SPECIAL COLLOQUIAL VOCABULARY



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SPECIAL COLLOQUIAL VOCABULARY



a) Slang

There is hardly any other term that is as ambiguous and obscure as the term slang. Slang seems to mean everything that is below the standard of usage of present-day English.

Much has been said and written about it. This is probably due to the uncertainty of the concept itself. No one has yet given a more or less satisfactory definition of the term. Nor has it been specified by any lin­guist who deals with the problem of the English vocabulary.

The first thing that strikes the scholar is the fact that no other Euro­pean language has singled out a^special layer of vocabulary and named it slang, though all of them distinguish such groups of words as jargon, cant, and the like. Why was it necessary to invent a special term for something that has not been clearly defined aajargon or cant have? Is this phenome­non specifically English? Has slang any special features which no other group within the non-literary vocabulary can lay claim to? The distinc­tions between slang and other groups of unconventional English, though perhaps subtle and sometimes difficult to grasp, should nevertheless be subjected to a more detailed linguistic specification.

Webster's "Third New International Dictionary" gives the following meanings of the term:

Slang [origin unknown] 1: language peculiar to a particular group: as a: the special and often secret vocabulary used by

class (as thieves, beggars) and usu. felt to be vulgar or inferior: argot; b: the jargon used by or associated with a particular trade, profession, or field of activity; 2: a non-standard vocabulary coin-posed of words and senses characterized primarily by connotations of extreme informality and usu. a currency not limited to a partic­ular region and composed typically of coinages or arbitrarily changed words, clipped or shortened forms, extravagant, forced or facetious figures of speech, or verbal novelties usu. experiencing quick popularity and relatively rapid decline into disuse.

The "New Oxford English Dictionary" defines slang as follows:

"a) the special vocabulary used by any set of persons of a low or disreputable character; language of a low and vulgar type. (Now merged in c. /cant/)', b) the cant or jargon of a certain class or period; c) language of a highly colloquial type considered as below the level of standard educated speech, and consisting either of new words or of current words employed in some special sense."

As is seen from these quotations slang is represented both as a spe­cial vocabulary and as a special language. This is the first thing that causes confusion. If this is a certain lexical layer, then why should it be given the rank of language? If, on the other hand, slang is a certain language or a dialect or even a patois, then it should be characterized not only by its peculiar use of words but also by phonetic, morphological and syntactical peculiarities.

J. B. Greenough and C. L. Kitteridge define slang in these words:

||, "Slang... is a peculiar kind of vagabond language, always

p hanging on the outskirts of legitimate speech but continually

f|v straying or forcing its way into the most respectable company."1

Another definition of slang which is worth quoting is one made by Eric Partridge, the eminent student of the non-literary language.

"Slang is much rather a spoken than'a literary'4anguage. It originates, nearly always, in speech. To coin a term on a writ­ten page is almost inevitably to brand it as a neologism which will either be accepted or become a nonce-word (or phrase), but, except in the rarest instances, that term will not be slang."2

In most of the dictionaries si. (slang) is used as convenient stylistic notation for a word or a phrase that cannot be specified more exactly. The obscure etymology of the term itself affects its use as a stylistic notation. Whenever the notation appears in a dictionary it may serve as an indication that the unit presented is non-literary, but not pin­pointed. Thai is the reason why the various dictionaries disagree in the use of this term when applied as a stylistic notation.3

Any new coinage that has not gained recognition and therefore has not yet been received into standard English is easily branded as slang.

The Times of the 12th of March, 1957 gives the following illustrations of slang: leggo (let go), sarge (sergeant), 'I've got a date with that Miss Morris to-night'. But it is obvious that leggo is a phonetic impro­priety caused by careless rapid speaking; sarge is a vulgar equivalent of the full form of the word; date is a widely recognized colloquial equivalent (synonym) of the literary and even bookish rendezvous (a meeting).

