Thursday, May 8, 2008

Dialogue and class differences

One of the things I try really hard to do in in my fiction is pay attention to dialogue, especially dialect and vernacular. Even though my novel in progress takes place in rural Indiana, I find myself re-creating the rural Kansas dialect I grew up with. When I listen to midwestern speakers, I find that the differences are more pronounced between rural versus urban speakers than in, say, Indiana versus Kansas speakers. Believable dialogue reveals loads about the character's class, attitudes, and mood.  

So I was happy to see that there is a prolonged discussion of dialogue over at Through the Tollbooth. It's fascinating and required reading for fiction writers. She provides several links to sites devoted to dialects, including the International Dialects of English Archive from my very own University of Kansas. My favorite sound recording is of a Kansas grave-digger and grave-witcher in his sixties; both for the homey familiarity of his dialect and for the story he tells!

Also worth checking out is the Pop vs. Soda page. I'm pop, by the way. What I really don't understand is the Southern tendency to call carbonated beverages "coke." Especially since, at least in the past, that used to be R.C. Cola territory. Am I right? 

10 comments:

PJ Hoover said...

I grew up Soda in Virginia, and even though I moved to Texas where all is Coke, I'm still soda.

Sara Latta said...

OK, then, so how does it work in Texas? You go to somebody's house, and they say, would you like a coke, and you say sure. And they say, well, I have some R.C. and Pepsi and Sprite. And you say, do you have Coke? And they say, oh, sorry, no Coke?

PJ Hoover said...

Hmmm. It's more like you're at Fudruckers and you say "I want a Coke" and they hand you a big cup and you go to the soda fountain and pick what you want.
Or you're at a party and they say "We have cokes over in the cooler" and you walk over and pick out what you want.
And I never get a Coke. Always Diet Coke for me.
But the one that irks me is when I order a Diet Coke at a restaurant and they bring me a Diet Pepsi without a cautionary word. Yuck.

HipWriterMama said...

You guys are too funny. Some people call soda "tonic" here in Massachusetts. Which totally confused me when I first moved here, thinking that meant tonic water.

Susan said...

I almost got a little teary eyed (after a big glass of wine) listening to the grave digger/witcher recording. It sounded familiar.

Sara Latta said...

Oh, Susan, I was so hoping you would read this and listen to the grave digger's recording. Because I was thinking of you, and wondering if you might have the same reaction to it. I miss these story-tellers, don't you?

Sara Latta said...

Tonic? Unless you're talking about gin and tonic, that sounds like medicine to me. Although, come to think of it, a gin and tonic can sometimes be like medicine. In a good way, I mean.

Anonymous said...

"Gin and tonic has saved more Englishmen's lives, and minds, than all the doctors in the empire." Winston Churchill, referring to the quinine in tonic water. According to Newsweek there is not enough quinine in tonic to do the job, but certainly the gin would have made them feel better. Pat Bracewell

Jim D said...

I'm "pop" but use "soda" in my novel. I think its a more country-wide term, although I found the map interesting. By the way, it looks like they don't even have carbinated beverages in central Nevada.

Jim D

Sara Latta said...

Oh, why did Newsweek have to be such a spoilsport? Let the English think it was the quinine that saved them. As far as central Nevada is concerned, maybe they just suck the juice from cacti.