Re: RARA-AVIS: Wooden S/h/i/p/s/ Language

From: Jim Beaver (
Date: 01 Mar 2001

Bill Bowers wrote:
> Not limited to Hammett specifically, but as a result of my having read so
> much of the 30s/40s mystery canon in one fell swoop, a query on what -- to
> me -- appeared to be particularly "wooden" usage:
> Characters are (virtually) always referred to as having "lighted a
> I, far too long an addict, always comes up short when I encounter that:
> instinctively, want to substitute what I would say: That I (or he/she)
> would light, or had "lit" a cigarette.... Perhaps it's only a result of
> having spent the majority of my "English" classes reading, rather than
> diagramming -- but the older version just grates on me....

Funny, this is the kind of thing that I like about the older crime books, a sense that the elegance of the English language still had some life in it back then, even for the characters in the lower strata. And with Chandler, it is also a little endearing, a bit of Dulwich glimpsed down a mean street.

I would find it (mildly) distracting in a Crumley or a Parker, but not in something from Chandler's era.

Jim Beaver

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