So while I’ll be in Britishland for my sabbatical (as I’ve chosen to call it), I’ve been invited to go watch the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo in early August.

I love Edinburgh; been there twice, can’t wait to get back, but I have a perennial problem in that I can’t understand a frigging word the locals say (I and Robin Williams both). Seriously, I once listened to a cabbie ranting about (I think) the new Scottish House of Parliament, and I caught maybe a couple of words out of the whole diatribe. Something about “costing a wee fuckload o’ poonds”, I think. Or maybe it was “coasting awee doon the goons.” Whatever.

I mean, these tools make Billy Connolly sound like Prince Charles — and yet when I complain about their incomprehensibility, then somehow I’m the idiot. As I once tried to explain to some porridge monkey in a pub right before the fists started flying, my “colonial” accent can be understood in every country in the world where English is spoken — but the Scots can’t even be understood on the south side of the fucking River Tweed. (I may have put it somewhat more bluntly than that, now that I think back; my memory is a tad hazy, probably from the “wee concussion” that the doctor told me about the next day. I only understood about a quarter of what he was saying, too.)

Anyway, so I’ve been watching the outstanding show Shetland on Netflix to get used to the cadence of Scottish speech, and to the vocabulary. It probably won’t help, because the BBC (or whoever) forces them to soften the Scottish accent to make it more comprehensible to non-Scots: and it’s still only a 50-50 shot that you’ll understand what they’re talking about.

When Churchill described the Americans and British as “two peoples divided by a common language”, I think he was referring to the Scots and pretty much everyone else.

But hey… it’s the Tattoo. I’ll get by.


  1. I’m sure you’ll have a great time. If it’s early August then let me know; I hope you’ll venture up to NE Scotland. Aberdeenshire is gorgeous at that time of year. If it’s the latter part, I’ll be in the US.

  2. I was at the Edinburgh Castle in June years ago when the Queen was in town and I got to see the Black Watch drilling in preparation for an event with the drums and pipes. That was a treat and I was also fascinated by the little cemetery where the mascot dogs are buried and I was told they bury the soldiers close to where they fall but the bring the mascots back to Scotland. Don’t know if the dog stuff is true or just a tourist tale.

  3. Glad to find another fan of “Shetland”. Hope you have a terrific trip.

  4. It took me a week to understand Melbourne Australian …

    ( midland English warped by southern Ozzies speaking with a mouth full of marbles )

  5. I once knew a Scot that among friends was often kidded about his accent. On one occasion thus primed he launched into a story about his service in North Africa during WWII. On one occasion, his unit was encamped adjacent to Australian troops. One day an Aussie trooper came into camp and asked my friend if he had “lices”. Having maintained the best standards of personal hygiene that circumstances allowed, my friend took some immediate offense. Sensing budding hostility, the Aussie trooper quickly pulled from his pocket a string of broken boot LACES. Thus engaged, the broad A’s of Australia met the Scottish brogue in a called draw. Separated by a common language? Too right mate!

  6. I think I had a more difficult time understanding the Welsh bus driver for my 1st trip to Scotland 15 years ago than the tour guide.

    Like you, I went to the Tattoo with my friend (bought tickets a few months before the trip, ‘natch), and it was the first time the Queen Mum wasn’t in attendance. I missed being there for the first time QE II was in attendance by 5 days.

    Enjoy your trip!

  7. Dinna fash yoursel’, laddie.

    Watch “Trainspotting” a couple of times,if you can stand it, and you’ll atop the Scottish.

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