Monday, February 25, 2008


Now there's a good Glasgow word for you - though it's virtually untranslatable. It means daring, mischievous, cocky, self confident, iconoclastic, all of the above, and more. Often coupled with 'dead' as a suitable intensifier. A story to illustrate: when my son was first living in Glasgow, he and a friend were walking home late one night. They met a man coming the other way, slightly the worse (or better) for drink. He brandished a couple of broken bottles at them and as they recoiled in horror he grinned and said 'Only joking!' and went on his way. That's gallus. In fact it's probably dead gallus.
I've been writing a piece about Glasgow, and the word has been much in my mind. But I was thinking about it even more today, when I posted what I thought was a faintly humorous observation about something on a professional website, to be met with a series of what can only be described as spiky responses. And it struck me that I have been living in Scotland for so long (we moved up here when I was twelve - it's my country, my home) that I now take ironic self deprecation coupled with a certain gallus sense of mischief completely for granted. It never occurred to me that somebody might actually take me seriously. The Scots I know and love regularly puncture pomposity with a few well chosen words. I'm used to it. It's a baseline for all interactions. But I had forgotten that not everyone understands or approves and I do sometimes wonder if this isn't one more symptom of the chasm which seems to be slowly but surely opening between our countries.

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