These different and heterogeneous phenomena united under the vague term slang cause n-atural confusion and do not encourage scholars to seek more objective criteria in order to distinguish the various stylistic layers of the English colloquial vocabulary. The confusion is made still deeper by the fact that any word or expression apparently legitimate, if used in an arbitrary, fanciful or metaphorical sense, may easily be labelled as slang. Many words formerly labelled as slang have now become legitimate units of standard English. Thus the word kid (=child), which was considered low slang in the nineteenth century, is now a legitimate colloquial unit of the English literary language.

Some linguists, when characterizing the most conspicuous features of slang, point out that it requires continuous innovation. It never grows stale. If a slang word or phrase does become stale, it is replaced by a new slangism. It is claimed that this satisfies the natural desire for fresh, newly created words and expressions, which give to an utter­ance emotional colouring and a subjective evaluation. Indeed, it seems to be in correspondence with the traditional view of English conservatism, that a special derogative term should have been coined to help preserve the "purity of standard English" by hindering the penetration into it of undesirable elements. The point is that the heterogeneous nature of the term serves as a kind of barrier which checks the natural influx of word coinages into the literary language. True, such barriers are not without their advantage in polishing up the literary language. This can be proved by the progfessive role played By any conscious effort to sift innovations, some of which are indeed felt to be unnecessary, even contaminating elements in the body of the language. In this respect the American news­paper may serve as an example of how the absence of such a sifting process results in the contamination of the literary tongue of the nation with ugly redundant coinages. Such*a barrier, however, sometimes turns into an obstacle which hinders the natural development of the literary lan­guage.

The term 'slang', which is widely used in English linguistic science, should be clearly specified if it is"to be used as a term, i. e. it should refer to some definite notion and'should be definable in explicit, simple terms. It is suggested here that the term 'slang' should be used for those forms of the English vocabulary which are either mispronounced or distorted in some way phonetically, morphologically or lexically. The term 'slang' should also be used to specify some elements which may be called over-colloquial. As for the other groups of words hitherto classified as slang, they should be specified according to the universally accepted classification of the vocabulary of a language.

But this must be done by those whose mother tongue is English. They, and they only, being native speakers of the English language, are its masters and lawgivers. It is for them to place slang in its proper category by specifying its characteristic features.

Slang is nothing but a deviation from the established norm at the level of the vocabulary of the language. V. V. Vinogradov writes that one of the tasks set before the branch of linguistic science that is now called stylistics, is a thorough study of all changes in vocabulary, set phrases, grammatical constructions, their functions, an evaluation of any breaking away from the established norm, and classification of mistakes and failures in word coinage.l

H. Wentworth and S. Flexner in their "Dictionary of American Slang" write:

"Sometimes slang is used to escape the dull familiarity of standard words, to suggest an escape from the established routine of everyday life. When slang is used, our life seems a little fresher and a little more personal. Also, as at all levels of speech, slang is sometimes used for the pure joy of making sounds, or even for a need to attract attention by making noise. The sheer newness and informality of certain slang words produce pleas­ure.

"But more important than this expression of a more or less hidden aesthetic motive on the part of the speaker is the slang's reflection of the personality, the outward, clearly visible char­acteristics of the speaker. By and large, the man who uses slang is a forceful, pleasing, acceptable personality."

This quotation from a well-known scientific study of slang clearly shows that what is labelled slang is either all kinds of nonce-forma­tions—so frequently appearing in lively everyday speech and just as quickly disappearing from the language—, or jocular words and word-combinations that are formed by using the various means of ^ord-build-ing existing in the language and also by distorting "the form or sense of existing words. Here are some more examples of words that are con­sidered slang:

to take stock in—'to be interested in, attach importance, give cred­ence to'

bread-basket—'the stomach' (a jocular use)

to do a flit— 'to quit one's flat or lodgings at night without paying the rent or board'

rot—'nonsense!'

the cat's pyjamas—'the correct thing*

So broad is the term 'slang' that, according to Eric Partridge, there are many kinds of slang, e. g. Cockney, public-house, commercial, society, military, theatrical, parliamentary and others. This leads

the author to believe that there is also a standard slang, the slang that is common to all those who, though employing received standard in their writing and speech, also use an informal language which, in fact, is no language but merely a way of speaking^ using special words and phrases in some special sense. The most confusing definition of the nature of slang is the following one given by Partridge.

