[Ads-l] Announcement: Civil War linguistics

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Wed Oct 4 22:00:42 UTC 2017

Good reading! I almost got homesick from seeing forms like _taken_ for
_took_, “He sounds/talks like he’s got a mouth full/mouthful of _cush_!”
(never seen it written out, heard it a million times; Andy Griffith’s “a
_mouth'ul_” suggests _mouthful_ ) = “His speech is inarticulate”; the
spelling, _eye dea_, with stress on “eye,” matching the pronunciation;
“cracker  noun  A thin, hard biscuit,” a friend from Ipswich, England,
called crackers “biscuits” and cookies “sweet biscuits”; “_strong_ bacon
and wormy crackers”, wherein _strong_ = “having an offensive odor” (cf.
DARE); _for to_.

“hog jaw … noun  variant form of hog jowl” I’ve long wondered whether BE
_jaw_ “cheek” (when I was a child, why jawbreakers were called
“jawbreakers” was a complete mystery; “chinbreaker” would have been clear.)
< _jowl_. In my idiolect, _jowl_ rhymes with “owl” and _jaw_ rhymes with
“awe.” So, no. But, also clearly, there apparently were and, perhaps, still
are many people for whom “jaw” and “jowl” have the same vowel.

“hog meat_: pork; a bullying term for a fat person”; _light bread_: common
in Texas; a line from a ’50’s R&B song: “They had milk and _light bread_,
but didn’t have no meat.” “liver and lights_  … ; lights refers
specifically to the lungs”: exactly!; _scrapple_: good eats; a Charlie
Parker tune: “_Scrapple_ from the Apple.”

On Wed, Oct 4, 2017 at 10:07 AM Stephen Goranson <goranson at duke.edu> wrote:

> Thanks!
> Still (here) no Dixie-meaning-South before 1859.
> Stephen
> http://people.duke.edu/~goranson/
> ________________________________
> From: American Dialect Society <...> on behalf of Jonathan Lighter <...>
> Sent: Wednesday, October 4, 2017 9:50 AM
> To: ...
> Subject: [ADS-L] Announcement: Civil War linguistics
> Michael Montgomery has asked me to bring the following press release to
> your attention. Since it's a website and not a book, you can go there right
> now!
> A very significant achievement:
> *****
> New Online Database Offers Insights Into the Language and Experiences of
> the Civil War's Common Soldiers
> For all the thousands of books about the American Civil War, the hearts and
> minds of the conflict's common soldiers have remained elusive. To a large
> degree this is because historical archives are filled with war-time
> materials from prosperous and professional families. During the conflict
> officers had more time to write. Subsequently their descendants have
> donated their ancestors’ papers to libraries and archives. The result is
> that we know a lot more about the generals than the privates.
> To help overcome this problem, linguists Michael Ellis (Missouri State
> University) and Michael Montgomery (University of South Carolina), along
> with historian Stephen Berry (University of Georgia), have created a new
> archive online (dubbed “Private Voices”) devoted to the letters of Civil
> War soldiers who wrote “by ear,” meaning they were untrained in spelling,
> punctuation, or the use of capital letters. Raised in an oral culture,
> these “transitionally literate” soldiers had little or no formal education
> and were apt to write ‘amongst’ as ‘amunxt’ because they were unfamiliar
> with the written form of the word. In the process, such letters sometimes
> captured not only the thoughts of soldiers but also their speech patterns
> or even their actual pronunciation—as when one soldier spelled ‘chair’ as
> ‘cheer.’ Linguists usually work backward from recordings to explore earlier
> qualities of speech, but Ellis and Montgomery realized that these letters
> from privates opened up an entirely new avenue that pushed back to a time
> before sound recordings existed.
> The question was whether many such letters still existed. Montgomery came
> upon a small trove through a historian working on a book on the Civil War
> in the Smoky Mountains. Ellis took up the hunt in earnest in 2008, driving
> thousands of miles on trips to dozens of archives, sometimes coming away
> with a rich harvest of material and sometimes coming up empty. “In the
> early years,” says Montgomery, “we felt like explorers who had stumbled
> into a small cave that then kept expanding and continues to expand to this
> day. Michael rarely knew for sure whether any given archive would turn out
> to be a large cavern or a tiny one, a dead end. After all, most
> professional historians we consulted said they had never seen such
> letters.”
> As the number of letters burgeoned from hundreds into thousands, Ellis
> realized that “what was initially a linguistic investigation began to take
> on broader historical significance.” The words and faces of common soldiers
> were coming into sharper focus.
> On a research trip to the University of Georgia in 2011, Ellis and
> Montgomery met Stephen Berry, co-director of UGA’s Center for Virtual
> History. Berry recognized immediately that the linguists had done a
> staggering amount of historical detective work. “It was like they had
> collected all the needles from the haystacks of other archives and brought
> them together to create a haystack of needles,” Berry says. “They had
> invented an archive that really could tell us something new about the
> common Civil War soldier and his family.”
> Since then the three researchers have teamed up to create what they call an
> 'alternative archive' at
> https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=http-3A__altchive.org_private-2Dvoices&d=DwIFaQ&c=imBPVzF25OnBgGmVOlcsiEgHoG1i6YHLR0Sj_gZ4adc&r=uUVa-8oDL2EzfbuMuowoUadHHcJ7pjul6iFkS5Pd--8&m=xlQjH-fSO2UHQRRjoZoeq2ThAuAN_mWGat0KFnfxmPk&s=NOsr-u0EHMGyiEBDnbJxUuKeDwDrP1q24-HX_BdBxgE&e=
> . The site
> launches with 4,000 letters from four Southern states: North Carolina,
> South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama. They anticipate adding 6,000 more
> letters transcribed by Ellis and his students from New England, the
> Northeast, and the Midwest in the coming year, along with a dynamic mapping
> feature so users can explore regional variations in word usage and speech
> patterns. (Ellis has already created some of these maps by hand and made
> them available on the site.) The project aims at being as representative as
> possible: North and South, Union and Confederate, black and white, and not
> just the soldiers, but also those on the homefront.
> “Certainly the letters have already provided a wealth of information about
> American English in the mid-nineteenth century,” notes Ellis. “But for many
> visitors to the website the letters will be of primary interest for what
> they tell us about the thoughts and feelings, hopes and fears, of the many
> letter-writers who might otherwise be forgotten.”
> JL
> --
> "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -
> https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=http-3A__www.americandialect.org&d=DwIFaQ&c=imBPVzF25OnBgGmVOlcsiEgHoG1i6YHLR0Sj_gZ4adc&r=uUVa-8oDL2EzfbuMuowoUadHHcJ7pjul6iFkS5Pd--8&m=xlQjH-fSO2UHQRRjoZoeq2ThAuAN_mWGat0KFnfxmPk&s=k9Y-eT35zG1hL2GFhcdvObRkJ_lWK7mnUuQdpUzshNw&e=
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list