Glaswegians in Tangier.

From The Outsider: My Life in Intrigue, by Frederick Forsyth (via Joel’s Far Outliers):

Tangier in 1956 was an extraordinary place, my first taste of Africa and the world of Islam. Morocco had been, until very recently, a French colony, but Tangier was under tripartite administration between the British (the post office), the French (police and law courts), and the Spanish (general administration). […]

There was a British warship moored in the outer harbor on what is called a “flying the flag” mission. The idea was to spread pro-British goodwill along the African coast. It was in a dockside bar that I came across a group of Marines who were having terrible trouble making themselves plain to the bar staff, who spoke only Moorish Arabic and Spanish.

I tried to help and was promptly press-ganged as unit interpreter by the senior sergeant. They were all from Glasgow, from, I believe, Gallowgate, or the Gorbals: about five feet tall and just as wide. The problem was not between English and Spanish. That was easy. It was between English and Glaswegian. I could not understand a word they said. Eventually a corporal was discovered whom I could decipher and the three-language enigma was solved. We moved from bar to bar as they spent their shore leave and accrued pay on pints of beer and triple-scotch chasers.

Comments

  1. David Eddyshaw says:

    pints of beer and triple-scotch chasers

    Ah, tradition … a taste of home. Or possibly hame.

    I wonder what (if anything) they ate. The deep-fried Mars Bar had not yet been invented in those days.

  2. @David Eddyshaw: I know the Scots are stereotyped as great devourers of fried foods, but I had not realized that extended to the relatively recent phenomena of deep-friend candies. Deep-fried candy bars, balls or cookie dough, or cubes of frozen coke are mostly associated with state and county fairs in America.

  3. John Emerson says:

    Wm. Burroughs’ “Interzone” , as I understand, though probably interzone has a touch of Casablanca (in the movie).

  4. J.W. Brewer says:

    This separate excerpt about how Forsyth got into the being-a-novelist business is quite enjoyable: https://faroutliers.wordpress.com/2021/01/06/a-new-novelists-lucky-break/

  5. I wonder why English has both Tangier and Algiers.

    Why inconsistency in spelling?

  6. January First-of-May says:

    Why inconsistency in spelling?

    Perhaps inconsistent underlying sounds? Russian is differently inconsistent here: Танжер but Алжир.

  7. PlasticPaddy says:

    The Arabic name for Algiers is a plural. This is not the case for Tangier. However, there is an alternative form Tangiers. French has Alger and Tanger.

  8. Garrigus Carraig says:

    Can confirm. There were plenty of Glaswegians in Edinburgh when I lived there, and it took me longer to get accustomed to the speech of the Glaswegians than the … Edinburghers [is there no English demonym for that town? édimbourgeois?].

  9. Edinburgh: Edinburgers

    People from the capital of Scotland have a few names that they are known by, including Edinburgers and Edinbourgeois, but the most common is Edinburghians, pronounced Edd-inn-burr-eee-anns.

  10. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    I’d say Edinburger if I said anything, but they’re all kind of joke names – Glaswegian/Aberdonian/Dundonian are quite ordinary words.

  11. David Eddyshaw says:

    Votadinians, as befits the people of Din Eidyn.

    Yr Hen Ogledd am byth!

  12. David Eddyshaw says:

    For some reason, Glaswegians in Tangier sounds like a secret password.

    “I’m afraid I don’t quite see what you’re getting at, old man.”

    “Surely you have noticed that there are Glaswegians in Tangier?”

    “Ah. I see. That puts quite a different complexion on the matter. Commander Bond, I presume?”

  13. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    When I were a lad Tangiers always had an s. Lyons too, but it seems to have lost it, and Marseilles seems to be losing its second s, but more slowly.

  14. Canne and Naple will be next.

  15. I would have thought “Edinburghers” more respectable than “Edinburgers”. The -burger spelling is associated with Clan McDonald of Kroc, and the MacDonalds were notorious Jacobites.

  16. I lived in Morocco as a child, and though my native language is not English (or Moroccan Arabic), we always said ‘Tangiers’ with an -s in school (which was an English-language one); to me ‘Tangier’ sounds somehow odd. Funnily enough the Arabic word for Tangiers ( طنجة‎ /ṭanja) does not have an -r either, but apparently the forms with -r (says Wikipedia) ultimately come from Portuguese, which borrowed its word for the city (Tânger) from Latin Tingis. Maybe the English -s is a result of analogy with Algiers?

  17. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    I suppose because I would say ‘Edinburruh’, which distracts me from the ‘burgher’ bit.

