Heard on The Judges: "tell [NP] say"

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Mon Nov 1 08:04:37 UTC 2010

Fifty-ish, white male speaker from East Texas:

"Even people in [the local Catholic] church told me _says_[sic],
"John, she [his best friend's new wife] gon' be trouble for you."

_Tell [NP] say_ is usually perceived as a feature of black speech
(this perception absolutely conforms to reality in the case of the
speech of my grandparents, my parents, and, to a moderate extent, the
speech of my brothers I don't use it, of course, having made a
conscious effort to erase this structure from my own speech) and this
is the first time that I've ever heard it used by a white person that
I can recall.

I mention that he was a Catholic, since that a white Texan named "John
Fuller" should be a Catholic and not a Baptist is unexpected bordering
on amazing. indeed, I'm even surprised that the animated-cartoon
character, Hank Hill, is a Methodist. I note "says" because, in my
family, at least, only "say" was ever used.

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.
–Mark Twain

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

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