Dialect representations
-- 19th and 20th century English varieties


wordsworth1. from “Michael: A Pastoral Poem,” by William Wordsworth (1800):


With Luke that evening thitherward he walked:

And soon as they had reached the place he stopped,             330

And thus the old Man spake to him:--"My Son,

To-morrow thou wilt leave me: with full heart

I look upon thee, for thou art the same

That wert a promise to me ere thy birth,

And all thy life hast been my daily joy.

I will relate to thee some little part

Of our two histories; 'twill do thee good

When thou art from me, even if I should touch

On things thou canst not know of.----After thou

First cam'st into the world--as oft befalls                    340

To new-born infants--thou didst sleep away

Two days, and blessings from thy Father's tongue

Then fell upon thee. Day by day passed on,

And still I loved thee with increasing love.

Never to living ear came sweeter sounds

Than when I heard thee by our own fireside

First uttering, without words, a natural tune;

While thou, a feeding babe, didst in thy joy

Sing at thy Mother's breast. Month followed month,

And in the open fields my life was passed                      350

And on the mountains; else I think that thou

Hadst been brought up upon thy Father's knees.

But we were playmates, Luke: among these hills,

As well thou knowest, in us the old and young

Have played together, nor with me didst thou

Lack any pleasure which a boy can know."


2. William Barnes, “the Dorset poet,” wrote poems representing dialect more directly than the romantics:


Zummer an' Winter

by William Barnes


When I led by zummer streams

The pride o' Lea, as naighbours thought her,

While the zun, wi' evenen beams,

Did cast our sheades athirt the water;

Winds a-blowen,

Streams a-flowen,

Skies a-glowen,

Tokens ov my jay zoo fleeten,

Heightened it, that happy meeten.

Then, when maid an' man took pleaces,

Gay in winter's Chris'mas dances,

Showen in their merry feaces

Kindly smiles an' glisnen glances;

Stars a-winken,

Day a-shrinken,

Sheades a-zinken,

Brought anew the happy meeten,

That did meake the night too fleeten.



Barnes also wrote two books in “Englandish,” his version of English in which he replaced borrowed words with native ones, or words constructed on native models:


barnes For example, he used  speechcraft instead of ‘grammar,’ redecraft for ‘logic.’


Here is an example of a syllogism from his Outline of Redecraft (Logic):


Every two-horned beast – is cud-chewsome.

Every two-horned beast – is grass-eatsome.

Some grass-eatsome beasts – is cud-chewsome.


He is literal-minded about English, and argues in his Outline of English Speechcraft (1878) that twin must refer to two people, so that twins must mean ‘four.’



He uses “nativized” grammatical terms, for example somely, ‘plural,’ and he writes a nativized prose that sounds very foreign:


“The goodness of a speech should be sought in its clearness to the hearing and mind, clearness of its breath-sounds, and clearness of meaning in its words; in its fulness of words for all the things and time-takings which come, with all their sundrinesses, under the minds of men of the speech, in their common life; in sound-sweetness to the ear, and glibness to the tongue. As to fulness, the speech of men who know thoroughly the making of its words may be fullened from its own roots and stems, quite as far as has been fullened Greek or German, so that they would seldom feel a stronger want of a foreign word than was felt by those men who, having the words rail and way, made the word railway instead of calling it chemin de fer, or, going to the Latin, via ferrea. or than Englishmen felt with steam and boat, to go to the Greeks for the name of the steamboat, for which Greek had no name at all.”


3. Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) used dialect representation in his comic writing – it had become a tradition in 19th century American journalism –


huck finn Here’s an excerpt from the first chapter of Huckleberry Finn (1884):


The widow she cried over me, and called me a poor lost lamb, and she called me a lot of other names, too, but she never meant no harm by it. She put me in them new clothes again, and I couldn't do nothing but sweat and sweat, and feel all cramped up. Well, then, the old thing commenced again. The widow rung a bell for supper, and you had to come to time. When you got to the table you couldn't go right to eating, but you had to wait for the widow to tuck down her head and grumble a little over the victuals, though there warn't really anything the matter with them, -- that is, nothing only everything was cooked by itself. In a barrel of odds and ends it is different; things get mixed up, and the juice kind of swaps around, and the things go better.

   After supper she got out her book and learned me about Moses and the Bulrushers, and I was in a sweat to find out all about him; but by and by she let it out that Moses had been dead a considerable long time; so then I didn't care no more about him, because I don't take no stock in dead people.

   Pretty soon I wanted to smoke, and asked the widow to let me. But she wouldn't. She said it was a mean practice and wasn't clean, and I must try to not do it any more. That is just the way with some people. They get down on a thing when they don't know nothing about it. Here she was a-bothering about Moses, which was no kin to her, and no use to anybody, being gone, you see, yet finding a power of fault with me for doing a thing that had some good in it. And she took snuff, too; of course that was all right, because she done it herself.



4.  Contemporary authors use dialect as well. Here’s an example from the first chapter of Scottish writer Irvine Welsh’s novel Trainspotting (1993), made into a popular film of the same name:


The sweat wis lashing oafay Sick Boy; he wis trembling. Ah wis jist sitting thair, focusing oan the telly, tryin no tae notice the cunt. He wis bringing me doon. Ah tried tae keep ma attention oan the Jean-Claude Van Damme video.

