invariant "be"

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Tue Jun 5 14:41:30 UTC 2012

You-uns knew that you were doomed to receive this stuff, regardless of
whether there was a clamor for it or not.  Anyway, the clamor of one is
enough, if it comes from Wilson.

     "*Honest Thieves*." -- On Sunday morning, whilst the prisoners brought
up by the watch were under examination, a yellow woman presented herself at
the police office and demanded entrance.  A stiff contest ensued between
her and the watchman attending the door, he refusing and she insisting on
admittance; that she come there [sic] to get justice done her.  She finally
entered, came up in high style before the justice, and proceeded with her
complaint as follows: "Justice, I be a very disorderly woman, I get drunk,
fight, and raise hell; am not long out of Bridewell, and wants to go back.  I
be not fit to be out of prison -- I ought now to be sent to penitentiary.  I
want you to send me there."  It being well known that her complaint was
substantially true, her demand of justice was complied with as to
commitment, and she went off highly gratified, bearing her mittimus for

     National Advocate, September 29, 1818, p. 2, col. 2, from the Columbian

I see that DARE has this from an 1829 novel by a New Hampshire woman.  If I
interpret the entry right, the speaker in the novel whose words are quoted
is black.  Also earlier, from Noah Webster's Dictionary, as a rural and
obsolete usage.

But my item is free-range, neither from a dictionary or from fiction.



On Mon, Jun 4, 2012 at 10:36 PM, Wilson Gray <hwgray at> wrote:

> On Mon, Jun 4, 2012 at 6:30 PM, George Thompson <gt1 at> wrote:
> > How early is invariant "be" in AAVE documented?
> >
> I don't know, George. Hiw early is it documented?:-)
> > Or, is an instance from 1818 of interest?
> On a serious tip, though, I'd certainly be interested in seeing it.
> --
> -Wilson
> -----
> 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 -

George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern
Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much since then.

The American Dialect Society -

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