    (Burghers are for being woken by a red glare on Skiddaw, that’s mostly what I know.)

  18. David Eddyshaw says:

    Canne and Naple will be next.

    Then Yonker, Queen and, ultimately, Lo Angele and La Vega. Possibly even Leed.

  19. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    I was wondering if Naples was plural in Italian, because the English -s didn’t seem to make much sense otherwise, but the two forms seem to be different remnants of Neápolis.

  20. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    Nime, Arle, Marsiho and Cano have no s in Provençal (in the Mistralian norm). I wouldn’t presume to have an opinion about Naple, Queen or Lo Angele. (So far as this last is concerned I note that in Chile it’s pronounced Loj Angele, where the j is very weak — more of an English h than a Madrileño j. However, most people don’t regard the Chilean way to say things is the best way. Even people (like me) with a lot of exposure to Chilean speech find Mexican much easier to understand).

  21. “I’d like a Notorious Jacobite with cheese.”

  22. Quite a few English-language placenames in Ireland were formed by anglicizing the Irish-language name, which was a plural noun phrase, and then adding an English plural -s to it. These are now treated as singular in English:

    Allihies
    Brickeens
    Creggs
    Culleens
    Currans
    Dooaghs
    Downies
    Eyeries
    Farnanes
    Fieries
    Frosses
    Garrafrauns
    Greenans
    Glenties
    Killybegs
    Leggs
    Ovens
    Raheens
    Sallins
    Sraheens

  23. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    The Gorbal?

    I didn’t notice it at first, but I would say ‘the Gallowgate’, too, although I can’t really explain why.

  24. Sraheens

    Whoever was responsible for the language conversion obviously tried to reproduce the sound of Sraithíní as closely as possible, but the initial sr- is weird in an English name. I wonder why didn’t they change it into something more suitable to English phonology.

    For example *Straheens (analogously to the correspondence of street vs. sráid) would be much less exotic. After all, they had no problem with replacing the Irish plural ending by a totally different sound, and this would be comparatively a minor change.

    Edit: I assume sraithíní is plural of sraithín, which in turn is a diminutive of sraith. Per Wiktionary, one of the translations of sraith is “straight” (albeit only in a pretty specific context of poker), so a possible semanto-phonetic English equivalent could be *Straighties.

  25. Possibly even Leed.

    And what next? Aarhu, Akershu, Västerå, Indu, Gange, Athen, Lesbo, Peloponne, Vilniu, Kauna?

  26. Pari, and its suburb Ri-Orangi.

  27. Poland has numerous cities and towns that conjugate as plural nouns and that take plural verbs, eg. „Katowice się kurczą” (Literally „Katowice are shrinking”). This creates a lot of confusion for most people trying to acquire Polish as a second language.

    Russian also has a few cities that work like that – Naberezhnye Chelny springs to mind. But for whatever reason Polish plural cities like Katowice, Tychy and Kielce are treated as singular masculine nouns in Russian.

  28. It depends on ending. -ce doesn’t look like plural ending in Russian.

    However, Czech Budejovice used to be called Budejovicy in Russian and treated as plural noun all right. Hasek has a chapter “Schweik’s Budejovice Anabasis” which is full of Czech plural placenames – Klatovy, Horazdovicy, Strakonicy, Vodnany, etc.

  29. Kielce

    In Russian, it used to be called Keltsy and it was plural.

  30. Lars Mathiesen says:

    @juha, Athens is Athen in Danish (and German) — Ἀθῆναι was a plural, in fact, but we didn’t let that bother us. (Also Tanger, Algier, Lyon, Neapel, but Marseilles, Bruxelles (Bryssel) — I can’t think of others in the class of “familiar enough to have a traditional form”).

  31. In fact, it’s Αθήνα in dhimotiki as well, as can be heard below:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q9aH6etq1-Y

  32. Lars Mathiesen says:

    Well, German scholars were probably more into Homer than dhimotiki. (Also it’s singular in Modern Greek so there would be no reason for the insider plural in English — though I don’t know if people went so far that they construed Athens with plural verb forms).

    (French WP thinks it knows an IE derivation involving a root *ath- ~ ‘head’ or ‘summit’. Let me count the ways… Everybody else says Pre-Greek).

  33. Well, German scholars were probably more into Homer than dhimotiki.

    Not just Germans. My Indo-European teacher, Warren Cowgill, had an amusing story about trying to communicate in what he considered Greek when he visited the country. When a waiter said χταπόδι for ‘octopus,’ he took great pleasure in working out the sound changes involved.

  34. Hexapodia is the key insight.

  35. John Cowan says:

    This separate excerpt about how Forsyth got into the being-a-novelist business is quite enjoyable:

    An excellent Forsyth saga, indeed.

