Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.
- Napoleon

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Slang and Other Fun Things

Yesterday my daughter and I were having a discussion about the English language. I don't remember how it started (Don't the best conversations happen that way?) but we talked about various dialects in American and around the world, then we talked about different words having different meanings in different places. Like how 'boot' means trunk in the UK, and cookies are biscuits.

During our little discussions, I like to use the internet to highlight my point or underscore the issue. As we talked, I went in search of things to illustrate how English differs. The first place I found had a quiz you can take to find out what kind of accent you have. (It says my accent is 'Inland North', and my daughter's accent is 'The Midland'. Go figger.) The next was a site that had sound files of people with different accents saying the same words, but I can't find the link this morning. :grumble: stupid internet :grumble: Then we found this Wikipedia article on different dialects of the English language. Interesting stuff.

After that, the conversation morphed to a discussion of the various words people use in different places, and how they use them. For instance in the Upper Peninsula, the people speak something called 'Yooper', which is more or less English (but different). For instance, they use 'da' for 'the' and 'ya' for 'yes'. An example would be a saying they had up there when I was living in the area: "Say ya to da U.P., eh?"

Or when I lived in the south (Tallahassee isn't really Florida, it's more like Georgie-lite). A frequently used term over there was 'all y'all'. Y'all can mean a single person or a a non-specific group, but 'all y'all' generally means 'all of you'.

"Y'all can stay, but all y'all have to get the hell out of here." Or something like that.

Anyway, we were still talking and we moved from the regional dialects to the actual use of slang in different parts of the world. An example of this would be the word 'fag' which means cigarette in the UK, but is a derogatory term for homosexuals in the US. Of course, this part of the discussion lead me to search for a way to illustrate what I was talking about and I found a dictionary of English slang and colloquialisms. (Be warned: Many of the words and phrases found there are for adult eyes only - and not very sensitive eyes at that.)

Anyway, this relates to writing because even though we writers may be confined to a particular region of the English speaking world, we don't have to confine ourselves to only writing in that dialect or using that slang. We also don't have to confine ourselves to out own little region - as long as the characters come out sounding like they're from where we've made them from. It gives us a little more leeway in how we write. So we know that any story about the south can't have characters going down to the store to get a pop, and any story about the British can't have them riding in an elevator or eating french fries.

What are some regional things specific to where you live or have lived? Do you use different dialects and accents in your writing, or do you just find it annoying? If you took the quiz, what's your accent?



Wendy Roberts said...

I guess for me it would be "eh?" since I'm a Canuck LOL!

JenWriter said...

Born and bred southern girl here. I took that quiz awhile back, and I don't remember what I got exactly but it was southern, I know that.

I've noticed a difference between a phrase after living up here in New York.

In Tennessee, we say, "I'm standing IN line."

In NYC, they say, "I'm standing ON line."

Weird, but there it is.