My great-grandmother was born in Mississippi, in 1890, and lived in Mississippi for the whole of her long life. But her own grandparents, who died long before I was born, were Scottish, and vestiges of this Scottishness still survived in her nursery talk. In the same way her husband, my great-grandfather — generations removed from his French ancestors — instinctively corrected naughty dogs and children as his old French aunties had done, with a sharp and very Gallic non!

A particular lilt crept into my great-grandmother’s voice when she sang and when she read to me aloud. It was dreamy and gorgeous to my ear, this special voice of hers, the very stuff of warmth and love; it was, I believed, peculiar to her alone of all the world, a voice which, like a cat’s purr, was specific to hearth and home, reserved for her dearest ones. Not until I was older — and, rather to my shock, heard the private lullaby voice being spoken in public by a perfect stranger on a television program — did I realize that the beloved musicality which for many years I’d confidently believed was mine alone was in fact a Scots accent.