It’s a dreich day…

English: A dreich day Bonawe jetty on Loch Etive.

Aye - this is a dreich day! Image via Wikipedia

…and if you know exactly what I’m talking about, you’re either a fellow Scot, or you’ve spent some time in Scotland. A couple of days in my native land is generally long enough to give you a taste of dreich. Sorry Scotland – only joking! You get beautiful weather too – but you have to admit, you are an absolute master (or mistress, let’s not make sexist assumptions here…) of the dreich.

Okay, enough already. If you’ve stuck with me this long and you’re wondering what I’m wittering on about – dreich is a weather term, which basically just means grey, dull, usually cold and with a bit of rain pretty much guaranteed to be in the mix.

Not a downright disastrous day – no gales or hurricanes or downpours – just altogether uninspiring. I think it’s a great word – no other sums up the greyness quite so well.

Snag is of course – it needs translation. At the very least it needs to be set in such a context that its meaning is immediately apparent. Or does it? Do readers need to be held by the hand, having everything pointed out to them and explained along the way – or do they enjoy discovering a bit of unknown territory?

Okay, maybe that’s a daft question. Readers go into new territories every time they pick up a book – especially if they enjoy science fiction or fantasy or even history. They expect that and accept that. But what about geography – or to use another blogger’s term – grammar geography?

I’ve seen quite a few posts recently debating if a writer should use British or American terms. Is it a pavement or a sidewalk for example. Do we fill up our cars with gas or petrol – should it be color or colour?                                                                                              This is a great post on that very topic. But bringing it down still closer to home – is it okay for a writer to use very localised language – dialect, vernacular, patois, argot – call it whatever you will.

Category:University of Aberdeen

Aberdeen University Image via Wikipedia


I’m from Aberdeen – where people have a lingo all of their own – known as the doric. It’s not an actual language, like gaelic, but it’s so much more than just a dialect or an accent.  How about this for example…


I went heelstergowdy ower a stane and landed in a muckle great dubby ditch – I was clortit tae the oxters!

That translates as:

I went head over heels over a stone and fell into a big muddy ditch – I was covered in mud right to the armpits!

or maybe…

He wis an affa fine cheil but I wis black affrontit when he gie’d me a bosie in front o’ a’ the  mannies and wifies in the kirk!

which becomes:

He was an awfully nice chap but I was highly embarrassed when he embraced me in front of all the men and women in the church!

Many writers have used the doric to great effect – none more so than Lewis Grassic Gibbon who wrote the classic Sunset Song (A Scots Quair.) Sheer poetry. I can’t imagine writing an entire book in the doric – but if I set one in Aberdeenshire, I’d want to include some of those lovely words and phrases, especially but not exclusively in dialogue.

I’m interested to know what readers think of that – would it add to the book – or is it a pain in the neck when you have to refer to a glossary? Please let me know – and if you want to comment in your own lingo – so much the better!