Tag Archives: slang

Zora Neale Hurston’s use of language

“You know if you pass some people and don’t speak tuh suit ’em dey got to go way back in yo’ life and see whut you ever done. They know mo’ ’bout yuh than you do’ yo’ self. An envious heart makes a treacherous ear. They done “hear” ’bout you just what they hope done happened.”

Neale Hurston, Zora. Their eyes were watching God. Harper Perennial Modern Classics Edition, 2006. p5.

I think it’s interesting to see how the saying is written with no grammatical/spelling errors and included in a dialogue that reproduces a slangy language. I think it somehow reflects the constant shift between slangy dialogues and well written prose.

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.

Whose Body?

“After she’ad put Mrs.Thipps to bed, she’ad slipped out to go to the Plumber’s and Glaziers’ Ball at the “Black Faced Ram” Mr.Williams ‘ad met ‘er and brought ‘er back. E’could testify to where she’s been and that there wasn’t no ‘arm in it.”

Sayers, Dorothy. Whose Body? 1923. Reprint, New York, Dover, 2009, p66.

The use of a more slangy language, or at least not proper English, differs here from the one in Melanchta. It is too used to give speech to a person of a lower class, a domestic, as in Melanchta it is used for people considered, at the time, as lesser. But it is used mostly for humor, and do not aim at disturb our comprehension of the plot as it confusing in Melanchta. It is rather use to accentuate and caricature in a humorous way the features of ther personality as it quickly gives us an impression of Grace Horrocks ‘s character, a rather excitable, simple domestic.  The way her deposition -no proper dialogue features and it is one continuous speech- is transposed just shows that she is not that important.