       As happens in such movies, they started oaf wi an obligatory dramatic opening. Then the next phase ay the picture involved building up the tension through introducing the dastardly villain and sticking the weak plot thegither. Any minute now though, auld Jean-Claude’s ready tae git doun tae some serious swedgin.

       ---- Rents. Ah’ve goat tae see Mother Superior, Sick Boy gasped, shaking his heid.

       ---- Aw, ah sais. Ah wanted the radge tae  jist fuck off ootay ma visage, tae go on his ain n jist leave us wi Jean-Claude. Oan the other hand, ah’d be gittin sick tae before long, and if that cunt went n scored, he’d haud oot oan us. They call um Sick Boy, no because he’s eywis wi junk withdrawal, but because he’s just one sick cunt.


5. from the first chapter of Anjali Banerjee's novel, Imaginary Men (2005):


Beside me, Auntie Kiki, all grey hair, uneven yellow teeth, and smiles, lets out a loud sigh and elbows me. “Ah, Lina, you’re next, nah? Big Bengali wedding?” She winks, and I wonder, in mild horror, what she has planned.

       “I don’t know, Auntie. I’m not ready.” Men have been nothing but trouble for me, but she won’t understand.

       “Oh, Vishnu! Nathu dead two years, and you’re still not ready?”

       “There aren’t any good bachelors in California.”

       She pats my cheek. “You’re nearly thirty now. Hadn’t you better stop being so picky-choosy?”

       “I’m not picky and choosy. I’m discerning.”

       Bhalo. Good.” She nods her head sideways in the Indian style. “We’ll find you a husband tonight, I know this.”


       Kali grins and rushes over. “Doesn’t Druga look smashing?”

       “She’s beautiful,” I say.

       “When I find the perfect shagedelic guy, I want a true desi wedding, Indian in every way.” Loosely translated, desi means “of or from my country” in Hindi. Kali’s obsessed with her homeland, but she also loves Austin Powers, Man of Mystery. She’s young, blooming like a lotus flower. Not that I’m chopped liver, but I don’t dress the way she does, all cleavage in a tight-fitting choli shirt. She manages to make a sari look like lingerie. I prefer not to draw attention to myself at these shindigs.


6. From an essay on Hinglish, an Indian-flavored brand of English, English, the Indian Way, by Siddharth Srivastava (New Delhi, India
September 5, 2005; www.worldpress.org/Asia/2143.cfm#down):


In an interview, the editor of the OED Catherine Soanes rejected criticism that misuse of English words was being legitimized. “We are merely reflecting the language as it is today,’’ she said. “Indian English is one of the growing areas of language, which is contributing to the language as a whole.’’


Indeed, it is not just the OED, the Collins English Dictionary has also included commonly used words by Indians. Distinctly Hindi words that form the vocabulary of a large section of English speaking Indians have been incorporated. They include “aunti-ji” and “uncle-ji,” “freshie” (a new immigrant), “filmi” (dramatic), “gora” (White), “kutta” (dog) and “kutti” (bitch), “haramzada” and “haramzadi” (bastards or obnoxious/despicable) and “yaar” (friend). In a statement the dictionary has officially acknowledged the role of Hinglish in the evolution of English.


Last year’s OED too had turned eclectic incorporating several Indianisms: “Adda” (local joint), “langar” (community eatery) and “dicky” (car), have become bona fide English words, adding to the Indian word store, which includes “Hindutva,” “history-sheeter” and others. Many words of daily use in English are of Indian origin, including words like “shampoo,” “bangle,” “bungalow,” “jungle,” “mantra,” “pundit” and “cot.” They figure in major English-language dictionaries.


Collins’ took the process further. Other words include “badmash” (bad person), “changa” (fine), “chuddie” (underwear), “desi” (native) and “machi chips,” Hinglish for the very English favorite, “fish and chips.” The words reflect the language commonly spoken by Asians in Britain imbibing a Punjabi flavor, thus denoting a meeting of cultures. Commonly used words in popular Asian soaps such as “The Kumars at Number 42’’ and “Silver Street,’’ which are watched by mainstream audiences, have been picked up. According to a statement by Collins, “the inclusion of Hinglish words in the Dictionary marks an exciting development and a new phase of borrowing by English.’’


The outsourcing wave has helped India’s Silicon Valley, Bangalore, become the second modern city in the world to be turned into a verb after “shanghaied” — a word that broadly means to be forced to do something by fraud or coercion. To be shanghaied, in circulation since 1870, has acquired a 21st-century context due to Chinese goods flooding U.S. markets.


To be bangalored, yet to find mention in a dictionary, reflects the sentiments of those who have been laid off in the U.S. because their jobs have moved to Bangalore. “I am a software developer who is about to be bangalored. Fine. I am not going to pout about it,’’ a participant in an online forum wrote. Although there have been other geographical places that have been turned into words, called toponyms, (for example, “frankfurter” and “marathon), few cities have taken a verb form.