26 June 2006

Well seen ye stay yersel

After lunch, I went for a walk up Arthur's Seat to study in the sunshine. I was walking home down Easter Road with two plastic carrier bags with the books and the remnants of my hillside snack when a cheery guy just out of the pub said something to me. I didn't quite catch it. "Sorry, what wiz that?" "Well seen ye stay yersel".

Eh? What? "Yer bags -- ye dae yer ain shoppin." I said we probably wouldn't say it like that in Stirling. After a short exchange, we both went on our way.

On my way down the road I thought about how we would say it in Stirling. "Well seen ye stay on yer ain." But would we? Well, ah wid, but then ah ay kent mair Inglis nor Scots. I think that it would be an anglicism on my part.

Why couldn't I understand such a simple piece of Scots?

First (embarrassingly enough), I didn't immediately recognise the verb "stay" -- he pronounced it with a Scots "ay", rhyming with "aye" (yes) -- so I tried to work it out from the context.

Next, I misunderstood the role of "yersel", trying to interpret it as a true reflexive object, as it would be in something like "prepare yourself". (Oh dear -- very anglocentric of me.) What choice did I have? The only other use of "yersel" I could think of is in a construction such as "Thon Stevie isnae hauf bad on the guitar." "Aye, de ye play yersel?" (english equivalent: "do you play", where extra stress is placed on the word "you") where "yersel" is used to tie to an action already referenced or obvious from the context. We didn't have a shared context, so it couldn't mean that, so I was stuck. Didnae hae a clue whit he wis sayin.

The more I think about it, the more I think my "on yer ain" form is just a translation from English, and the more I feel that "ye stay yersel" is pretty much standard Scots. And the more I fear that my personal variation of Scots has been irreparably Anglicised.

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