Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Oh, thou yeasty knotty-pated moldwarp!

"Oh, thou yeasty knotty-pated moldwarp! Come hither that I might foul thy ruttish whey-face!" - Act 3, Scene IV, Morello.

Shakespeare clearly knew Elizabethan English well and could hurl insults with artful vocabulary which, today, is fairly obscure. Nonetheless, the sound of it shouts mastery.

Words like 'pribbling' and 'qualling' drip with feistiness as do 'lumpish' and 'gorbellied.' When Shakespeare needed just the right word for his character to say, he invented it. Some have stuck, others not. 'Lumpish' did, but lo, not the other three.

Language is nicely malleable, although for the tight-assed purists, it remains frozen in time. Frozen, one might note, in irregularity and daftness. Take the phrase, "If you was going..." To most, it cringes the ear like ill-angled chalk upon the blackboard. Yet, in Shakespeare's time, that phrase was commonly used. It, in fact, follows the rules of grammar perfectly. 'You' in the above phrase is singular as is 'was.' Thus when 'you' and 'were' are joined, the 'rule' is broken.

How about the following: "I'm sloppy, are I not?" 'Are' is plural while 'I' is singular. Quite right and clearly a grammatical error. Except that it is perfectly 'right' to say, "I'm sloppy, aren't I?"

Rules or commonly-held colloquialisms. Which is correct? Or does 'correctness' lie in one's common use of the language? Here in northern Ohio we often drop the preposition 'to' in spoken English. My mother would commonly ask me to "go the store" for her. 'Can' rather than 'will' as well as 'might' rather than 'may' are two other colloquial norms here. 'Greasy' is pronounced with an 's' sound here, but 50 miles south, near Lima,Ohio, it is a 'z' sound.

"It's your turn to do the dishes." How does one 'do' dishes? Residents of the city, Toledo, most often say the name with two schwa sounds for the o's and a long vowel sound of the 'e,' rendering something like Tuh-lee-dah. We sweep the dirt with a broom or we 'va-kume' it up. Apparently the word 'vacuum' both a noun and verb but 'broom' is only a noun. Here we use buckets of water rather than pails and we fry eggs in pans, not skillets. We sound the 'e' in eggs 'eh' rather than 'ag.' We do not distinguish the sound of 'Mary,' 'marry,' and 'merry,' but there is a clear difference between are and hour. We note the silent 'g' in singer but often slide over the articulated 'g' in finger. For breakfast we drink orn-jews, enough is commonly, ah-nuf and Tuesday is tooz dee.

Anuf of this.

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