"...personality and one's surroundings (social or occupation­al) are'the two co-efficients, the two chief factors, the determining causes of the nature of slang, as they are of language in general and of style."1

According to this statement one may get the idea that language, style and slang all have the same nature, the same determining causes. Perso­nality and surroundings determine:

1. the nature of the slang used by a definite person,

2. the nature of the language he uses,

3. the kind of style he writes.

There is a general tendency in England and to some extent in the US to over-estimate the significance of slang by attaching to it more significance than it deserves. Slang is regarded as the quintessence of colloquial speech and therefore stands above all the laws of grammar. Though it is regarded by some purists as a language that stands below standard English, it is highly praised nowadays as "vivid", "more flexible", "more picturesque", "richer in vocabulary" and so on.

Unwittingly one arrives at the idea that slang, as used by English and Americans, is a universal term for any word or phrase which, though not yet recognized as a fact of standard English, has won general recogni­tion as a fresh innovation quite irrespective of its nature: whether it is cant, jargon, dialect, jocular or a pure colloquialism. It is therefore important, for the sake of,a scientific, approach to the problem of a sty­listic classifieation of the English vocabulary, to make a more exact discrimination between heterogeneous elements in the vocabulary, no matter how difficult it may be.

The following is an interesting example illustrating the contrast between standard English and non-literary English including slang.

In the story "By Courier" Q. Henry opposes neutral and common literary words to special colloquial words and slang for a definite sty­listic purpose, viz. to distott a message by translating the literary voca­bulary of one speaker into the non-literary vocabulary of another.

"Tell her I am on my way to the station, to leave for San Francisco, where I shalTjoin that Alaska moosehunting expedi­tion. Tell her that, since she has commanded 'me neither to speak nor to write to her, I take this means of making one last appeal to her sense of justice, for the sake of what has been. Tell her that to condemn and discard one who has not deserved such treatment, without giving him her reason or a chance to explain is contrary to her nature as I believe it to be."

This message was delivered in the following manner:

"He told me to tell yer he's got his collars and cuffs in dat grip for a scoot clean out to' Frisco. Den he's goin' to shoot snowbirds in de Klondike. He says yer told him to send' round no more pink notes nor come hangin' over de garden gate, and he takes dis mean (sending the boy to speak for him.— /. G.) of putting yer wise. He says yer referred to him like a has-been, and never give him no chance to kick at de decision. He says yer swiled him and never said why."

The contrast between what is standard English and what is crude, broken non-literary or uneducated American English has been achieved by means of setting the common literary vocabulary and also the syn­tactical design of the original message against jargonisms, slang and'all kinds of distortions of forms, phonetic, morphological, lexical and syntactical.

It is suggestive that there is a tendency in some modern dictionaries to replace the label slang by informal or colloquial.1 Such a practice clearly manifests the dissatisfaction of some lexicographers with the term 'slang'. This is mainly due to the ambiguity of the term.

On the other hand, some lexicographers, as has already been pointed out, still make use of the term 'slang' as a substitute for 'jargon', 'cant', 'colloquialism', 'professionalism', 'vulgar', 'dialectal'. Thus, in his dictionary Prof. Barnhart gives the label si to such innovations as "grab— to cause (a person) to react; make an impression on", which, to my mind, should be classed as newspaper jargon; "grass or pot—mari-juarta", which are positively cant words (the quotation that follows proves it quite unambiguously); "groove—something very enjoyable," "grunt— U.S.^ military slang", which in fact is a professionalism; "gyppy tummy, British slang,— a common intestinal upset experienced by travellers", which is a colloquialism; "hangup—a psychological or emotional prob­lem", which is undoubtedly a professionalism which has undergone ex­tension of meaning and now, according to Barnhart also means "any problem or difficulty, especially one that causes annoyance or irritation."