    I had not realized that extended to the relatively recent phenomena of deep-friend candies.

    So much so that the deep-fried Mars bar aforementioned is a candidate for the currency of independent Scotland.

    Then Yonker, Queen and, ultimately, Lo Angele and La Vega. Possibly even Leed.

    The first two are genitives. The landowner of the first was one Adriaen van der Donck, locally known as the Jonkheer ‘young lord’. The other was presumably named for Queen Caroline of England née Braganza; at least there is no doubt that the neighboring King’s County (now spelled Kings, and coterminous with Brooklyn) was named after James II and VII. Of course the third would be El Ángel, though it would be weird to call the Virgin the Queen of just one angel: which? (Then again, even that would be better than the city’s name in English being Porciuncula.)

    Leeds, however, is a city of the Old North, and as such its etymology is tangled. The Ladenses were dwellers in the forest of Elmet (Elfed in properer Welsh), and Bede called the area Loidis, which may be connected ijn some way with the locally current term Loiner for an inhabitant. However this could just be Leodensian English for laner, one who lives in a lane. And finally the whole thing could just be lloed ‘place’, just as my adopted home town is locally the City (a term we adopted from the Istanbullies).

    For some reason, Glaswegians in Tangier sounds like a secret password.

    “The oranges in Valencia are very good this year.”

    “The asparagus, however, lacks flavor.”

  36. John Cowan says:

    Ἀθῆναι was a plural

    Of Ᾰ̓θήνη, formally speaking. But the ending -ene- is common in the name of places, especially pre-Greek ones, not so much in personal names. So probably the Goddess was called Athena because of where she was. Similarly with Thebe of Thebai ‘Thebes’ and Mycene of Mycenae.

  37. Trond Engen says:

    I may have suggested this before, but I can’t find it now. I’ve been vaguely wondering if these Greek plural toponyms are related to the old Scandinavian feminine plural toponyms. If even the derivation is pre-Greek, or if they’re derived by a mechanism that doesn’t exist in Greek itself, I guess the answer is no,

  38. >Marseilles seems to be losing its second s

    Not here in Illinois, where to remind ourselves of the proper spelling, we rhyme it with fairytales. And Versailles, of course.

    The s in Illinois itself remains silent for the time being, though the new folk have their worrisome new ways.

  39. Garrigus Carraig ceorl of Grave's End says:

    at least there is no doubt that the neighboring King’s County (now spelled Kings, and coterminous with Brooklyn) was named after James II and VII.

    Well, James, as Duke of York, was the admiral during the Anglo-Dutch war under whom these colonies were wrested from the Dutch. But his brother Charles II was the king, & was still the king when King[‘]s County was organized in 1683.

  40. Kings County in California is named for the Kings River, previously El Rio de los Santos Reyes, they being the Magi.

  41. De Moine?

  42. Roberto Batisti says:

    I was wondering if Naples was plural in Italian, because the English -s didn’t seem to make much sense otherwise, but the two forms seem to be different remnants of Neápolis.

    Napoli may have a plural-looking ending, but is treated as a feminine singular, like all city names, after the gender and number of città (at least in the standard; in the ‘dialects’ often names with masculine-looking endings are treated as masculines).

    Etymologically, Napoli reflects a locative Neapolī (this is not uncommon, cf. Firenze < loc. Florentiae, Rimini < loc. Ariminī). The fact that synchronically they look like plurals is just a coincidence (for what it's worth, as a native speaker I never thought of them as plurals even before knowing about their etymology).

    Now I wonder if Naples, Nápoles, etc. owe their -(e)s to the (Graeco-)Latin nominative singular -is, or rather to misanalysis of Italian -i as a plural ending.

  43. David Marjanović says:

    Well, German scholars were probably more into Homer than dhimotiki.

    But German doesn’t do plural placenames at all.

    (Larger entities are excepted: die Niederlande with the old plural of Land, die Vereinigten Staaten.)

  44. Graham Asher says:

    English used to do dative plural descriptive placenames, like Æt Baðum, at the baths, for Bath, and indeed dative singulars for that matter like Æt þære Āce, at the oak, for Thurrock. And going further back, Dubris (Dover) is a Brittonic plural meaning ‘the waters’.

