Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Foos Yer Doos? Aye, Peckin'!

 “[Britain] and America are two countries separated by a common language.”
(George Bernard Shaw)

As luck would have it, the staff of the Aberdeen City Council is made up of native Aberdonians. Go figure! My new job is turning out to be a weekly cultural exchange of slang and customs. For example, the unfortunate opportunity presented itself to explain to my colleagues that the American equivalent to “builder’s bum” is “plumber’s crack.” I’ll leave you to wonder about how the topic came up, but I will just say it was rather an eventful day at the office. My colleagues love to learn about America, and in turn they teach me more Doric slang and, very usefully, the appropriate way to pronounce local towns. For example, “Chapel of Garioch” is pronounced “Chapel of Geery” and “Turriff” is pronounced “Turra.” Without this education, I would go about my job mis-pronouncing addresses and confusing myself and everyone else.

The wee Aberdeenshire town of Turriff had fifteen minutes of fame in 1910 when a local farmer refused to pay national insurance tax and had his cow confiscated by the government. The locals rioted and the Turriff Cow (known as the “Turra Coo”) became a symbol of the rights of the farmers. Today a statue of the Turra Coo can be seen on the Turriff high street.

The Turra Coo

Another Doric phrase I have recently learned is “Foo’s yer do’s?” to which the appropriate response is “Aye, peckin!” A “do” is a pigeon and at one time pigeon racing was quite popular in Aberdeen. Locals used to ask one another how their birds were faring as a way of asking “What’s up?” The phrase translates, “How are your doves?” “Always pecking!” This is similar to an American asking a friend “How’s it hangin’?” or a German asking “What’s loose?” (to which their friend will respond ‘The dog is loose”).

In other news, Paul and I are in the process of changing our names to Truitt-Turner and I am discovering that the British are not very understanding of my choice to use “Ms” as a title. I have been using Ms ever since I was 18, having always preferred my title to be separate of my marital status. Most of my American girlfriends use Ms. But here in Britain, woman are automatically expected to take their husbands’ names upon marriage and switch from Miss to Mrs. I literally have to make special requests at the bank, Human Resources, etc to be called Ms. However, when Paul filed his legal name change paperwork we discovered that in the UK, a person has the right to use Mr, Miss, Ms or the gender neutral title Mx. So while the government gives me the right to have a title separate from my marital status or even my gender, the public still expects me to be Mrs. Paul Turner. As with so many occasions where I defy British expectations, they just assume it’s because I’m American.

Paul and I send everyone our love and we sincerely hope that your doos are peckin’!

Song of the Day: "The Far Famed Fite Turra Coo" by Geordie Murison. I found this song about the Turra Coo and uploaded it on youtube so you can check it out. Sorry to say I don't have a translation of the lyrics.