The use of the label si in this way is evidently due to the fact that Barnhart's Dictionary aims not so much at discrimination between different stylistic subtleties of neologisms but mainly at fixation of lexical units which have already won general recognition through cons­tant repetition in newspaper language.

The term 'slang' is ambiguous because, to use a figurative expression, it has become a Jack of all trades and master of none.

b) Jargonisms

In the non-literary vocabulary of the English language there is a group of words that are called jargonisms. Jargon is a recognized term for a group of words that exists in almost every language and whose aim is to preserve secrecy within one or another social group. Jargonisms are generally old words with entirely new meanings imposed on them. The traditional meaning of the words is immaterial, only the new, improvised meaning is of importance. Most of the Jargonisms of any language, and of the English language too, are absolutely incompre­hensible to those outside the social group which has invented them. They may be defined as a code within a code, that is special meanings of words that are imposed on the recognized code—the dictionary mean­ing of the words.

Thus the word grease means 'money'; loaf means 'head'; a tiger hunter is 'a^gambler'; a lexer is 'a student preparing for a law course'.

Jargonisms are social in character. They are not regional. In Britain and in the US almost any social group of people has its own jargon. The following jargons are well known in the English language: the jargon of thieves and vagabonds, generally known as cant; the jargon of jazz people; the jargon of the army, known as military slang; the jargon of sportsmen, and many others.

The various jargons (which in fact are nothing but a definite group of words) remain a foreign language to the outsiders of any particular social group. It is interesting in connection with this to quote a stanza from "Don Juan" by Byron where the poet himself finds it necessary to comment on the Jargonisms he has used for definite stylistic purposes.

"He from the world had cut off a great man,

Who in his time had made heroic bustle. Who in a row like Tom could lead the van,

Booze in the ken *, or at the spellken 2 hustle? Who queer a flat9? Who (spite of Bow street's ban)

On the high toby-spice 4 so flash the muzzle? Who on a lark ^with black-eyed Sal (his blowing) 6

So prime, so swell 7, so nutty ^, and so knowing?"

The explanation of the words used here was made by Byron's editor because they were all Jargonisms in Byron's time and no one would understand their meaning unless they were explained in normal English.

Byron wrote the following ironic comment to this stanza:

"The advance vof. science and of language has rendered it un­necessary to translate the above good and true English, spoken in its original purity by the select nobility and their patrons. The following is a stanza of a song which was very popular, at least in my early days:—*

1 ken = a house which harbours thieves

2 spellken = a play-house or theatre

3 to queer a flat = to puzzle a silly fellow

4 to flash the muzzle (gun) on the high toby-spice = to rob on horse back

5 a lark = fun or sport of any kind

6 a blowing = a girl

2 swell = gentlemanly

8 nutty = pleasing (to be nuts on = to be infatuated with)

"On the high toby-spice flash the muzzle, In spite of each gallows old scout; If you at all spellken can't hustle, You'll be hobbled in making a Clout. Then your Blowing will wax gallows haughty, When she hears of your scaly mistake, She'll surely turn snitch for the forty— That her Jack may be regular weight."

If there be any gemman (^gentleman) so ignorant as to require a traduction, I refer him to my old friend and corporeal pastor and master, John Jackson, Esq., Professor of pugilism; who, I trust, still retains the strength and symmetry of his model of a form, together with his good humour • and athletic as well as mental accomplishments." (John Murray. "The Poetical Works of Lord Byron")

Slang, contrary to jargon, needs no translation. It is not a secret code. It is easily understood by the English-speaking community and is only regarded as something not quite regular. It must also be remem­bered that both jargon and slang differ from ordinary language mainly in their vocabularies. The structure of the sentences and the morphology of the language remain practically unchanged. But such is the power of words, which are the basic and most conspicuous element in the lan­guage, that we begin unwittingly to speak of a separate language.

