Doric – Not Just A Column Holding Up An Ancient Building

One of the reviews I saw on the UK Amazon site for Mac and June: Love In The Time Of Oil commented that the dialogue wasn’t how folk in the Aberdeen area spoke. I believe the word ‘disappointed’ was in there.

Doric is the dialect spoken in the North East of Scotland. In ancient Greece, the residents of Sparta were Dorian Greeks, a rural area, and they spoke differently than the sophisticated Athenians did. In other words, they were considered hayseeds, uncultured bumpkins. Hence the term.

I always wanted the novel to be accessible to as many English speakers worldwide (duh), and so I did somewhat ‘water it down’.

In the upcoming sequel, Mac and June: Sex And Drugs And Sausage Rolls, I’ve added a bit more, but it is by no means indecipherable.

As an example, and a little preview of the second book, here’s Grandpa explaining Doric to Mac.



Mac sat with Grandpa in the Meldrums’ back garden, waiting for June’s co-worker, who lived close by, to drop her off from work. The American’s head was spinning, and he was wondering what had possessed him to bring up the subject. It had started simply enough.

“So I read in the paper that this,” he held up his fingers in quotes, “language you speak here is called Doric.” Mac laughed. “I just thought you all had bad pronunciation.”

Grandpa took another cigarette from Mac’s pack, even though his own sat on the small table between them. Mac noticed.

“Hey, what’s wrong with your own?”

“Ach, I’ve only a few left, and I canna be buggered to go down to McGillivray’s shop to buy another twenty. Leave me yours when June comes, and I’ll gie ye a lesson in Doric for free.”

“How’s it free if I’m giving you half a pack?”
“Ach, dinna fash yersel’.”

“Is this it? We’re starting the lesson? What did that mean?”

“Means keep a calm sooch.”

“Wait, you can’t explain one piece of gibberish by quoting another.”

Grandpa lit the stolen cigarette, and took a drink of his tea. “All right. A calm sooch is a gentle wind.”

“Oh, so don’t get fired up. I get it.”

“We should start with the three F’s.”

“The three F’s?”

“Aye. Fit, Fan, Fa, and Far.”

“That’s four F’s.”

Grandpa silently mouthed the words while counting them on his hands. “Right. Four. So, fit.”

Mac smiled. “As in ‘I’m fit and well.’”

Grandpa gave an exasperated grunt. “No, as in, ‘Fit time is it?’”

“That what people say when somebody’s going to the gym?”

“No, Jesus, that’s when folk want to know what the time is.”

“Ahhh. Number two is…?”

“Fan. ‘Fan are ye comin’ hame?’”

Mac shook his head. “Nope.”

Grandpa rubbed his nose as if there were ants inside his nostrils. “Okay, Try this.” He rubbed his nose again. “F is instead of wh—fit is what, fan is when, fa is who, and far is where. Got it?” He sat back, dazzled by his own brilliance.

Silent, Mac sat for a moment, running this magic formula around in his brain. He heard a door slam inside the house. “Ohh, so when you guys say, ‘Fit like?’, you mean, ‘What like?’, as in ‘How’s it goin’?’… is that right?”

“The boy’s a genius.” the old man leaned over and put out the cigarette in the ashtray. “Think it’s too early for a beer?”

“I have to drive June home.”

“It’s one beer. What—have ye joined the Temperance Movement or somethin’? Go and get us a couple.”

Mac knew from experience there was no point in arguing with the wily old bastard. “Okay, okay, I’ll go.” His face broke into a sly grin. “Far are they?”

Grandpa cracked a smile. “Go to the top of the class, young man.’ He rubbed his hands together. “They’re in the fridge. Hurry back, this teachin’s makin’ me thirsty.”

Mac wandered in through the open back door, past the washing machine, and into the cool kitchen. June was sitting at the table. She was reading the paper. He decided to try out his new-found knowledge on her. “Aye, aye, darlin’. Fit like?”

June put down the paper, and looked up at Mac as if she’d never seen him before.

Mac walked over to the fridge and opened the door. “Grandpa’s teachin’ me Doric,” he said to the leftover leg of lamb sitting on a plate on the middle shelf. He grabbed two beers, and closed the fridge. Turning back to the still-staring June, he held out a bottle. “Want one?”

His wife picked up the paper again, and spoke to it. “Nae iv noo, ma feet are affa sair. I’m needin’ awa hame fan ye’re deen wi’ yer beer, an Grandpa. Ken?”

Mac stood with his mouth open. “Whoa, whoa, slow down there, sister. I’ve only had the one lesson. Gimme a break, would ya?”

June straightened the newspaper and switched to a Brooklyn accent, in the style of Sean Connery. “Snap it up, then. My dogs are barkin’. I wanna split, pronto. Got me, Jack?”

Mac pointed at her. “No fair. You watched all those Jimmy Cagney movies growing up.”