invariant "be"

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Tue Jun 5 15:32:23 UTC 2012

I suspect Wilson will soon tell us that "Bridewell" would not be in
the vernacular of an African-American woman  in 1818.  (But unlike
Monk I may be wrong.)  I trust that does not also cast doubt on
whether she would also have said "I be"!

In passing, Google News finds the same in The Republican Compiler of
Oct. 14, 1818 -- an unnumbered verso page, col. 5.

The "1829 novel by a New Hampshire woman" puzzles me.  Later than the
newspaper appearances?  Wouldn't it have been more likely that the
newspapers cribbed from a current book?  Does George know the title
or author of this novel, and was there an edition circa 1818?


At 6/5/2012 10:41 AM, George Thompson wrote:
>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.

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list