Jargonisms do not always remain the possession of a given social group. Some of them migrate into other social strata and sometimes become recognized in the literary language of the nation. G. H. McKnight writes:

"The language of the underworld provided words facetiously adopted by the fashionable world, many of which, such as fan and queer and banter and bluff and sham and humbug, eventua­lly made their way into dignified use." *

There are hundreds of words, once Jargonisms or slang, which have become legitimate members of the English literary language.

Jargonisms have their definite place of abode and are therefore easily classified according to the social divisions of the given period. Almost any calling has its own jargon, i.e. its set of words with which its members intersperse their speech and render it incomprehensible to outsiders. Some linguists even maintain that:

"Within the limits of any linguistic unity there are as many languages as there are groups of people thrown together by pro­pinquity and common interests." 2

This is, of course, an overstatement. First of all, one should not mix up such notions as language and vocabulary. True, unknown words

and phrases, if too many, may render speech unintelligible. But this fact does not raise speech to the level of a different language. ,.g..

Jargonisms, however, do break away from the accepted norms oflvi semantic variants of words. They are a special group within the non-|;| literary layer of words.

There is a common jargon and there are also special professional jargons. Common Jargonisms have gradually lost their special quality, which is to promote secrecy and keep outsiders in the dark. In fact, there are no outsiders where common jargon is concerned. It belongs to all social groups and is therefore easily understood by everybody. That is why it is so difficult to draw a hard and fast line between slang and jargon. When a jargonism becomes common, it has passed on to a higher step on the ladder of word groups and becomes slang or colloquial.

Here are some further examples of jargon:

Piou-Piou—'a French soldier, a private in the infantry'. According to Eric Partridge this word has already passed from military jargon to ordinary colloquial speech.

Humrnen—'a false arrest* (American)

Dar—(from damned average raiser)—'a persevering and assidu­ous student'. (University jargon)

Matlo(w)—'a sailor' (from the French word 'matelof)

Man and wife—'a knife' (rhyming slang)

Manany—'a sailor who is always putting off a job or work' (nautical jargon) (from the Spanish word 'mamma'—4o-morrow')

The word brass in the meaning of 'money in general, cash' is not jar­gon inasmuch as there is an apparent semantic connection between 'the general name for all alloys of copper with tin or zinc' and cash. The metonymic ties between the two meanings prevent the word from being used as a special code word. The same can be said of the words joker — 'something*used to play atriqkorwin one's point or object with' from card-playing; drag—'to rob vehicles'; to soap-box—'to make speeches out-of-doors standing on a soap-box\ These are easily understood by na­tive speakers and therefore fail to meet the most indispensable property of jargon words. They are slang words or perhaps colloquial.

On the other hand, such words as soap and flannel meaning 'bread' and 'cheese' (naval), and some of the words mentioned above are scarce­ly likely to be understood by the language community. Only those who are in the know understand such words. Therefore they can be classed as Jargonisms.

It will not come amiss to mention here the words of Vandryes, a well-known French linguist, who said that "...jargon distorts words, it does not create them." Indeed, the creation of really new words is a very rare process. In almost any language you can find only a few en­tirely new words. It is not accidental therefore that the efforts of some poets to coin completely new words have proved to be an absolute failure, their attempts being utterly rejected by the language community.

In passing, we must remark that both slang and the various jargons of Great Britain differ much more from those of America (the United

States and Canada) than the literary language in the two countries does. In fact, the most striking difference is to be observed in the non-literary layer of words and particularly in slang and Jargonisms and profession­alisms. (See quotation from Randolph Quirk on p. 44).

