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Nummer Wan Ladies' Detective Agency
April 2, 2010 1:43 AM   Subscribe

Whit wid ye dae if ye fund yersel face tae face wi a muckle lion? Staund as still as a stookie? Mak yer feet yer freens and rin? Creep awa quiet-like? Mibbe ye wid jist steek yer een and hope that ye were haein a dream – which is whit Obed did at first when he saw the frichtsome lion starin strecht at him.

Alexander McCall Smith is the author of a series of lighthearted detective novels set in and around Gaborone, the capital of Botswana. The main character is Mma Ramotswe, who is the founder of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. The latest installment, "Precious and the Puggies", is a children's book, describing the first case Mma Ramotswe solved as a child. But surprisingly, for the first year of its print run, McCall Smith has opted to make the book available only in Scots.

McCall Smith, who was born in Zimbabwe to Scottish parents, wrote the book in English, so the published version is in fact a translation. The publishers, who specialise in childrens books in Scots, and the Scottish Arts Council (first link above the fold) are quite pleased to have a book with so high a profile coming out in a Scots edition.

A handy reference for ony wirds ye canna unnerstaun here
posted by Dim Siawns (31 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Incidentally, some of the non-children's books in the series have been turned into a TV show, with the musician Jill Scott playing Mma Ramotswe.
posted by Dim Siawns at 1:50 AM on April 2, 2010


Needs more heroin and Begbie for a proper Scottish children's book.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:34 AM on April 2, 2010 [6 favorites]


Scots has nothing on the awesome ridiculousness of Ulster Scots
posted by Damienmce at 2:37 AM on April 2, 2010


Love the author, have read mostly everything, thanks for the FPP Dim Siawns, since i was surprised to find I could understand most of the scots you put up here.

btw, also needs some single malt ;p
posted by infini at 2:38 AM on April 2, 2010


Well worth a keek.
posted by Duke999R at 2:40 AM on April 2, 2010


Whisht, I cannae thole thon Lallans blether.
posted by Abiezer at 2:43 AM on April 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Thanks to recently re-reading the Tiffany Aching books this wasn't as odd as it probably should have been.
posted by geek anachronism at 2:45 AM on April 2, 2010


A dinna see the wird "coont" en theer, sae it canna bey Scots.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 2:54 AM on April 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


Jist tae let all ye foreign quines n loons ken thit ah'm aroon n up fir translatin aw they wirds if ye'll be wantin tae gawk at rat affy gallus bik. Soonds tae me mair lik Doric thin Scots bit fit the heel dae ah kin onywise?!
posted by theCroft at 3:05 AM on April 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


My brain is forcing me to parse the URL as "scotti sharts" because apparently my brain is like 8 years old.
posted by gnutron at 3:07 AM on April 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


Lallans, Brigadoons native tongue.
posted by sgt.serenity at 3:40 AM on April 2, 2010


I'm Scottish and I have no idea what the hell that paragraph is about.
posted by MrCynical at 3:53 AM on April 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Iast all aboot gettin tae grawnts frae tha Goooverman. Boosicaly a whol kist a daftie words. Still baetta this than naeclear bigguns.
posted by Damienmce at 4:08 AM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


On the other hand, it was pretty outstanding when James Kelman did it in How Late It Was, How Late, but then that was just the character's natural voice.
posted by Abiezer at 4:26 AM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hibonics.

See also: Scottish renaissance, and particularly the stuff on "synthetic Scots"

For the record, the first paragraph reads:

What would you do if you found yourself face to face with a huge lion? Stand as still as a cigar-store Indian? Make your feet your friends, and run? Creep away quietly? Maybe you would just close your eyes and hope you were having a dream - which is what Obed did at first when he saw the terrifying lion staring straight at him.
posted by kcds at 4:27 AM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think Craig Ferguson is behind this, somehow.
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:12 AM on April 2, 2010


Dim Siawns: "Incidentally, some of the non-children's books in the series have been turned into a TV show, with the musician Jill Scott playing Mma Ramotswe."

