i wonder if i am in fact on a different planet. I could tell you the story of the electricity company salesman who banged on the door this morning, but I won’t, partly cause i have a cold and also because I have to keep some of the laughs for myself.

You can read about my experiences in the US in a post I wrote titled: Divided by a common language; or, being an Australian in the US. 

This post is written with a completely different tone – much less frustration for one.

In some ways, living in Scotland feels like speaking my own language again and the sounds of bagpipes evoke an odd sensation for me – my hometown has a pipes and drum corp led by my great uncle, so even though I am far from home, the sound so familiar and native here in Scotland also reminds me of home and people I care about. 

It’s really nice being able to use words like dodgy, and jumper, mobile phone and boot again, though because many of my colleagues are American I find myself easily slipping between different dialects and words for common items! I thought it best instead to compile a little glossary for the purposes of demonstration and discussion and sheer joy. I love words and I love learning new dialects of my own language.

scran – though this is a word associated with the military (particularly the Navy) as a word for food, it’s also a Scottish dialect word for food (or a buffet)

outwith – used instead of outside.

canna nae do – Not going to or cannot do.

haar – a particular kind of rolling fog that comes in off the North Sea (sometimes incredibly rapidly) and hangs in the air. It often reminds one of those horror stories that begin on a foggy night.

Robbie/Rabbie – poet Robert Burns

Irn bru – it’s kind of like fanta mixed with cough syrup and kind if tastes like bubble gum. Irn Bru is to Scotland as Dr Pepper is to Central Texas. It’s an acquired taste.

OAP – acronym for Old Age Person. Instead of referring to our wisened senior citizens or the elderly, OAP is often the term of choice. This may be used across the UK.

tat – rubbish

traybake – slice or bars (US). There is some discussion about whether traybake is only irish and scottish and that slice (like australia) is english. Apparently the American equivalent to this concept is bars!

oxsters – armpits.

It’s like being separated by a whole ‘nother language..but i’ve got to say. I love it.

Any other suggestions?

Image: Anna M Blanch 2010
Anna M Blanch is founder of Goannatree, and a PhD candidate in the Institute of Theology, Imagination, and the Arts, University of St Andrews. She posts weekly over at Transpositions, a blog on Theology, Imagination, and the Arts. This is her third continent in as many years.

  • http://tropicofmom.com Tropic of Mom

    Interesting! My stepfather was from Scotland. He, my mother and younger brother visited there. My stepfather could speak with an almost-American accent, but when he was talking with his family, he would sound Scottish again. Pretty funny!

  • Mandy

    Isn't English and all it's various dialects a very funny language?! Enjoyed your post. Came to you via the 31DBBB challenge. Hey, I have a question for you. I heard a story once from an American who lived for a time in Australia, and he said he told folks there that his wife wasn't at church on a given day because she was feeling "under the weather," which in the US means sick. He implied that in Australia it meant that she was drunk, which made for a good laugh over the mix-up. Is that the case? Is "under the weather" another way to say "drunk" in Australia?

  • http://goannatree.blogspot.com Goannatree
  • http://goannatree.blogspot.com Goannatree

    Thanks! Accents are funny like that. If you think of different types of English as dialects it makes a little more sense why we can slip so easily in and out of accents. My Australian accent is quite strong after I spent time with my family as well.
    My recent post Lovely Ladies from SITS

  • http://www.mysaggybutt.com Kathryn

    When my Scottish Grandma used to get going, you couldn't understand a word she'd be saying with her Scottish brogue. She used to say, "Don't forget to wash under yer oxsters!" Brings back a lot of nice memories. Thanks for the follow on Twitter and good luck with the 31 DBBB Challenge.
    My recent post My Top 10 Favourite Romance Movies

  • http://goannatree.blogspot.com Goannatree

    lol! That's exactly it! I'm learning to love the brogue and to be able to distinguish between the highlands and dundee and glaswegian….it's fun! Thanks for stopping by. The 31DBBB has been quite a bit of fun as well as a challenge.

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