"American slang," remarks G. H. McKnight, "on the whole remains a foreign language to the Englishman. American plays such as "Is zat so" and American novels such as "Babbitt" have had to be provided with glossaries in order to be intelligible in England. John Galsworthy in his recent novel "The Silver Spoon" makes a naturalistic use of colloquial idiom. He exhib­its the rich element of native slang in the colloquial speech of England." *

Jargonisms, like slang and other groups of the non-literary layer, do not always remain on the outskirts of the literary language. Many words have overcome the resistance of the language lawgivers and pur­ists and entered the standard vocabulary. Thus the words kid, fun, queer, bluff, fib, humbug, formerly slang words or Jargonisms, are now considered common colloquial. They may be said to be dejargonized.

c) Professionalisms

H Professionalisms, as the term itself signifies, are the words used in a definite trade, profession or calling by people connect­ed by common interests both at work and at home. They commonly designate some working process or implement of labour. Professional­isms are correlated to terms. Terms, as has already been indicated, are coined to nominate new concepts that appear in the process of, and as a result of, technical progress and the development of science.

Professional words name anew already-existing concepts, tools or instruments, and have the typical properties of a special code. The main feature of a professionalism is its technicality. Professionalisms are spe­cial words in the non-literary layer of the English vocabulary, whereas terms are a specialized group belonging to the literary layer of words. Terms, if they are connected with a field or branch of science or tech­nique well-known to ordinary people, are easily decoded and enter the neu­tral stratum of the vocabulary. Professionalisms generally remain in circulation within a definite community, as they are linked to a common occupation and common social interests. The semantic structure of the term is usually transparent and is therefore easily understood. The se­mantic structure of a professionalism is often dimmed by the image on which the meaning of the professionalism is based, particularly when the features of the object in question reflect the process of the work, metaphori­cally or metonymically. Like terms, professionalisms do not allow any polysemy, they are monosemantic.

Here are some professionalisms used in different trades: tin-fish (^submarine); block-buster (= a bomb especially designed to destroy

blocks of big buildings); piper (=a specialist who decorates pastry with the use of a cream-pipe); a midder case (=a midwifery case); outer (=& knockout blow).

Some professionalisms, however, like certain terms, become popu­lar and gradually lose their professional flavour. Thus the word crane which Byron used in his "Don Juan" ... was a verb meaning 4o stretch out the neck like a crane before a dangerous leap' (in hunting, in order to 'look before you leap'). Now, according to Eric Partridge, it has broad­ened its meaning and is used in the sense of 4o hesitate at an obstacle, a danger'. By 1860 it was no more a professionalism used in hunting but had become a colloquial word of the non-literary stratum and finally, since 1890, entered the standard English vocabulary.

"No good craning at it. Let's go down." (Galsworthy)

Professionalisms should not be mixed up with jargonisms. Like slang words, professionalisms do not aim at secrecy. They fulfil a socially useful function in communication, facilitating a quick and adequate grasp of the message.

Good examples of professionalisms as used by a man-of-letters can be found in Dreiser's "Financier." The following passage is an illustration.

Frank soon picked up all the technicalities of the situation. A "bull", he learned, was one who bought in anticipation of a higher price to come; and if he was "loaded" up with a "line" of stocks he was said to be "long". He sold to "realize" his profit, or if his margins were exhausted he was "wiped out". A "bear" was one who sold stocks which most frequently he did not have, in anticipation of a lower price at which he could buy and sat­isfy his previous sales. He was "short" when he had sold what he did not own, and he was "covered" when he bought to satisfy his s^Jes and tcTrealize his profits or to protect himself against further loss in the case prices advanced instead of declining. He was in a "corner" when he found that he could not buy in order to make good the stock he had borrowed for delivery and the return of which had been demanded. He was then obliged to settle practically at a price fixed by those to whom he and other "shorts" had sold:

As is seen, each financial professionalism is explained by the author and the words themselves are in-Jnverted commas to stress their pe­culiar idiomatic sense and also to,indicate that the words do not belong to the standard English vocabulary in the meanings they are used.

