Bag ah Chips

The following is a bit of an experiment – I wanted to try writing a story where all the characters speak exclusively in a thick, local dialect. The dialect is a combination of West Lothian (where I live) and nearby Glaswegian and probably hammed up more than is necessary. There’s a good chance, a lot of this is going to sound like nonsense for which I apologise in advance. At the end I’ve put in a few explanations/translations.

Gaz squinted and gave himself a good scratch. The back of his throat was parched but still tasted of Special. What time was it? His belly gave a wee growl. Food o’clock he reckoned. After some foraging, he found the remote and turned on the telly. Eastenders was on. Winner, that meant the chippy’d be open.

Getting up, Gaz pulled on some bottoms and his trainers. At the front door he paused and shouted up the stairs “Here ma, am away up the shops fir a bag ah chips right. Ye wanin’ anything?”

“No, am fine ta” she called back after a moment. She’d be on the computer. She was always on the computer.

“Oh hang on, actually wir needin’ milk. Go an pick us up wan ah they wee cartons?”

“Righto, wan wi’ the green tap aye?”

“Aye, that’s right. Och – ah’ve no change the now, ah’ll have tae owe ye.”

“Aye, nae bother. Chero right.”

Gaz was all set to push the door handle when his ma called again: “Actually, ye’d be as well gettin’ some mair baccy fer yer Pupa. Jus’ wan ah the wee bags like.”

“Spose ah’ll be ownin’ him as well?”

“Aye, ye know whit he’s like.”

“Aye – ah do. Chero then!”


Finally out the door, Gaz walked straight into his little sister and a couple of her pals.

“Oh right Michelle.”

“Hiya – where you aff tae? You headin’ up the shops?”

“Aye, jus’ fer a bag ah chips like.”

“Go an get ees a skinny brew?”

“Get it yerself ya lazy, wee scag!”

“Oh mon, please!”

Gaz gave a deep sigh and shrugged. He couldn’t go being too harsh in front of her pals else they’d start nipping him.

“Cheers Gaz! Ah’ll owe ye right?” she called before disappearing back into the house.

Gaz grumbled to himself as he headed off along the road, repeating his growing list over in his head.

“Oi Brycey! Brycey! Aye ah thought that was you man. How ya doin?” called the young man approaching.

“Oh ah right Kev! Long time no see, long time no see” said Gaz.
Gaz and Kev had kicked about together, back in the day, got up to all sorts. Gaz hung about with a different crowd these days so the two hadn’t seen each other for a few years. They stood and chatted for a bit, catching up.

“Right, well ah’d better shoot else she’ll be moanin’ at me when ah get in” said Kev after a bit. “Oh by the way, you mind wee Dugie?”

“That wee daftie? How could ah forget ‘im?”

“Well he’s only gettin’ married in’ he? Some bird he met at college, fit as nothin’ like.”

“Jeezo – wouldnae have thought aye?”

“Naw! We sent ‘im a wee card, well she did anyways.”

“Aye, ah should muybe do the same” said Gaz. “Ah’ll get ‘im somein’ while ah’m up the shops.”

“Right well see you round aye?” said Kev, heading off.

“Aye see ye ’bout!”

As Gaz continued on, he realised he didn’t have Doogie’s address to send the card to. He pulled out his mobile to text Kev and ask him, then remembered he was out of credit again. Great, something else he’d have to pick up.

* * *

Finally Gaz managed to sit himself back down on the sofa. He was bushed.

He’d got the milk no bother but the corner shop only had big bags of tobacco so he’d had to head down the other end of the road to get a cash machine. He’d topped his phone up at the post office and looked at their cards. They didn’t have any decent wedding cards so he’d got a funny one instead. Then of course, he’d completely forgotten about stamps so had to go back in. He finally got the tobacco and Michelle’s skinny brew. He hadn’t been sure if she’d wanted a tin or a bottle, tins were cheaper though so that was what she was getting.

After all that he was knackered and headed home, glad to slump back into his seat.

He sat there for a moment.

His stomach rumbled.

“Aw pish!” Gaz bellowed, leaping back up from the sofa.

“Whit? Whit is it? Wha’s the matter?” called Ma, coming clattering down the stairs.

“Ma bag ah chips! Ah never go’ me bag ah chips!”

Some brief explanations:

Special = Tennent’s Special, a slightly cheap and nasty, tinned Scottish ale

Pupa = Granddad

Skinny brew = The diet version of Irn-Bru, a Scottish brand of bright orange fizzy juice

You can probably use your imagination for the rest, but if not – fire away in the comments!

Title image courtesy jemstone

Published in: on October 13, 2011 at 9:03 PM  Comments (10)  

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10 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. You know, that wasn’t as hard to understand as I thought it would be (many expressions I’m familiar with) however, I do know that if I heard it instead of read it, I’d have difficulty. hehe

    • Maybe I should record a spoken version and see how you get on!

      • That would be fun! 😀

  2. Ha I’ve heard that dialect many a time in my youth – of course I came from England and had friends who were Scottish – you did that very well. An entraining story.

    • Glad you enjoyed (and understood) it Helen! Maybe I should do a follow-up with even broader-dialect.

  3. That’s interesting. I often see advice that writing in dialect is difficult because it strains reader comprehension. Admittedly, I had difficulty with a few places (I didn’t know what “baccy” meant until later, still unclear was a “skinny brew” is and “you mind” means something different in American English than it appears to mean here), but mostly I followed along – though to read it I’d often have to sound the word out in my head.

    A lot of the pronounciations match pretty well to the stereotyped Scottish accent that we see used here in television and whatnot, with words like “wee” and “aye” and contracting “verb not” to “verbnae” instead of “verbn’t”. Some of the phrasing – the word order – was more unexpected, as well as the dropping of prepositions like “at” and “to”.

    But I’ll bet you’re right: if you did a full-on vocalization of these for us to hear, I’ll bet those of us used to American English would be more-or-less stumped.

    • My inspiration for doing this actually came from my local writer’s group where there’s often debate about whether someone’s written dialogue that is too Scottish, usually quoting Irvine Welsh as the worst case scenario. I decided to turn this into a personal challenge, both to see if people could read it and if I could actually write it.

      Baccy is short for tobacco.
      Skinny brew is the “diet” version of a fizzy drink called Irn-Bru.
      To “mind” something is to remember/recall it rather than be wary of.

      • Thanks. I understood what baccy was by the end, and figured out the different in the use of “to mind”. My confussion on “skinny brew” was, I guess, whether it’s a brand-name or a generic term… I guess by “fizzy drink” you mean a carbonated soft-drink (i.e. in colloquial American English, depending on region, either “Soda”, or “Pop” or “Soda-pop” or “Coke”)?

  4. This was a lot easier to understand than Rab. C. Nesbitt.

    Forgetting your own dinner is tragic no matter what accent you use.

    • Cheers. I was aware I was in danger of going a bit Rab C but glad the story still got through!

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