Heard on The Judges: "tell NP said"

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Thu May 8 15:31:27 UTC 2008

Everybody who cares knows about the BE (and general SE, judging by
Comedy Central's good ol' boy comics) "tell NP said" construction.

A fancy version spoken by a sixty-ish black woman:

"He _had a conversation with me said_ he would get a credit card for me ..."

In various readings, I've come across the eye-dialect BE "becase" and
I've wondered what it was meant to represent. This same woman used a
pronunciation that sounded to me like [bikez] alternating with,
perhaps, [bikEz]. She also pronounced "power" as [pauv@] alternating
with [pauw@], i.e. [-auv@] alternating with usual (but becoming ever
less so - a casualty of desegregation, no doubt - with [au] being
replaced by sE [aeu]) [-auw@]. I've heard this kind of pronunciation
used by Louis Armstrong, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, etc., in
singing, but this is first time that I can recall hearing it in
ordinary speech.

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die"---a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
 -Sam'l Clemens

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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