There are certain fields of human activity which enjoy nation-wide interest and popularity. This, for example, is the case in Great Britain where sports and games are concerned. English pugilistic terminology, for example, has gained particularly wide recognition and therefore is frequently used in a transferred meaning, thus adding to the gener­al image-building function of emotive prose. Here is an example of the use of such professionalisms in fiction,

"Father Knickerbocker met them at the ferry giving one a right-hander on the nose and the other an uppercut with his left just to let them know that the fight was on"

This is from a story by O. Henry called "The Duel" in which the writer depicts two characters who came from the West to conquer New York. The vocabulary of boxing (right-hander, uppercut), as well as other professional terms found in the story, like ring, to counter, to clinch, etc., help to maintain the atmosphere of a fight, which the story requires.

Professionalisms are used in emotive prose to depict the natural speech of a character. The skilful use of a professional word will show not only the vocation of a character, but also his education, breeding, environment and sometimes even his psychology. That is why, perhaps, a literary device known as speech-characterization is so abundantly used in emotive prose. The use of professionalisms forms the most conspicuous element of this literary device.

An interesting article was published in the Canadian Globe and Mail * in which the author shows how a journalist who mocks at the profession­alisms in the language of municipal planners, which render their speech almost incomprehensible, himself uses words and expressions unintelli­gible to the lay reader, Here is the article,

JOURNALESE

I was glad to read recently how incomprehensible the language of city planners is to newspapermen. I decided to call the author of the ar­ticle and express my appreciation:

"Hello, I'd like to speak to a reporter of yours named Terrance Wills."

"Is he on city side or the night rewrite desk?"

"I'm not sure. Maybe he's at his type-writer."

The operator said something under his breath and then connected me to the third assistant executive city editor. After about 15 minutes of this I was finally able to communicate directly with Mr. Wills:

"That was a great story you did on 'plannerese', sir," I told him. "Where did you get the idea for it?"

"Why, I just went to the morgue one day when there weren't many obits to do and I got a few clippings. Then I talked with the copy-editor and he gave me a 32-point italic headline with an overhanging deck"

"Is that good?"

"Sure it is. Even a cub knows that. Well I wrote a couple of takes and got it in the box just before the deadline for the second night final edition"

"Is that hard to do?" I asked. My head was beginning to ache.

"What? Sure, I guess. Listen, I'd like to discuss this with you fur­ther but I'm on the rewrite desk and my legman is going to be calling in a scoop any minute now. Good-bye."

I sat there with the phone in my hand, thankful that in this complex age the journalists are still preserving simple English.

d) Dialectal words

This group of words is obviously opposed to the other groups of the non-literary English vocabulary and therefore its stylistic, func­tions can be more or less clearly defined. Dialectal words are those which in the process of integration of the English national lan­guage remained beyond its literary boundaries, and their use is gener­ally confined to a definite locality. We exclude here what are called social dialects or even the still looser application of the term as in ex­pressions like poetical dialect or styles as dialects.

With reference to this group there is a confusion of terms, particu­larly between the terms dialectal, slang and vernacular. In order to ascertain the true value and the stylistic functions of dialec­tal words it is necessary to look into their nature. For this purpose a quotation from Cecil Wyld's "A History of Modern Colloquial English" will be to the point.

"The history of a very large part of the vocabulary of the pres­ent-day English dialects is still very obscure, and it is doubtful whether much of it is of any antiquity. So far very little attempt has been made to sift the chaff from the grain in that very vast receptacle of the English Dialect Dictionary, and to decide which elements are really genuine 'corruptions' of words which the yokel has heard from educated speakers, or read, misheard, or misread, and ignorantly altered, and adopted, often with a slightly twisted significance. Probably many hundreds of 'dialect7 words are of this origin, and have no historical value whatever, except inas­much as they illustrate a general principle in the modification of speech. Such words are not, as a rule, characteristic of any Re­gional Dialect, although they may be ascribed to one of these, simply because sojrne collector of dialect forms has happened to hear them in a particular-area. They belong rather to the category of 'mistakes7 which any ignorant speaker may make, and which such persons do make, again and again, in every part of the coun­try." *

We are not concerned here with the historical aspect of dialectal words. For our purpose it wilT suffice to note that there is a definite similarity of functions'la the use of slang, cockney and any other form of non-literary English and that of dialectal words. All these groups when used in emotive prose are meant to characterize the speaker as a person of a certain locality, breeding, education, etc.

