Simon W. Hall
Dverg Mal Orcadian, Scots of Orkney
‘The echo comes from the hammars, or cliffs, on the side of the hill.
Dr Marwick decided that Dwarmo is a corruption
of the Old Norse dverg–mal, which literally means ‘dwarf talk’.’
Daft, kenspeckle peedie voices spikkan back.
Who dae they think they ær ? They shouldna spik back.
The Wurds o Dwarves ? Grice grunts and skorrie skreks.
The language o dwarves is good
Fur functional use at straightforward pieces
Like the Gutterplitter Industrial Estate,
Whar peedie black dwarves wark a wark in thur pits,
Under the glare o halogen inspection lamps,
Wae muckle pliers, snarls o wire,
Tullimentan silver spanners,
And no–questions–asked ball–pien hammars,
Rivan at rotten pickup radiators, laggered in græse,
Drivan oot roosty wheel beareens,
Cannibalisan gargly owld two–stroke ootboards,
And kerryan oot ither, similar mechanical necessities,
Bletheran awey demented tae themsæls and wan anither,
Slivers o steel like sandeels coiled in thur long, græsy beards,
Retchan guttural, norny pellets o used engine oil
Fae thur durty mooths tae spit oot on cowld concrete.
(And hiv ye heard a owld dwarf mither
Takkan the calls fae the clients,
Reevlan awey on Skype,
Her erse eltit in pelters ? Beuy, beuy.
Cheust imagine that in its underwear.)
But I digress. Yes, we ken we couldna dae withoot them.
They mak sure urbane folk like iss git fae A tae B.
And they græse the tractor wheels o wur economy.
But na, that owld Dverg Mal canna really be suffered
Tae sweem wae slimy legs across the Peedie Sea tae the Toon.
It canna come anywhar near the Muckle Hooses o
Bureaucracy, The Academy, the flat–screen o the BBC.
Or the sky will faal doon.
Hid disna hiv a formal register, ye see.
And hid reverts tae English under duress.
There’s a naffil lot the dwarf talk can’t express.
Na na. That echo ye thowt ye heard in the Chamber ? Hid wis notheen.
Mak no mistake. It is the dwarf tongue, and the dwarf tongue only.
daft, kenspeckle peedie voices: silly, familiar little voices
grice grunts and scorrie skreks: pig grunts and the screeches of young seagulls pieces: places
plitter: to play around in mud or water
wark a wark: mess around, cause mischief
rivan: wrenching and pulling
laggered: coated thickly
norny: old fashioned, like the (almost) extinct Orkney Norn language
reevlan: talking incessantly
erse: ass, butt
eltit: coated, covered
pelters: balls of dried animal dung
Peedie Sea: a saltwater lagoon in Kirkwall, separating the
industrial estate from the rest of the town
muckle hooses: big houses
a naffil lot: an awful lot.