  45. Graham Asher says:

    Here are a few etymologically plural (by which I mean they don’t take plural verb forms in modern English) and debatably etymologically plural placenames in Britain and Ireland:

    Wales (perhaps a fossilised plural)
    Cowes
    Wells
    Devizes (<- mediaeval Latin divisae, borders, I think)
    Sevenoaks
    Swords
    Kells
    Greystones
    Skerries
    Peebles
    Stepps
    Galashiels
    Seahouses

    but groups of islands like The Shetlands (yes, I'm aware that the inhabitants prefer the singular Shetland, but the plural usage is common) take plural verb forms. Some names can take either singular or plural, like The Midlands (of England), although I think, from native-speaker intuition, that singular is commoner in that case.

  46. Lars Mathiesen says:

    Denmark has plural definite Hedehusene and Kandestederne (at least) — but they are quite compositional and not very old. Husum on the other hand is a very old dative plural ~ ‘at the houses’ which was too short to lose its desinence.

  47. Many German place names in -(e)n are historically dative plural, but they’re treated as singular in modern German.

  48. John Emerson says:

    I suppose the answer to this is simple, but are there any other names parallel with Glaswegian / Norwegian? What’s the history of these terms?

  49. John Emerson on September 8, 2008:

    I like the Glaswegian / Norwegian pair.

    OED on Glaswegian: “after Galwegian adj. and n., Norwegian n. and adj.”

  50. Trond Engen says:

    ‘Norwegian’ is a semi-latinate form, combining inherited ‘Norw-‘ with an ending taken from MLat. ‘Norvegia’. The same formation is used with other toponyms ending in ‘-way’, e.g. ‘Galway’ ~ ‘Galwegian’. How and when that was extended further to ‘Glasgow’ ~ ‘Glaswegian’ I don’t know.

  51. I grew very fond of Norway after I learned how the Vikings called Russia (before it became Russia and some time afterwards) – Austrvegr (the Eastern way).

    Norway was Norvegr (the Northern way), obviously.

    I wonder what English would have done with Austrvegr on Norway model – Ausway, perhaps.

  52. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    Eastway maybe better. Then we can call the Russians Eastwegians.

    I’m not keen on Vikings at the moment, as we have just watched a documentary about Vikings taking slaves from various places, but the programme was primarily about Ireland. Given the current craze for demanding that colonial nations should pay reparations to the colonized countries, I’m wondering if Ireland (and probably England and Scotland) should demand reparations from Norway.

  53. PlasticPaddy says:

    @a c-b
    At least for people of Irish ancestry in Iceland, the issue is complicated. Some of the women were wives of Viking settlers in Ireland, and some of the men were Viking settler “hangers-on” who relocated voluntarily to Iceland.
    https://www.irishtimes.com/news/why-people-in-iceland-look-just-like-us-1.1104676?mode=amp

  54. Lars Mathiesen says:

    It’s not so obvious how those Danish names are treated because they rarely take determiners or even predicate adjectives, but I’m pretty sure it would be (singular) i det nærliggende Kandestederne = ‘in close-by Kandestederne’ (as opposed to !i de nærliggende Kandesteder).

  55. people of Irish ancestry in Iceland

    After 40-50 generations in such a small place, isn't Icelandic ancestry pretty thoroughly admixed? At least enough that everyone has some Irish?

  56. John Emerson says:

    I’m sure the Irish will out. Just look for the ones speaking flowery archaic Icelandic and being quaint.

    According to reports, however, the Icelanders are no more temperate than the Irelanders.

    Some say the world will end in ire
    And some in ice….

  57. There was similar reparations demand in Mexico and great scandal arose.

    I thought at the time – yeah, my great great …. grandfather raped my great great …. grandmother, so let’s demand reparations from Spain and five hundred years of child support…

  58. per incuriam says:

    I’m not keen on Vikings at the moment, as we have just watched a documentary about Vikings taking slaves from various places, but the programme was primarily about Ireland

    The Norse called the Irish Westmen. Hence the Vestmannaeyjar (Westman Islands) off the south of Iceland where an uprising by Irish slaves came to a bloody end sometime around 875.

    By the same token, the Norse themselves were Ostmen. Dublin’s Oxmantown district (formerly Ostmantown) is where the local Norse population moved after the Normans occupied the original Viking settlement across the river .

  59. I meant to note earlier that the Nebula-nominated science fiction story “Eight Billions” by Richard Wilson includes this little bit about the counties that make up New York City:

    Similarly, after another newspaper promotion, there was elected a Queen of Queens (County), an euphonious title. But naturally the promotion to name a King of Kings (every schoolchild surely knows that Brooklyn is Kings County) had to be aborted as blasphemous. Brooklyn chose a Prince instead. His inferior-sounding title notwithstanding, the Prince of Brooklyn was co-equal with the Queen of Queens and the Kings of New York, Bronx and Richmond.

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