There is sometimes a difficulty in distinguishing dialectal words from colloquial words. Some dialectal words have become so familiar in good colloquial or standard colloquial English that they are uni­versally accepted as recognized units of the standard colloquial Eng­lish. To these words belong lass, meaning 'a girl or a beloved girl7 and the corresponding lad, 'a boy or a young man7, daft from the Scottish and the northern dialect, meaning 'of unsound mind, silly7; fash also

Scottish, with the meaning of 'trouble, cares'. Still they have not lost their dialectal associations and therefore are used in literary English with the above-mentioned stylistic function of characterization.

Of quite a different nature are dialectal words which are easily rec­ognized as corruptions of standard English words, although etymological-ly they may have sprung from the peculiarities of certain dialects. The following words may serve as examples: hinny from honey; tittle appar­ently from sister, being a childish corruption of the word; cutty meaning a 'testy or naughty girl or woman7.

Most of the examples so far quoted come from the Scottish and the northern dialects. This is explained by the fact that Scotland has strug­gled to retain the peculiarities of her language. Therefore many of the words fixed in dictionaries as dialectal are of Scottish origin.

Among other dialects used for stylistic purposes in literature is the southern dialect (in particular that of Somersetshire). This dialect has a phonetic peculiarity that distinguishes it from other dialects, viz. initial [si and [f] are voiced, and are written in the direct speech of char­acters as [z] and M, for example: 'volk7 (folk), 'vound7 (found), 'zee7 (see), 'zinking7 (sinking). To show how the truly dialectal words are intermingled with all kinds of improprieties of speech, it will be enough to quote the following excerpt from Galsworthy's "A Bit of Love."

"Mrs. Burlacomble: Zurelyl I give 4m a nummit afore 'e gets up; an' "e 'as 'is brekjus regular at nine. Must feed un up. He'm on 'is feet all day, goin7 to zee folk that widden want to zee an an­gel, they'т that busy; art when 'e comes in 'e 'II play 'is flute there. He'm wastin' away for want of 'is wife. That's what'tis. On' 'im so zweet-spoken, tu, 'tis a pleasure to year 'im—Never zays a word!"

Dialectal words are only to be found in the style of emotive prose, very rarely in other styles. And even here their use is confined to the function of characterizing personalities through their speech. Perhaps it would not be a false supposition to suggest that if-it were not for the use of the dialectal words in emotive prose they would have already disappeared entirely from the English language. The unifying tendency of the literary language is so strong that language elements used only in dialect are doomed to vanish, except, perhaps, those which, because of their vigour and beauty, have withstood the integrating power of the written language.

Writers who use dialectal words for the purpose of characterizing the speech of a person in a piece of emotive prose or drama, introduce them into the word texture in different ways. Some writers make an unrestrained use of dialectal words and also slang, jargonisms and pro­fessionalisms, not only in characterization, but also in their narrative. They mistake units of language which have not yet established them­selves in standard English for the most striking features of modern English. An over-abundance of words and phrases of what we call non-literary English not only makes the reading difficult, but actually contaminates the generally accepted norms of the English language.

Other writers use dialectal words sparingly, introducing only units which are understandable to the intelligent English reader, or they make use of units which they think will enrich the standard English vocabulary. Among words which are easily understood by the average Englishman are: maister, weel, eneugh, laird, naething and the like, characteristic of Scottish.

Dialectal words, unlike professionalisms, are confined in their use to a definite locality and most of the words deal, as H. C. Wyld points out, with the everyday life of the country.

"Such words will for the most part be of a more or less techni­cal character, and connected with agriculture, horses, cattle and sport," i



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