Mind Your Language

Moving back to Glasgow after several decades is an interesting experience in terms of language and dialect, as in picking it up again, or seeing how the decades and things like gentrification have changed how people speak.


Language changes all the time, but words and phrases get lost in time. This piece from Dominic Wells is the out-takes from an interview with Alan Moore has a relevant point to make which rings true of my current experience as well as having a pop at Sun readers, which is nice.

“To be able to read the Sun, I think you need 100,000 words in your vocabulary; that’s a Sun reader’s vocabulary. [NB: Alan Moore is massively overestimating here, perhaps owing to his own sesquipedalian range. The average vocabulary is 20,000-35,000 words.] So that is painfully limited. And by the opposite thesis, if you expand the amount of words within a person’s reach, you’re also expanding their consciousness, potentially.

“It’s this whole thing of perception, and our perception is made of words. Language precedes consciousness, we are told, and also you can see it even in the present day. Say, for example, before we had the word ‘paedophile’. Or before we had that word in common clearly understood usage. Isn’t it funny how all the paedophiles appeared after that word? You’ll sometimes talk to old people, and they’ll say, ‘well, we never had those paedophiles when I was a girl or I was a boy’, and I’m ‘yeah you did, you just didn’t have a word for it’. So it was worse then, because you couldn’t even conceive of them.

“So yeah, in Jerusalem there is a strong strand about the development of language. Take ‘Third Borough’ [which in Jerusalem is the word used for the deity]. In the early 20th century there was a Third Borough in the Boroughs [the area of Northampton in which Jerusalem is set]. What they were was a combination of rent man and policeman. If somebody defaulted on their rent, they would be collecting the rent and also punishing the defaulter. “The word ‘Third Borough’ doesn’t exist anywhere outside Northampton, and is believed to be a corruption of a Saxon term, ‘frith burhh’, which meant a tithing map.

“As far as I know, ‘deathmongers’ [who assist at both births and deaths] didn’t exist outside the Boroughs. Maybe there were people who fulfilled that function, but they weren’t called deathmongers; and they probably didn’t have quite the same aura. So I wanted to be build this up from the language, the lost language of Northampton.”

I’ve moved back to Glasgow and my own language, accent and dialect is a mongrel mix of all the places I’ve lived. There’s Glasgow in there, a bit of Liverpool, a lot of Bristol, some London, and a chunk of East Midlands. In the three weeks or so I’ve been back I’ve been considered as English, had a chat with some folk from Macmillan who thought me to be from Edinburgh.

But it’s language that’s the most fascinating for me. As Moore says in that excerpt there’s words which are only used locally. Take the Glasgow phrase, ‘a doing/doin’ meaning giving someone a beating when you’re having a benny, which is a Bristolian phrase meaning you’re losing your temper. I don’t know anywhere that uses these words and it’s wonderful such local phrases add to the culture of areas like Glasgow or Bristol.

What is a pity is how these snippets of local language is being lost, or not being used as often as estuary English dominates, and gentrification drives traditional communities, and their language/dialect gets lost. People like Alan Moore who try to keep these bits of ancient language, and the history behind it, alive are to be applauded as we all face a future of sounding like a CBBC presenter…

Alan Moore’s Maxwell the Magic Cat-30 years later

Maxwell the Magic Cat is one of Alan Moore’s less well known creations that appeared in the Northants Post back in the halcyon days of the 1980’s when a hard right demagogue was in power in the UK and US, while we all lived with the threat of imminent destruction be it nuclear or terrorism.

Obviously 2016 is a nirvana compared to those terrifying days of the 80’s and we’d never return to those awful days, however Alan Moore has braved returning to the past to bring us a new instalment of Maxwell the Magic Cat; 30 years later. It is a small nugget of brilliance, enjoy.


There’s one month left of 2016, surely 2017 can do better?

2016 has been utterly horrific unless you’re a UKIP/Donald Trump supporter who hates celebrities like David Bowie, Prince, Victoria Wood and Leonard Cohen. Brexit is a disaster that nobody knows how to make it work and Donald Trump is, well, Donald Trump. We’ve had a bad, bad year and personally this is by any definition, the worst year of my life.

So we’re all looking forward to 2017 right? Dial that joy back a second. The lawyer David Allen Green makes this point…



St. Andrew’s Day and the waving of the flag

Today is St. Andrew’s Day where Scots all over the globe stare wistfully at shortbread, watch Highlander, and down enough drink to down a small horse. It’s also the first one I’ve been in Scotland for since 1987 and I have to say, it isn’t that much different to the ones I’ve had over the last 28 years in England.

But being back is odd in one respect and that’s the fact I’m noticing how the Union Jack is a loaded political symbol compared to the Saltire. Essentially it can be best summed up in this classic picture from a few years ago.


There’s lots of talk of ‘flag-waving nationalism’ in the London-based press aimed at supporters of Scottish independence, but the Union Jack/Flag is a powerfully loaded symbol being waved around by the sort of people who complain about ‘flag-waving nationalists’. It’s weird basically. It’s also a distraction from actually discussing issues, but that’s the level the UK establishment seems to want us to take as after all, if we’re all arguing about flags we can’t be pointing out how the Tories are destroying all that’s decent about the UK.

