Tag Archives: detective

Slang and tone

“I wonder what he did with himself,” said Lord Peter thoughtfully. “I really don’t think he was committing a murder. Besides, I believe the fellow has been dead a day or two, though it don’t do to build too much on doctors’ evidence. It’s an entertainin’ little problem.” (27)

(Sayers, Dorothy. Whose Body? 1923. Reprint, New York: Dover, 2009.)

I find the different ways that Lord Peter speaks to people very interesting. With some he adopts a slang of sorts and in others he is far more formal. Oddly, this is not something I notice in most other characters. While it is normal for most of us, it seems that often characters  in other texts are very similar in their interactions with all people.

Wimsey the Obvious

“The deuce you have–what an energetic devil you are! I say, Parker, I think this co-operative scheme is is an uncommonly good one. It’s much easier to work on someone else’s job than one’s own–gives one that delightful feelin’ of interferin’ and bossin’ about, combined with the glorious sensation that another fellow is takin’ all one’s own work off one’s hands. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours, what? Did you find anything?” (Sayers 29).

Sayers, Dorothy. Whose Body? 1923. Reprint, New York: Dover, 2009.

This passage contains many examples of Wimsey’s dialect, characterized by unfinished present progressive verbs and the act of spouting out all of his ideas as they come into his head. This type of dialogue is different from both Stein’s “Melanctha” and Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. For example, Wimsey’s dialect differs from that of Melanctha because it is rather common or believable, while Melanctha’s dialect is skewed to fit into Stein’s own writing style. Rather that structuring sentences in strange ways like Stein, Sayers merely uses dialects of voice or accents. Furthermore, Whose Body? clearly lacks the free-indirect discourse of a modern novel like Joyce’s and focuses more on direct reported discourse. Because of this, Wimsey’s thoughts come to the reader clearly and easily, unlike Joyce’s style of vague and “infected” narration in which the reader is unsure of whose thoughts he receives.