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  1. #16
    Registered User Vinegar Tom's Avatar
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    Actually, "Vinegar Tom" is a TERRIBLE name for a fictional 19th-century cowpoke, since it's already the name of an allegedly non-fictional 17th-century witches' familiar who was a greyhound with the head of a bull. Then again, depending on the nature of the story, it might be rather a good one...

  2. #17
    sf-icionado / horr-orator Andrew Leon Hudson's Avatar
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    Everyone's got a smart reply... ;-)

  3. #18
    Damn fool idealist DailyRich's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tmso View Post
    Hmm, I think I saw advice on this somewhere else, but I just finished the Map of Time and I am currently reading The Dead of Winter and in both the characters talk funny throughout. I got used to it.
    Which to me is an argument to use it sparingly, else the effect will be lost.

  4. #19
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vinegar Tom View Post
    You might also consider that, in the same way that blue-collar and white-collar workers don't necessarily speak in the same way, well-educated people in the Wild West spoke a form of English vastly more formal than we speak today. Wyatt Earp, for example, would in normal conversation have used perfect grammar in a way that would seem painfully artificial today, and been almost Shakesperean in his phraseology (all the most ridiculously stilted phrases in the movie Tombstone are direct quotes from the people who actually said them).
    Errr, not exactly said them. Reported to have said them, sure.

    In much the same way that Shakespearean English is an artifice peculiar to theatre of the time, the allegedly genuine flowery speech of the educated Southerner is more literary style and caricature than fact (and similarly in the other direction). True, education factored into a person's every day speech, but to nowhere near the level we believe today. It's like the Flat Earth phenomenon of language -- no one ever thought the Earth was flat, but people today believe people once did; no one ever really spoke the way Shakespeare wrote, nor did many folks talk much like the stories reported of Wyatt Earp, yet today we believe they did. True, there was a change in inflection and word ordering, and in terms of American dialects the written records of speeches from US Presidents are good evidence of that, but by and large the notion of high elocution is largely an oddity of style, not of fact.

    Any if any recordings of the actual Wyatt Earp speaking do exist, it's important to note that phonograph recording was relatively new and not overly cheap, and wasn't exactly a portable means of recording. Anything recorded during Earp's lifetime was prepared, crafted, and tailored to suit the esteemed styles of the day. Again, not natural speech. So most reporting was reconstructed from notes, and most quotes were recycled. We basically have no idea how people really talked, but we have a whole collection of various styles used throughout history to represent people talking.

    Even the Dickensian commoner is largely an invention of fiction. The alteration of speaking style to denote class and education has a long tradition in English literature, but it bears out little on examination. And once real recordings come into existence, we see accents, syntactical shifts, and localized idioms, but rarely the superfluous language of the Southern Gentleman.

    Modern "high redneck" and "urban ebonics" are interesting contemporary examples -- by and large, no one really talks that way. For those who do seem to actually talk that way, it's mostly affected. Unless you're this honey boo boo character... When you get the kids from Jersey Shore away from each other, they suddenly drop the uber-Jersey accent.



    But other wise... yeah, you can use the dropped-g sparingly.
    Last edited by KatG; October 11th, 2012 at 04:55 PM.

  5. #20
    Palinodic Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    I agree that a lot of the accent stuff gets exaggerated, but there are differences. I have Southern and Texas relatives and they speak in ways that are different from me. I, however, according to many Canadians, have a charming American accent, and there are definitely differences between the accents of French Canadians and international French. I also have relatives who have essentially acquired Southern accents, not as affectation but from years of where they lived, and they don't actually lose those accents outside of their neighborhoods. I spent my junior year in Aberdeen, Scotland and we were warned going in that we'd have a hard time understanding the locals. And indeed, at first, it was extremely hard to understand them, especially as they spoke quickly and naturally. But then it became very easy. For the first three months, I had to watch how I spoke as you could easily lapse into a horrible mimicry of Scottish accents without meaning to do so, just because your ear picked it up and aped it back. But after that, my accent reverted to my normal sound. And I was interacting with Swedish, Welsh, Scottish, Irish, German, etc. speakers of English -- nobody pronounced words the same and sentence patterns were sometimes different. I also learned that I will never be able to speak German properly because I cannot make the back of the throat sound to save my life. My daughter, who is taking Spanish and who has had a lot of French, reminded me that the way the two languages roll their r's is different and just because she could do the French, she had not mastered the Spanish one. And I remember a memorable lecture from some cops who were on a special unit dealing with gangs who explained that the gangs changed their slang terms every few weeks. Part of their outreach work was just keeping up with the language changes, apparently. There are differences in the way we speak and in the way we speak in different circumstances, and that's useful. For instance, a character may joke with another character by borrowing the other person's accent in speech. For world-building, slight differentiations in speech can be useful for quickly communicating the parameters of invented cultures.