So happy St. Andrew’s Day and let’s all be agreed that the Tories can fuck off.

From despair to where: A cancer story

It’s Monday so here’s a tune

Now we’re all energised, here’s where I am after a fortnight back in Glasgow. It. Is. Cold. It. Is. Dark. However after an initial couple of weeks adjusting, there’s now a feeling of moving on, and my worries that my medical care would be broken resulting in weeks of worrying, then waiting has been washed away. My GP has seen me, taken blood and I get the results of that on Wednesday, and for around 90 minutes today I had a very nice, and informative chat with Alicia and Stephanie, the two Macmillan support workers based in Dennistoun library here in the beating heart of Glasgow’s East End.

They explained the differences in how Macmillan work in Scotland compared to England, heard my story, well, an edited version of it which I’ve become adept at telling and kindly helped get me into the system here in Scotland. Although my savings mean there’s no need to think about work this side of March it would be stupid to refuse what financial help both the state, and amazingly, Glasgow City Council, can offer me. This apparently can be quite a bit and although Alicia and Stephanie were not medical workers (I’m now awaiting one to be assigned to me) they also pointed out that due to me also recovering for a stroke that I probably shouldn’t think of working til the spring at least.

So, after a couple of weeks I feel I’m finding my feet on the cold, icy ground which brings me to what I’m actually going to do with my life now it seems like I’ve been given a chance to actually have one after two close breaths with death this year. I’m a cocky, and good enough bastard to walk into any job that pays bills but that feels a waste. My writing here and at That’s Not Current (and another site which I hope to firm up this or next week) is just part of the future but I want to put something back as I feel if my experiences and abilities as a human being can help someone else going through awful times then good. If I can help someone fight whatever they need to fight, then good. With that in mind I’m going to speak with whomever Macmillan assign me in what careers are available, and I’ll be looking at the various colleges and universities in Glasgow as I’m also now eligible for further education grants thanks to the Scottish government not beingTory bastards.

The next month though is putting things together as well as resting, recovering and this week, I’m injecting myself back into the Glasgow comics scene, which should be interesting as I’m now the ‘old crowd’ which means I should be dead, a millionaire, socially maladjusted or a gleefully enthusiastic fan. I’m happy being the latter.

There’s moments still of despair and fear. That’s only natural as I’m not all clear with cancer, and I’m still at risk of another stroke but for the first time in months it feels like I’m going somewhere. I just have to make sure it’s going to be the right path.

Ice, Ice Baby: A cancer story

I’m coming up to my second week back in Glasgow, and indeed, Scotland after moving back after several decades of living in England where it was warmer, and much, much lighter. It is at the moment -4 outside at least and dark, very, very dark with pavements like this.


This is an issue as recovering from the stroke mixed with a slipped disc has left me shaky on these sort of surfaces and I’ll be honest that I hadn’t really considered this before moving back, and although all my medical care has had a smooth continuity of care (including my cancer treatment) I don’t especially want to go slipping on my arse and break something. So I’m getting used to being flat-bound, or nipping out early in the morning before the gloomy ice descends.

Thankfully, my new SAD light will help me from reaching for the anti-depressants.


That will give me the sweet, precious daylight til the Scottish summer arrives for a week in June..

Stress, anxiety and cheerful paranoia: A cancer story

It’s been a week since moving back to Glasgow, and today is the first of my doctor’s appointments as well as a chance to meet my new GP. The idea of sitting around til after the New Year is frankly. making me itchy as I’ve spent far too long working and doing things to just sit around, as nice as it is, and although I realise I need to do a bit of that in order to readjust, deal with the grieving process after the death of my father and hopefully have the slipped disc sorted out or made more tolerable at least. One thing moving in with a friend has helped with is talking about things I’ve not blogged about before, and I’m not going into all of them here but I will discuss the anxiety attacks, stress and even paranoia.


See, they don’t tell you that when they diagnose you with cancer. Sure, you get informed that if you start stressing there’s people to help but for someone like myself who’s been independent as well as used to bottling things up, it isn’t an easy task to admit. Living with the constant possibility of one’s own early, and possibly painful, death, isn’t easy nor is admitting that the independence I’ve cherished for so long isn’t totally over but I find myself reliant upon people in a way I never thought I’d ever have to be.

So there’s times when everything feels needlessly huge. I’m trying to rationalise it but that doesn’t always work, so keeping busy helps distract the old brain from making me worse. While the possibility of a painful death hovers around the stress and anxiety remain like bad smells the day after having a massive curry. Admitting openly like this of the problem and dropping hints of the scale of it is a huge thing for me, and although compared to other people I’m still considering myself lucky, it feels like the world is crushing me.

But this is a first step to, hopefully, better confront all of this and move onto whatever the next stage of life is going to be. I just need to be good and stick to the plan of not working for the rest of 2016 and hope Donald Trump doesn’t blow us all up at the start of 2017, which to be fair, would help with my various issues so everything has a silver lining!