Re: RARA-AVIS: Slang

From: Mario Taboada (
Date: 20 Jun 2003

<<What is Southern if not slang?>>

Linguistically, a dialect is a language (a full language spoken by a given population, such as Southern, American Black English, Jamaican or Cockney).

Slang is usually a jargon of smaller groups, be they racial, professional (cops, crooks and thugs in crime fiction). Slang functions *within* the dialect. A person can speak Southern without using slang.

As to "standard English", such a concept is dubious and the idea of it very new (it originates in 15th century Spain, with the publication of Nebrija's Grammar). The vast majority of the population of the world is not standardized in this way, though the age of show tends to roll over everything, and standardization is one of its goals.

I do agree with you that slang can sound authentic when it is properly applied. It is a valid literary device. I was talking about *abuse of slang*, when the device becomes too visible and intrudes. In Chandler, piled-up slang is in conflict with the narrative voice, which is obviously that of a refined person. If you catch the author "slumming" though his narrative voice, his credibility diminishes.

I have never been bothered, or even noticed much, the dialect spoken by Faulkner's people. The whole (story, narrative voice, milieu, dialogue) works harmoniously.



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