    That being said, the pronunciation difference between the slight pronouncing of the "g" and the dropping of it is very light. It's barely there, really, and looks more impressive in text than in audio. Phrases of speech and slang words might often work better. It's obviously been popular to show differences in social class and to show the American western accent, but the differences in those accents are usually more in broad or narrow vowel sounds than whether they pronounce their g's and that's harder to show.

  6. #21
    Registered User Vinegar Tom's Avatar
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    Fung Koo, regarding the question of how famous Wild West characters really spoke, I don't think any actual recordings survive from that period (coincidentally, for unrelated reasons I recently sent somebody a soundfile of the earliest cylinder recording known to survive from any place or time, which was made in London in 1888 - having your voice recorded for posterity wasn't really something they did back then). However, since the Earp brothers were tried for manslaughter over that OK Corral business, the legality of which was doubtful at best, we do have exact transcripts of how they spoke in a courtroom setting, and what they said during that gunfight - or at any rate, what they claimed under oath to have said.

    Obviously this version may have been cleaned up quite a bit - if people were shooting at me, I'd probably use language I'd hesitate to repeat in front of a judge and a lot of reporters! But they presumably weren't claiming to have spoken in a ridiculously stilted fashion, because anything totally unbelievable would have been mocked in the national press, as well as laying them open to a charge of perjury. Well-educated people of that era who weren't stupid spoke in a much more formal way than we do. The character "English Bob" in Unforgiven, who speaks in a quite formal way until, under extreme stress, he breaks down and reverts to his native cockney, is probably quite true to life. Of course, in 19th-century America the class system was much less important than it was in the UK. But all the same, the perception existed that speaking in a refined way made you a better type of person.

    The early episodes of the TV series Deadwood focus on the historically accurate rivalry between Al Swearingen and Wild Bill Hickock. What they omit to mention is that Hickock, who was temporarily the marshal of Deadwood at the time, expressed his hatred and defiance of Swearingen by removing his saloon sign, which portrayed a bull with certain features that made it very obvious that it wasn't a cow, on grounds of public decency. Swearingen in his turn mocked Wild Bill's terrible fashion sense (all surviving photos of him are monochrome, but apparently he went in for incredibly loud tartan - and it has to be said that, even in sepia, he does dress rather oddly) by suggesting that he might be a hermaphrodite.

    Note that he didn't go so far as to say that Bill was gay. If he had, he would probably have used the Biblical term "Sodomite", and a gunfight would have been absolutely inevitable (which, given Wild Bill's record, would not have been something Al Swearingen was especially eager to provoke). He also used the term "Duck Bill" (presumably this was picked up on by whoever wrote Gene Hackman's "Duck of Death" dialogue in Unforgiven) to mock Wild Bill's undeniably big nose. You'll observe that a seriously tough western gunslinger of the period knows what "hermaphrodite" means, uses it as an insult because "poof" is just too deadly, and resorts to playground mockery of somebody's facial features. These were well-spoken people who were surprisingly easily shocked!

    Oh, by the way, since almost the entire white population of Australia are descended from deported English criminals, it's very probably the case that today's Australian accent is a lot closer to the way the Dickensian underworld sounded than anything said by anyone in London today.

  7. #22
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    It's not whether or not there are different sorts of English, but whether or not speakers of a similar sort of English tend to speak differently as a function of education.

    Accent is a different category of speech than grammar. And accents function differently in different languages. In English, accents tend to surround vowel sounds, with the notable rolling R and lilted L showing up here and there. In Turkish, by comparison, the vowel sounds are relatively fixed, and the accent fluctuates around the consonants. But two different English speakers in the same part of the world, where there is a localization of the language, will largely speak similarly, independently of level of education.

    Localization include accents, but there are also word substitutions you find, such as the stereotypical "reckon" for "think"/"know"/"opinion." But when you take a sentence like, "I reckon she's a goner" and replace only the one word, ending up with "I think she's a goner," it's evident they're much the same.

    So, a stranger coming to town might speak differently and hear the locals as having an accent, but between the locals, they all perceive themselves as speaking normally and the stranger as speaking strangely.

    As to Earp -- there was a formal courtroom dialect, which in English cultures is based largely on the affections of the British Parliament. All the pomp, circumstance, and careful elocution served a purpose, and like legalese today was loaded with jargon peculiar to the courtroom. My point is basically that our imagining of historical language comes from documents that tend to have very specific styles attributed to them.

    If not "sodomite," "bugger" would work just as well

    And as for the Aussies, from Wikipedia:

    During the late 18th and 19th centuries, large numbers of convicts were transported to the various Australian penal colonies by the British government. One of the primary reasons for the British settlement of Australia was the establishment of a penal colony to alleviate pressure on their overburdened correctional facilities. Over the 80 years more than 165,000 convicts were transported to Australia.[1]

    The number of convicts pales in comparison to the immigrants who arrived in Australia in the 1851–1871 gold rush. In 1852 alone, 370,000 immigrants arrived in Australia. By 1871 the total population had nearly quadrupled from 430,000 to 1.7 million people.[2] The last convicts to be transported to Australia arrived in Western Australia in 1868.
    Non-convicts vastly outnumbered convicts in the colonization of Aus. Convict history has little to do with the accent, as popular a notion as it is.

