There are some great language guides around for travellers. I have one called Get By in French: All the French You Need to Get By with Confidence, which has helped me, well, get by (not necessarily with confidence) many times in cafes and shops in France when my high-school vocabulary deserted me. (It didn’t help last November when I fronted up to a police station in Paris to ask suspicious-sounding questions for research, but that’s a story for another day.) I’ve also got two little Lonely Planet guides, Small Talk Western Europe and Small Talk Eastern Europe, and I couldn’t have done without the latter when I had to find vegetarian alternatives in Prague. (Tip: There aren’t many vegetarian alternatives in Prague.)
But I also have guides that I’ve used for the kind of imaginative travelling writers do—the kind that helped me create the voice of Meggie Tulloch in my forthcoming novel, Elemental, and to keep in my head the words, accents and cadences I heard in the north-east of Scotland and the Shetland Islands.
Elemental will be available on 1 May—10 days and yes, I’m counting! For each of those days I’m going to post a little taste of Meggie’s idiosyncratic vocabulary, with its Scots, Doric and Shetland influences. Here’s the first.
to give (someone) a jamaica; have a jamaica
to shock (someone); have a seizure
He looked grave, and I thought my boldness not to his liking, just as it would be scandalous to Granda Jeemsie and would give Da a jamaica.