RARA-AVIS: Re: accents

From: Scatalogic@aol.com
Date: 18 Jun 2002

I said: One gripe I had, and something that might be worth discussion was the phoenetic spelling of dialect/heavily accented speech In Christopher Brookmyre's, otherwise excellent story. I found it really interrupted the flow.

And Al said: I don't know which story you're referring to, Colin, but I have read a lot of Brookmyre, so I know what you mean. For anyone who wants an example, the following link has the story that kick-started Brookmyre's career, "Bampot Central", in full.

That's the one I have read Al, printed in the Polygon Scottish Crime anthology, Something Wicked. And I would reccommend Avians take a look at it - apart from my (minor) grumble I thought it was excellent.

Al said.

The second was, is it not enough to tell us that the characters have strong Scottish accents? That's much easier to answer. No. There's no such thing as a strong Scottish accent. For me, at least, such a statement would make the story instantly unbelievable and obviously written by a non-Scot (imagine a novel set in Liverpool where the author stated that the characters had strong English accents, or in Texas with characters speaking with strong American accents) For others, I suspect, such a statement(strong Scottish accent) would create a "Scotty" from Star Trek or Mel Gibson from Braveheart accent that only exists in television and the movies. Even if the author were more specific, it still wouldn't work. For instance, describing the characters as having strong Glaswegian accents is unlikely to convey anything at all to most of the people on this list. During the course of "Bampot Central" Brookmyre never mentions the robbers are from Glasgow, but he doesn't have to. The phonetic spelling gives it away pretty quickly.

I say: Sorry about the Scottish accent bit. I didn't get that they were Glaswegian from the spelling, and in fact assumed they were working class Edinburgians. There are so many delineations of place and accent that I think it's probably a morass that's worth avoiding in most cases: I have what would broadly be described as a West Country accent - although it's really quite specifically a North Gloucestershire/Forest of Dean accent, the number of times I have thrown up my turnips and pitchfork in disgust when seeing West Country used as a descriptor of a poorly transcribed bumpkin speak! That, I think is the problem - you are never going to be good enough, or local enough for some. I understand the point you are making, but, I think maybe he went too far. Here's an example:

"Look, I ken ye're lyin', awright? We've had information. We ken they're in there. Insurance Bonds, fae Scottish Widows. They come through here the last Monday o' every month. So fuckin' get them or I'll fuckin' blow ye away."

Quite understandable, but taking an extra effort to read (lazy sod I am!). Maybe a few emblamatic words might strike a better balance, and in general I do slightly recoil from the device - in whatever or dialect.

I understand what he's doing, but, as you say below, he may well alienate some (I will be back to find a full length one, hopefully before next month.)

I've cut what you said below! Sorry. But yep, it is a brave choice and one I imagine will be "persuaded" out of him by publishers - does he do the same in full-length pieces?

Still, very much enjoyed the story and will try and ken some more Brookmyre soon.

Cheers, Colin.

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