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World Eager to Rap : Book on Glasgow Patois Is a Surprise Best Seller

January 18, 1987|Associated Press

GLASGOW, Scotland — A Glasgow mother who tells a naughty child he risks a "skelp on the bahookie" may now be understood in such unlikely places as Fiji and Brazil thanks to a new book on the city's language.

People in the Pacific island group and the South American nation are among those around the world who are in the know after ordering copies of an unlikely best seller, "The Patter--A Guide to Current Glasgow Usage."

"The book is by far the biggest-selling publication we have ever had," said Deirdre Craig, secretary of the Glasgow public libraries board.

"It was expected to sell 2,000 copies at best when it was launched 15 months ago," she said. "But the first printing sold out in 10 days and sales are now over 30,000, most of those abroad going to expatriate Scots."

Astonished and Delighted

"We are all astonished and delighted. I had no idea the book would do so well," said Michael Munro, the editor of the book.

The book, which sells for $5, says that "steaming" is to get drunk and "electric soup" is what alcoholic down-and-outs drink. Roman Catholics are "left-footers."

"Jimmy" is the common term for a male stranger. Slang includes "hoosie" for razor--a reference to the House of Fraser department store chain--while "Rossy" for docks comes from Rothesay Docks.

Anyone hearing a Glaswegian say, "In wi' the boot and then the heid," should not tremble at the prospect of being beaten up. The friendly conversationalist is merely musing on the virtues of persistence, if at first you don't succeed.

Munro, 32, an editor with a Glasgow-based publisher, thought the sales wouldn't be large enough to satisfy his own firm so he took his idea for the book to the library board.

Much-Maligned Speech

"The speech of Glaswegians has been much maligned," Munro said.

"It is not illiterate and it is not an ignorant corruption of the Queen's English. I am trying to record the dialect of Glasgow to preserve it because it is in danger of disappearing."

And a "skelp on the bahookie?" To a Glaswegian, it's a smack on the bottom.

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