Irvine Welsh on language

I didn’t have any ambition to be a Scottish vernacular writer, for want of a better term. It’s just that when I did the first draught of Trainspotting, it seemed very flat in standard English. It seemed almost pretentious. People weren’t thinking like that and I couldn’t see their internal thought process beginning like that. They certainly weren’t sounding like that. It didn’t really work. I needed to go back to thinking about how people actually spoke and communicated and the rhythms and the themes and the words people used, the repetition and the mixture of all these different speech patterns, from traveller words to Doric, the mixed bag that was the Edinburgh scheme vernacular.

I think, if you just grew up in that, you’re just used to it. There’s nothing really weird about it. It’s just ubiquitous. And when you see it in art or entertainment, it’s a bit more shocking because you’re not used to hearing these voices. For me, it was people like McIlvanney and Kelman; they had either the voice or the sensibility of working-class Scotland. It’s strange seeing things like that on a page. For such a long time, the Scottish voice has been presented as quite monolithic and generic. I tell people in England or America that if you go out of Edinburgh into East Lothian or Fife, the accent and language changes. It’s to Scotland’s credit that such a small country can produce such diversity.

Scroll to Top