I tried to watch the series (and the supporting The No. 1 Ladies' Favorite Radio Show as well) because I was a fan of his first few Precious Ramotswe books. However, there was something very off putting about the show. To this American it came across as "Look as these crazy Africans and their goofy dancing." I am sure that Jill Scott would not have been involved if the series was racist, but I felt uncomfortable watching the events in a way that I did not when I was reading about them.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:30 AM on April 2, 2010


Pish
posted by fire&wings at 5:43 AM on April 2, 2010


So this is like Ebonics, but fir Scots bairns?
Hibonics?
posted by Flashman at 5:56 AM on April 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


O, what a panic's in my breastie! Looking forward to trying to read this!
posted by Greg Nog at 6:30 AM on April 2, 2010


This is probably the place to mention But'n'Ben A-Go-Go, a fantastic SF novel that just happens to be written in future Scots.
posted by zamboni at 6:36 AM on April 2, 2010


No thread on incomprehensible Scots is complete without a link to the urban stylings of NEDS Kru ft. The Wee Man.
posted by nfg at 7:09 AM on April 2, 2010


It's not exactly Scots, but that new show Burnistoun is the funniest goddamned sketch show I've seen in years, and I hope they get a new season of it when this one's over.
posted by koeselitz at 7:30 AM on April 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


I tried to watch the series (and the supporting The No. 1 Ladies' Favorite Radio Show as well) because I was a fan of his first few Precious Ramotswe books. However, there was something very off putting about the show. To this American it came across as "Look as these crazy Africans and their goofy dancing." I am sure that Jill Scott would not have been involved if the series was racist, but I felt uncomfortable watching the events in a way that I did not when I was reading about them.

I did watch every episode of the series with my partner, who spent several years in Africa (not Botswana) in the Peace Corps on the 1970s. He didn't feel it was in any way racist. In fact, he felt, based on his experiences there, that it was a very good and noble portrayal of life on the continent, and he was delighted and tickled with the series on many levels.

One interesting thing about that series is that it basically kick-started whatever Botswanan film / TV industry there may be, as the film makers insisted on using locals for the crews and left them fully trained and ready to take on projects. I think that's a really great thing, overall.
posted by hippybear at 8:46 AM on April 2, 2010


Hey c'mon, April Fools is over. Stop messing with my head. Too early.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 9:02 AM on April 2, 2010


As I said, I enjoyed the first few books (until they became a bit repetitive) mainly for the refreshingly, positive characters: Precious is a wonderful, happy woman who loves her car, her country, her father, and her job-- not necessarily in that order. The child-like language is poetic in its simplicity. But watching it on screen, I felt too much like white person being entertained by crazy black antics. It might be realistic, it might be good for their economy, but it felt too exploitative to me.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 9:03 AM on April 2, 2010


Robert Louis Stevenson wrote a great little ghost story almost entirely in Scots dialect called "Thrawn Janet". The sluggish, arcane vernacular really adds to the eerie mood of the tale, but I remember it being pretty rough sledding the first time I had a go at it. You can read the story here.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:03 AM on April 2, 2010


I felt too much like white person being entertained by crazy black antics.

Yeah, I think this was more coming from within you than anything intrinsic in the series as it was presented.
posted by hippybear at 9:31 AM on April 2, 2010


I've long been an advocate of a proper recognition of Scots being a separate language from English -- it has its own Orthography, and I've heard it argued that Scots and English can be described similarly to Portuguese and Spanish. And I have a very soft spot indeed for my (likely, as records are somewhat spotty) ancestral homeland. And I love Embra and would move there in a heartbeat. And I guess it would be nice to be able to tell people I have some facility with 3 languages instead of 2.
posted by chimaera at 10:37 AM on April 2, 2010


I must read the Scots sentences aloud to understand what I reading and the voice I hear in my head is my immigrant (and crazy) Scots grandmother I grew up with. Thanks for the trip to my childhood.
posted by _paegan_ at 2:01 PM on April 2, 2010


I liked the Mma Ramotswe books, and their evocation of Botswana, her Botswana, with its searing heat followed by the cool rains that bring life to the landscape, life that softly blankets the earth, the land of Botswana, her Botswana, with its herds of patient cattle, each one known by name, tended lovingly by men such as her father, a man who never had a harsh word to say, even when he was disappointed by people who did not love Botswana the way he did. But they became a bit repetitive.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:03 AM on April 3, 2010


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