Throughout the novel, the characters use language in a way which reflects their social class and status in Britain during World War Two. The language used also signals their attitude towards others of differing social standing.
Lady Runcie-Campbell, representative of the aristocracy in the text, speaks using standard English. On numerous occasions, when she wants something done, she uses an authoritative, imperative tone, despite being on first name terms with the workers:
Go there as fast as you can, and fetch the men from Ardmore. Quickly, Graham.
Her manner of speaking and addressing the lower classes highlights the wide gap between the upper classes and the working classes of that era, although this was in the process of changing because of the effects of the war.
In return, Lady Runcie-Campbell’s staff always address her politely and respectfully, using the term
my lady. When Lady Runcie-Campbell asks whether Calum is
a kind of cripple and therefore of little use on the deer drive, Duror retorts:
I wouldn’t call him that, my lady. He’s a hunchback, but he’s as agile as any monkey.
Duror doesn’t hesitate to cruelly describe and discredit Calum, but in a polite fashion.
The language of the lower class characters like Duror is quite abrupt, as many servants were expected to speak in a particular manner, which meant their words were brief and choice of language limited.
Many workers used the Scots dialect which is most clearly shown in the conversation between Betty, the Glaswegian land girl, and Harry, the apprentice gardener, as they assemble with the other workers in anticipation of the deer drive. As Calum arrives Betty remarks:
God forgie me…but he fair gies me the creeps.
After the deer has had its throat slit by the mentally unstable Duror, Tulloch describes Duror's appearance as:
…slack-mouthed, mumbling, rather glaikit.
The word ‘glaikit’, meaning foolish or silly looking, is very much of the Scottish vernacular and would be commonly used by the working class as a derogatory description of someone in a dazed state.