Speaking of English

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DrPGould
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Post by DrPGould » November 17th, 2017, 1:30 pm

Hello everyone.

This topic is an outgrowth of several conversations with various Librivoxers about the infinite variety and flexibility of the English language in all its dialects. Anything and everything is welcome here...wild words from a word menagerie that need a place to be exercised, differences in word usages and pronunciations depending on which part of the world one is in and what English dialect one is using, even PUNS (fair warning).

I look forward to seeing the rivulets and torrents of the discussions to come.

Many thanks to all,

Philip

barbara2
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Post by barbara2 » November 17th, 2017, 6:45 pm

On p. 146 of H. L. Mencken's "The American Language" (publ. 1919) I was shaken to come across:

"Facing the alternative of employing the unwieldy "am I not in this?" the American turns boldly to "ain't I in this?" It still grates a bit, perhaps, but aren't grates even more. Here, as always, the popular speech is pulling the exacter speech along, and no one familiar with its successes in the past can have much doubt that it will succeed again, soon or late."

From this linguistic distance, I think Mencken got that wrong.

Incidentally, Patrick O'Brian has his well-born Jack Aubrey use ain't: "'It is a chelengk,' said Jack with some complacency. 'Ain't I elegant?' and Dorothy Sayers had Peter Wimsey use 'ain't' - "Beastly nuisance, ain't it?" I supposed saying 'ain't' was a lingering custom among, or an affectation of, the British upper-classes. It was unpopular speech in Britain.

Just a thought,

Barbara

mightyfelix
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Post by mightyfelix » November 19th, 2017, 5:31 pm

I came across this article the other day that I thought was fascinating. It talks about the evolution of English from Old English to modern and why we spell the way we do.

http://www.dictionary.com/e/printing-press-frozen-spelling/
Devorah Allen

Feminism: The Future of the Women's Movement
Journal of Francis Asbury, traveling preacher in America 1771-1815
Four-act play: If I Had a Father by George MacDonald. One teensy role left! Try your hand at a dramatic reading!

barbara2
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Post by barbara2 » November 19th, 2017, 6:45 pm

mightyfelix wrote:I came across this article the other day that I thought was fascinating. It talks about the evolution of English from Old English to modern and why we spell the way we do.

http://www.dictionary.com/e/printing-press-frozen-spelling/
Thank you. Now I know who we ort to blame - Caxton!

Best,

Barbara

lurcherlover
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Post by lurcherlover » November 20th, 2017, 5:33 am

Well, I don't think "ain't" however you spell it, was or is, used by upper class people - more like lower classes!

A pupil of my wive's phoned once (about 15 years ago) and said to me "I ain't got no school today" - which was a typical London accent. I shouted the same up to my wife, and the young lady didn't realise I was taking the "P" It's been a joke ever since.

Working as a temp in an office once, (about 20 years ago) I was described as having a "posh" accent - but I'm really working class - so I don't know how or why they thought that.

English is quite hard, in England - we have towns called Leicester - pronounced LESTER! Also Bicester - which i once asked the way to - calling it BYSESTER. It's pronounced "BISTER."

As for Scottish, I can't understand a bl**dy word! Irish is more or less OK. I love Cornish, and Devon, and Dorset (Pronounced DARSET).

Peter (with a London accent - even a posh one I'm told ...)

annise
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Post by annise » November 20th, 2017, 6:24 am

As I've come across ain't used in novels by uperclass fops I looked up wikipedia I queried your staement about ain't being "common"
Historically, this was not the case. For most of its history, ain't was acceptable across many social and regional contexts. Throughout the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, ain't and its predecessors were part of normal usage for both educated and uneducated English speakers, and was found in the correspondence and fiction of, among others, Jonathan Swift, Lord Byron, Henry Fielding, and George Eliot.[26] For Victorian English novelists William Makepeace Thackeray and Anthony Trollope, the educated and upper classes in 19th century England could use ain't freely, but in familiar speech only.[27] Ain't continued to be used without restraint by many upper middle class speakers in southern England into the beginning of the 20th century.[28][29]
Anne
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lurcherlover
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Post by lurcherlover » November 20th, 2017, 7:52 am

"Ain't continued to be used without restraint by many upper middle class speakers in southern England into the beginning of the 20th century."

