Thursday, April 25, 2013

Destined to Speak Like a Scot

Long before I decided to pretend to be Roland Axam, before I went to Scotland for the first time, I was drawn to the Scottish brogue. I loved the rough sound and the way the R's would roll off the tongue. I particularly liked the Scottish accent coming from a woman's mouth.

That was, and still is, a big turn on for me.

I used to be a customer at a bank where one of the tellers was a Scot. Her voice was soft but the accent was clear, to be sure. And later, I worked in a camera shop with a Scottish lass who put a smile on my face when she would offer a promotion to our customers: "With that, you can have three free rolls of film or three free photo albums."

Imagine that said with a brogue, the R's rolling on and on.

But my first encounter with a loud, guttural, Scottish brogue came in the summer of '87, when some friends and I were enjoying a gorgeous evening in the back patio of the long-gone, Byward Market bar, Stoney Mondays.

On their patio, you felt like you were in someone's over-sized back yard, with the picnic tables and the high, wooden fence. You would often find yourself sitting on top of the tables, where you could get a better look of what went on: namely, watching the ladies. The waitresses would carry opened cases with an assortment of beers in cans. You would catch her attention, pay her, and then pull a can from the case. Quick and easy.

On this one occasion, I caught up with a waitress who was standing with a man who was maybe one or two years older than me. He was bald, had a pointed nose and squinting eyes, and very much reminded me of a rat. Hard as it may seem, he was several inches shorter than me, but he was lean and seemed fit, wearing a navy rugby shirt. He seemed more interested in talking up the pretty young server than in making a purchase, so when I approached, and she saw me, she turned the case in my direction (she had already served me a couple of times that evening, and on previous occasions, so she was familiar with me).

I handed her the cash and drew a tall can from within (I won't say what it was because my taste in beer has radically changed in the ensuing decades).

As I was turning to return to my friends, this loud voice boomed from this man, his Scottish heritage clear as a bell: "Hey, you. That's me beer yeh took. Ya gi'it back of I'll punch yer fuckin' lights oot!"

I turned to him, surprised that what had been a quiet transaction had now turned into a confrontation. Was he really willing to fight me for the can in my hand or was he just trying to impress the waitress?

My eyes met his, his squinting in anger, or in sensitivity to the light. I then looked into the case, where many more cans awaited. I reached in, retrieved an identical can, and put it in his hand. It was my turn to speak: "Sorry, mate. I di'n't know it had your name on it." My attempt at a Scottish accent was poor, but effective. I nodded at the waitress, turned, and walked to my friends.

I didn't know if the guy was going to follow me or escalate the incident. But I walked straight to my friends, who were looking at me, having seen the exchange, wanting to know what that was all about.

I explained what happened, mirroring the guy's voice and accent, which drew plenty of laughter from my friends. For the rest of the evening, when we would fetch another beer, we would take turns saying, "Hey, you, that's me beer yeh took. Ya gi'it back or I'll punch yer fuckin' lights oot!"

It was the start to what would later be my perfected Scottish tongue. One that would fool many, including actual Scots. The accent that I still miss using.

No comments:

Post a Comment