A comment at Avva led me to a page with a poem by the Glasgow poet Tom Leonard, the third from his sequence “Unrelated Incidents”; not only is it a fine poem with a theme very relevant to Languagehat, if you have RealAudio you can hear (and perhaps see, though I can’t) the poet himself reading it in a nice thick Glaswegian accent—just click on the image of the TV on the right side of the page. Here’s the poem:

this is thi
six a clock
news thi
man said n
thi reason
a talk wia
BBC accent
iz coz yi
widny wahnt
mi ti talk
aboot thi
trooth wia
voice lik
wanna yoo
scruff. if
a toktaboot
thi trooth
lik wanna yoo
scruff yi
widny thingk
it wuz troo.
jist wanna yoo
scruff tokn.
thirza right
way ti spell
ana right way
to tok it. this
is me tokn yir
right way a
spellin. this
is ma trooth.
yooz doant no
thi trooth
yirsellz cawz
yi canny talk
right. this is
the six a clock
nyooz. belt up.

I should point out that the final phrase, which I have taken as this post’s title, is the local equivalent of “shut up!”

Since I’m on a Tom Leonard kick, let me quote another of the poems in the sequence, the second:

ifyi stull
wurkt oot
thi diff-
rince tween
yir eyes
yir ears;
—geez peace,
fyi stull
thoata lang-
wij izza
fyi huvny
hudda thingk
aboot thi diff-
rince tween
n object n
symbol; well,
ma innocent
god said ti
a doant kerr
fyi caw it
an apple
an aippl—
jist leeit

While I’m on the subject, let me highly recommend the Faber Book of Twentieth Century Scottish Poetry and the two volumes of Glasgow slang compiled by Michael Munro, The Patter and The Patter – Another Blast (now apparently superseded by a combined and updated edition called The Complete Patter). If Ah don’t see ye through the week Ah’ll see ye through the windy!


  1. Cool — any idea why he switches from “tok” to “talk” at the end of the “Belt Up”?

  2. I’m guessing it’s a sarcastic emphasizing of the “correct” word, but Ah wouldny say eechie or ochie.

  3. “Belt up” is General UKish. Do they show Rab C Nesbitt in the US? It’s a TV show about a Glaswegian waster, and (deliberately) barely intelligible to us poncy southern gits – a friend’s American mum (“mom”) could only follow it with subtitles…

  4. I’ll have to look for it.

  5. It scares me a little that, after spending a week reading Pratchett’s The Wee Free Men aloud, I simply looked at these poems, told my head, ‘Read it as if it were in Nac Mac Feegle,’ and out it came, perfectly understandable. :->

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