VS in dialog

Jim Parish jparish at SIUE.EDU
Sun Jan 6 03:24:30 UTC 2008

A Swedish acquaintance is wondering about the use of a certain
construction in English.

He notes that both of the following constructions appear in English
"'That's my car', said the Dutchman."
"'That's my car', the Dutchman said."
but has the impression that the former ("reversed-style") is more
common in older texts, while the latter ("regular-style") is dominant in
more recent works. [He's concerned specifically about "X said" vs. "said
X".] He asks, then, the following questions:

"a) is it strange-sounding or pretentious to use reversed-style dialogue
markers, that is, something frowned upon in modern English? (Read:
Don't do it.)

b) does it carry some sort of archaic feel, which arguably could be used
in my story (that is, my Natives use the reversed form and the
Newcomers the other), or would it just be confusing or seem as a rip-off
of someone already having done exactly that as an
informational/emotional carrier?

c) are there geographical differences related to this practice?

d) or am I completely missing the point?"

I have my own intuitions, but no solid data. Does anyone onlist have
useful comments?

Jim Parish

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

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