Re: RARA-AVIS: slanguage

Date: 21 Aug 2003


Re your comments below:

> We all know that Hammett used a lot of slang, very
> influential slang
> within the genre (even when misunderstood, as with
> "gunsel"). Could
> this have been a conscious attempt to play up his
> bona fides as a real
> private eye? Did contemporary readers know of his
> Pinkerton past? Did
> Shaw and others point this out in editorial comments
> or authors' intros?

According to William F. Nolan, he did. In fact, he played up the authentic backgrounds of several of his writers (Gardner's having been a criminal lawyer; Nels Jorgensen having been a NJ state trooper; George Harmon Coxe having been a journalist; etc).

> If so, couldn't Hammet's extensive use of obscure
> criminal argot have
> been an overt and self-conscious sign of the
> supposed authenticity of
> his stories?

Just because it was authentic doesn't mean it had to've been self-conscious. I think it's more likely to've been his natural use of the language that the environment in which he traveled made him familiar with.


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