Heard on The Judges: BE "nary a"

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Thu Apr 9 17:56:47 UTC 2009

Forty-seven-year-old, black male speaker:

"I didn't say I was gon' pay nothin'! I ain't offered _nary a_ [n&~@~] dime!"

This, of course, is nothing new. My grandparents used it and it's very
old - centuries old, in fact, as everyone knows - and widely used, in
various phonetic realizations, among Southern whites as well as
universally among black speakers.

The only thing that I have to say that may be interesting is that I've
came across "nan" used by a black writer in an attempt to reproduce
the usual BE pronunciation. Also, _nary a one_ has replaced "none"  in
the BE of my birthplace. Don't nobody say, "I ain't got none [n^n]."
It's always "I ain't got nary a one _[n&~@~n]_." Well, sometimes,
people be saying "... [n&~ w^n]." "I don't have no more" is "I ain't
got nary 'nother one _[n&~@~ n^dn]_."

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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