  8. #23
    www.voxnewman.com kongming's Avatar
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    A good reference for this idea is A Clockwork Orange. If you can see how the writer of that novel pulled it off, the experience of reading it can influence your own ability to write vernacular.

  9. #24
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    Trainspotting is a great one, too. And Withering Heights.

  10. #25
    www.voxnewman.com kongming's Avatar
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    Agreed. And I noticed when I continued reading that someone had already mentioned them. Shogun and Gai Jin are good too. When it comes to language to the unfamiliar reader it's all about slowly immersing them like in cold water.

  11. #26
    Registered User Vinegar Tom's Avatar
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    I stand corrected - I was going with the received wisdom that Australians still use an approximation of the accent 18th-century London criminals had. Of course, I'm not implying for a moment that the entire population of Australia are criminals - that issue was resolved roughly 200 years ago, so I think we can safely stop worrying about those particular deportees. Though in any discussion where the ultimate authority is wikipedia, you'll hopefully forgive me if I remain agnostic.

    Regarding the way that tough-talking westerners actually spoke, I think it's worth bearing in mind that, even if all of these people were on their very best behavior in a formal setting such as a courtroom, they had to know how to talk in a civilized fashion in the first place. So it's reasonable to assume that in everyday life they'd talk in a similar way, plus certain words they wouldn't use in court. Talking of which, correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think "bugger" was ever an American word at all. And I'm pretty sure that anyone who would use "hermaphrodite" as a term of abuse would tend to say "sodomite" rather than "bugger". This was a time when "taking the Lord's name in vain" was a criminal offense, and you could go to prison for saying "Damn!" Derek and Clive would probably have left Al Swearingen white-faced and shaking. Admittedly not for very long, and then he would have shot them both for being an offense against humanity. But different rules apply in different situations. And a certain amount of fun could be had with that, no?

  12. #27
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    My first encounter with the Australian accent issue comes from trying to figure out the Canadian and American regional accents. Turns out, there's a lot of highly imaginative theories about how Colonial accents developed, and plenty of them end up being based on some level of class pretension or "melting pot" xenophobia (if not outright racism and nationalism). Wikipedia had decent enough figures in that selection I pasted to demonstrate that any effect of a supposedly uneducated criminal-type accent was from one such imaginative theory

    (They've gotta get these emoticons working!)

    "Reckon" is a good example of the truer story. The "reckon" of British English is not the same as the "reckon" of American English. The word in American English is a sort of hodgepodge of the French reconnaitre, and the British term, which stems from the Germanic. It's more of an accounting term, having to do with countables, in British English, but in American English it's more in line with the French homophone, having to with recognition and awareness (along with its English cognate, reconnaissance), while also carrying the notion of summation. It's also more similar to the English (and stereotypically Scottish) "ken," meaning one's range of knowledge -- which is probably the actual intended word that the American English "recken" ought to be.

    In American fiction, "reckon" is used as a cultural indicator, generally Western and Southern, and suggests a commoner, or a lack of education. Of course, the American "reckon" developed in the days of colonization, and may have ended up with its meaning due to the fact that the North American continent was largely occupied by the French and British, receiving a swath of Irish and Scottish and Acadian immigrants, amongst others, who also had peculiar dialects and vocabulary, but also a lot in common language-wise (thanks to various factors like the Roman Empire and Catholic Church, and frequent hostile take overs, and general geographic proximity). Sort of like what happens at the borders of European nations, where languages get... blurry. So it's more likely a vocabulary issue arising from the abutment of cultures and different languages, rather than a denotation of class or level of education.

    (Then there's early American nationalism/nation-building and its relationship to public education, but ufff.... can't go into that now!)

    Knowing how to talk in court (or such similar places) was more or less the entire point of language education in primary schools back then. Anyone with any education at all would have been taught how to "talk proper." The courtrooms of the day weren't exactly what you get on Judge Judy these days -- even the unwashed masses had some degree of sophistication that could be summoned when appropriate. It's not like these people had TV to distract them... And language education was similarly a function of religion. Protestanism, which was a huge factor in Colonization, is entirely based on the argument that everyone can read and interpret the word of god themselves -- and it's not exactly an easily read text. Church is another example of a venue where the ability to modulate one's speech to a contextually appropriate style was important. It's not like these people had TV -- most of their days when in public were spent going from one language-artifice to another, whether that was reading the stylized language of the news, listening to a preacher or an Evangelical, attending a public meeting or a political rally. Heck, even the KKK has its own sort of twist of language.

    Today's everyday encounters with English are a bland oatmeal by comparison to the cornucopia of yesterday.

    Bugger is one we use in Canada, so there I went over applying it to my southern neighbours.

    And yes, lots of fun can be had with language

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