Monday, October 12, 2009

What were they thinkin'?

“Stuff kept dropping,” the Tigers’ leftfielder said. “It was hittin’ me. I was wonderin’ what the hell it was. Sure enough, the roof was leaking.”

He really does? He alternates his -n and his -ng like that? And your sports columnist is quick enough to catch him? (And no, he doesn't just keep the "g" at the end of clauses; here's the same outfielder later in the piece: "
I just kept hoping it’d come out.")

Let's review those Rules of Writin' Dialect again:
1) Don't try to write in dialect unless your ear is really good
2) It isn't
3) Even if you're a columnist



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9:08 AM, October 12, 2009  
Blogger John Cowan said...

Since the loss of the old clear distinction between -ing in verbal nouns (gerunds) and -in in participles in the standard dialect, the distinction takes many forms in many dialects. Some keep strictly to the old rules, and consistently say hittin and droppin, but never weddin. Others extend "g-dropping" to words which are neithe gerunds nor participles but simply happen to end in unstressed -in(g), such as mornin or nothin.

Among native New York and Philadelphia whites, the distinction is known to be probabilistic: you cannot tell in advance whether a particular utterance will use ing or in, but ng will be the more likely the higher in class the speaker is, but also the more likely the more formal the situation is: lower-class speakers "upgrade" their speech to resemble higher-class norms in formal situations.

As far as the evidence goes here, which isn't very far, I'd guess that this guy says in before a following consonant and ing otherwise. I've never heard of that pattern before, but it doesn't seem implausible.

Whether the writer should have bothered to represent this in writing is a different question, of course.

12:26 PM, October 12, 2009  

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