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13 August 2009 @ 04:24 pm
Narrative and Spoken Dialect  
I'm reading Kathy Reichs' Break No Bones at the gym, which is one of the Temperance Brennan novels. It's surprising how unlike the TV Bones the book character is—she's older, was married for 20 years and is now divorced, has an adult daughter, and while fiesty also has a boyfriend and actual people skills. The TV "Bones," by contrast, has an almost Asperger-like personality more than just a highly analytical personality. She doesn't seem to understand the psychology of social interaction, at least not when she's personally "in the moment," which makes her character pricklier, funnier, and possibly more interesting.

Reichs claims that her character grew up in the South, but there's no hint of that in the narrative. There are a few word choices that sound more British than anything to me (I actually Googled Reichs to see if she was Canadian, after hitting mobile (cell phone), queuing up, and "the bit that"). While some of the secondary characters sound "local," the narrator doesn't. Reichs apparently grew up in Chicago, and that fits with her character better. It's puzzling.

By contrast, I read a mostly dreadful mystery (one of my mother's hand-me-down books) by JoAnn Ross a few weeks back where the setting and narrative were rich in Southern atmosphere (set in Louisianna). Unfortunately, it was hard to focus on the plot because the author kept unexpectedly veering off into porn. Apparently she usually works in a different genre, to judge from the bare-chested men on the covers of her other books. :0

Written dialect is often easier to read in word choices than when the writer attempts to reflect the sound of the language itself. Reading Dorothy's dialogue in the Wizard of Oz is excruciating (it's full of apostrophes for the dropped endings). Spoken dialect, via pronunciation, is wonderfully regional, but hard to handle well in writing.

Begin tangent: Years ago, when I worked as a radio announcer, the station received some hate male regarding my "pretentious vocal style." The letter was from a foreign language professor at the local university who, in a fantastic turn of irony, was apparently unfamiliar with the concept of regional dialects.

"'Noon' and 'moon' do not rhyme," she claimed. "Nor do 'warm' and 'farm'."

But where I come from, they DO. 'Noon' is not pronounced 'newn' where I grew up, and 'warm' is not pronounced 'woarm.' My mother, who grew up in the Willamette Valley, has the same dialect I do except for unreliable words like "creek" (her mother was from Indiana, and it creeps in from time-to-time).

While on vacation a few weeks back, my Dad played us recordings of some casual interviews with his father. My Dad grew up in Utah, and we're familiar with his 'LAW-yer' (for lawyer, and it often sounds like "liar") and 'thee-AY-ter' (for theater) quirks. His own father grew up in Arizona, later moved to Wyoming for awhile and then spent the bulk of his life in Utah. This doesn't begin to explain the following:

My grandfather was discussing how he came to join the Republican Party. I couldn't quite get a bead on how he was pronouncing 'Republican'—it was somewhere between 'ree-POO-bli-can' and 'ree-PYEW-bli-can'—but he was definitely saying 'porty' instead of party. WHAT ON EARTH? It's not as if the rest of his pronunciation was unusual, and he grew up in Tombstone and not some rarely-visited corner of the desert. Who taught him that?

Maybe it's like my Dad, and the way he says 'breakferst' instead of breakfast?!? Though I sometimes think that might be from conflating his Welsh-speaking mother's "brechwerst" with "breakfast." :0

IDK, my BFF Jared Leto?gekizetsu on August 14th, 2009 12:35 am (UTC)
I love the book but not the show because of how Tempe is written, and you laid out the differences nicely.

As far as dialect, my dad is famous for 'crik' and 'OreGON' and all sorts of things from his upstate NY upbringing, and he hasn't actually lived there for nigh-on 30 years. XD
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 14th, 2009 12:49 am (UTC)
I'm enjoying the book a lot, especially because I don't have to look at sloughing flesh or maggots or other grossness (I can't watch the CSI shows at all). I like both versions of Bones, but the one on the show sometimes frustrates me with her aggressive cluelessness in social interactions (lecturing a priest/bishop/whatever-he-was on why God is a mythical creation. I mean, I come from the same viewpoint she does, but that's something that should mostly stay in your head and not come out your mouth!)

Do you pronounce "noon" and "warm" the same way I do, or are they different for you?

I know the only slangs the Pac NW has are "pop" (shared by lots of other parts of the U.S.) and "spendy." I only discovered about 15 years ago that "spendy" was regional slang. During a business meeting. :0

Language specialists used to say that children tended to speak as their mothers did (back in the days when mothers stayed home, I suppose). I had a friend who grew up in Eugene and a professor who grew up in Portland who both pronounced 'been' as beeeen instead of 'bin.' The Eugene friend's mother was from Philadelphia (which explains her situation), but the professor? I have no idea where his mother was from, and I'm not sure it was in the U.S. He also used to say 'shedule.' :0
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The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 14th, 2009 01:23 am (UTC)
I lived in Illinois (Peoria) for three years, and people there thought I was from a foreign country. :0

I know that Illinois natives say "shi-KA(w)H-go" (the 'a' is really flat), but how do pronounce Ohio EXCEPT for the way you say it?!? "Oh-HAY-oh"?

Since my husband's from California, I've noticed that the locals here tend to pronounce "Cal" with an 'l' so soft that you can hardly hear it. So when my husband refers to his alma mater, UC Berkely, it sounds as if he's saying he went to "Cow" instead. :0
never trust a big butt and a smileobeetaybee on August 17th, 2009 12:27 am (UTC)
I finished her novel Devil Bones over vacation and in the back of it there was a Q & A with her about Novel!Temperance and television!Temperence. According to the interview, she considers the television show Tempe the prequel to the books. It reminded me why I stopped reading the books in the first place. I have a hard time reconciling the two because I'm such a Booth/Brennan shipper.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 19th, 2009 06:30 am (UTC)
The book-Tempe and TV-Tempe just seem like utterly different people to me. They have the same talents and profession, but that's about it. Even Bones' foster-care past isn't in the books. There's an issue with Tempe and her sister going to live with a grandmother because of parental problems/death, but that's not the remotely the same as the revolving-door foster-care experience Bones so vividly described in one of the TV episodes.

I only really ship slash pairings, and even then not always. But I really like Booth and Brennan together, and I was kind of irked when she took up with "dimestore-Booth," which is to say that Sully guy who vaguely resembled Booth (but less good-looking) and had a really similar past. Stop sublimating-- go for the real thing!

Whereas the people they've paired Angela up with have actively kind of bugged me. Except for the single-episode whirlwind wedding guy she wanted to divorce. Good lord, the charm and handsomeness!