But not since!

Peter Why
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Post by Peter Why » November 20th, 2017, 9:45 am

A recent relation of "ain't" happily doesn't seem quite so popular now as it was ten years ago or so: INI-glottal stop ..... "isn't it?" .... as a general punctuation mark in speech.

Peter
"Anyone who believes that exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist." Kenneth Boulding, 1973

barbara2
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Post by barbara2 » November 23rd, 2017, 11:09 pm

A complex article about complex sentences - "The Rise and Fall of the English Sentence":

http://nautil.us/issue/54/the-unspoken/the-rise-and-fall-of-the-english-sentence


Some snippets:
"Languages with very simple sentence structure are, for the most part, oral languages."

"The development of intricate sentences in modern European languages has unfolded slowly."

" Writers generally elaborate their ideas more explicitly through syntax whereas speakers leave more material implicit."

"...heavily recursive sentences like those found in the Declaration of Independence have already been dwindling in written English (as well as in German) for some time. "


Best,

Barbara

SonOfTheExiles
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Post by SonOfTheExiles » November 23rd, 2017, 11:22 pm

"heavily recursive sentences like those found in the Declaration of Independence have already been dwindling in written English (as well as in German) for some time."

One can't help wondering whether this has anything to do with the vanishing ability to diagram a sentence.


Cheers,
Chris
"Sorry, my tongue got in the way of my eye-tooth, and I couldn't see what I was saying..."
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PatrickLondon
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Post by PatrickLondon » November 24th, 2017, 3:21 am

SonOfTheExiles wrote:"heavily recursive sentences like those found in the Declaration of Independence have already been dwindling in written English (as well as in German) for some time."

One can't help wondering whether this has anything to do with the vanishing ability to diagram a sentence.
Certainly some degree of that. My old grammar school education included quite a bit of "parsing" in English as well as Latin. But I would also point to the general increase in the speed of life, volume of text chucked at us all every day, the drive towards plain/simplified/basic English in the electronic media, and so on.
"Too literate to be spam" - another forum moderator on one of my posts! | http://www.autolycus-london.blogspot.com

barbara2
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Post by barbara2 » November 24th, 2017, 5:06 am

A clever and good-humoured look at the English language (British dialect), available as podcasts:

Word of Mouth
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qtnz/episodes/downloads


On the subject of Britishness, when I was idly reseaching the actor Christian Bale on YouTube yesterday, I was charmed to hear a fan exclaim "although he was born in Wales, he is actually British!".

So much for the Men of Harlech.

Barbara

mightyfelix
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Post by mightyfelix » November 29th, 2017, 6:15 pm

PatrickLondon wrote:But I would also point to the general increase in the speed of life, volume of text chucked at us all every day, the drive towards plain/simplified/basic English in the electronic media, and so on.
But is that the chicken, or is it the egg?
Devorah Allen

Feminism: The Future of the Women's Movement
Journal of Francis Asbury, traveling preacher in America 1771-1815
Four-act play: If I Had a Father by George MacDonald. One teensy role left! Try your hand at a dramatic reading!

SonOfTheExiles
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Post by SonOfTheExiles » November 29th, 2017, 6:25 pm

Not even Einstein was game to tackle chicken-egg duality.
"Sorry, my tongue got in the way of my eye-tooth, and I couldn't see what I was saying..."
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barbara2
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Post by barbara2 » December 4th, 2017, 3:13 pm

American Librivoxers might already be acquainted with the oeuvre of Mr Lederer. I just now came across him and his Verbivore site.

To whet your appetite, samples from his collection of malapropisms
http://verbivore.com/wordpress/the-ghost-of-mrs-malaprop-haunts-our-vocabulary/


• If you wish to submit a recipe for publication in the cookbook, please include a short antidote concerning it.
• The mountain is named for the Reverend Starr King, who was an invertebrate climber.
• Senators are chosen as committee chairmen on the basis of senility.


Got any more?

Best,

Barbara

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