Sorry, Can You Repeat That? or The Curse Of The Glaswegian Accent
US fans of Doctor Who were up in arms. Going from the eloquent dulcet tones of Matt Smith to the tough, roguish, bruising, bark of Peter Capaldi resulted in Stateside fans requesting and receiving subtitles for every show of the new series.
Even the world’s most handsome Glaswegian (who actually hails from Paisley) Gerard Butler has traded his original accent for a monstrous transatlantic hybrid. Although before we sound the air raid sirens, alert the nationalistic rent a mob, grab our flaming torches and go Sassenach hunting (mainly because we don’t personally know any of our colonial cousins), can you blame him?
Could you imagine being constantly asked to repeat yourself, every single sentence, every single day. It would, we imagine, become quite demeaning not to mention physically draining. Definitely somewhat of an inconvenience as speaking tends to be quite an important part of an actors repertoire. Is it any wonder Monsieur Butler attempted to bridge the colloquial gap between the US and Glasgow/Paisley.
The modern day Glaswegian accent it could be argued, is an amalgamation of the results of Highland Clearances, The Irish Migration and the River Clyde’s role in the Industrial Revolution, these three factors were integral to the explosion in Glasgow’s population. Bringing with it a multitude of accents from the across Scotland, Ireland and even the far corners of the globe. It was Glasgow’s chokehold of the tobacco trade which helped increase the city’s overall wealth.
Every Glaswegian will have been given the same befuddled look at some point after finishing a sentence, it’s the equivalent look a dog gives you when you blow a dog whistle, sort of half turning their head to the side. In humans it’s the half smile, eye glazed over look, almost certainly the most vulnerable look a human can give. Especially to a Glaswegian.
What chance has a normal human Glaswegian got when Oscar winning, Glasgow School Of Art Alumni, Peter Capaldi is been accused of being too Scottish.
Now imagine if our aggravated and emotionally vulnerable colonial cousins ever stumbled across his iconic Malcolm Tucker character “In The Thick Of It”. Tears could genuinely be shed. (Well if they understood any of what he was actually saying of course.)
Say what you want about the Glaswegian accent, but it’s resilient, (well unless you decide to study at Glasgow Uni), that’s why you find that people who speak English as a second language usually adopt vocal mannerisms relating to the area in which they live. The scientific name for this is language attrition, think of football players who spend years in Scotland, Henrik Larsson (His son Jordan spoke with a Glaswegian accent) or Rino Gattuso (Even his wife is Scottish) spring to mind. They tend to pick up small cultural mannerisms. (Wee, cannae, sorta etc.)
The Glaswegian accent wasn’t always so prominent however, following the 1707 Act of the Union both the Scottish accent and Gaelic language were actively discouraged by education boards and by authorities. In what would now be considered cultural genocide, Scottish culture was denigrated to the point of being nearly whitewashed out of existence. Ironically it was further incidents of cultural genocide such as the Highland Clearances and the Great Irish Famine which in turn led to the distinctive tones of the Glaswegian accent…
To be continued…