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Usage of an Idiom across Dialects

Ross at Play
Updated:

I have a story for which the plot requires I use AmE and I want "standard" American speech.

Someone told me they think something I've used is wrong. It sounds natural to me. I suspect this person's native dialect of American is further removed from standard American than my Australian version of BrE!

The context is two girl friends are talking. One is the lowest of the low on the social ladder at school and the friend, less low, is speaking:

"I can tell you, it's not much fun having those x-ray eyes burning holes in your underwear."

My use of 'your' is idiomatic. She is not telling her friend what they feel. And she's not just saying how she feels herself either. If she meant that she'd use 'I' as the subject of the clause, not 'it's not much fun'.

To me, she's saying it's not fun for her, and she knows others feel the same, even if the friend she's talking to has not experienced that ... because they are fat and both know that not even the sleaziest of guys bother to leer at her.

I don't know how many others would interpret that the same way. My understanding may be eccentric, Australian, British English, or an accepted usage everywhere except in some dialects which don't use it.

How do others interpret that, and what dialect do you use?

* * *

The same person has told me that, in their native dialect, ain't is the proper contraction of am not - meaning just the first-person, singular, present-tense form of 'to be', not other forms of it. He explains this as maintaining what were standard contractions from Elizabethan times.

I'm sure he's correct for his dialect of American, but I wonder if other dialects make that same distinction?

* * *

I don't like my choice of 'underwear' above anymore. I now favour 'knickers' but that's BrE. Do others think 'panties' is better for standard American?

* * *

What do others do for singing some words from a song?

I can't find anything in CMoS. My first thought is double quote marks (for aloud) and italics font (something special). My second thought is Roman font enclosed in two crotchet symbols.

Dominions Son
Updated:

@Ross at Play


How do others interpret that, and what dialect do you use?


American English: Upper Midwest.

I think it's fine as is.

The same person has told me that, in their native dialect, ain't is the proper contraction of am not


"Ain't" can crop up almost anywhere in the US, but you don't hear it that much outside of either black ghetto speak or the former Confederate states.

I don't like my choice of 'underwear' above anymore. I now favour 'knickers', in BrE. Do others think 'panties' be better for standard American?


Depends on your intent. Underwear is fine in the US and would cover the bra (or undershirt for men) as well as the panties (or underpants for men).

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Dominions Son

Thanks, but I'm not sure what your answers are.

1. ain't tends, not necessarily, to be regional, but when used it only means 'am not'.

2. American girls wear panties, not knickers. (Well, when they ... :-)

Correct?

awnlee jawking

@Ross at Play

My use of 'your' is idiomatic.


Are you sure about that?

An idiom is one or more words not used literally.

Oxford Dictionaries' second definition of 'your' is:

"2 Belonging to or associated with any person in general.
'the sight is enough to break your heart'"

which IMO covers your usage.

AJ

awnlee jawking

@Ross at Play

1. ain't tends, not necessarily, to be regional, but when used it only means 'am not'.


That ain't right ;)

AJ

Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

"I can tell you, it's not much fun having those x-ray eyes burning holes in your underwear."


That's fine. It's not an idiom, though.

Using "your" doesn't always mean the person you're talking to. It's can be used generally.

I once got either you or Crumbly mad at me because I used "you" or "your" in a post. They thought I meant them. I was using the word in general terms.

Ross at Play

@awnlee jawking

Oxford Dictionaries' second definition of 'your' is:
"2 Belonging to or associated with any person in general.

Thanks. So, I had no reason to doubt my usage was bog-standard English.

But looking at it, shouldn't dictionary definitions of 'idiomatic' be?

one or more words not used in a way we classify as literal

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

shouldn't dictionary definitions of 'idiomatic' be?


I googled "what's an idiom?" and the first result was a definition which said:

a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words (e.g., rain cats and dogs, see the light ).

Dominions Son

@Ross at Play

Thanks, but I'm not sure what your answers are.


Correct?


Close, but not quite.

1. It's not that simple.

Among middle-class to affluent whites the usage tends to be regional to the former confederate states.

Non regionally the use of ain't tends to be confined to those living in poverty, inner-city blacks, poor white trash, etc...

No, it's not just used as am not. Among those groups that use it frequently, it tends to get substituted for is not as well as am not.

2. Yes, in the US, female bottom underwear would be panties, not knickers.

However, the context in which you were using underwear: men undressing women with their eyes and the effects on the comfort level of the women, would apply not just to the panties/knickers, but to their bras as well.

At least in the US, underwear is a perfectly valid general term that would cover both tops (bras, undershirts) and bottoms (panties/underpants.)

I think the segment works better leaving it at underwear than specifying panties/knickers.

awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde

a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words (e.g., rain cats and dogs, see the light ).


I chanced upon a heated discussion of whether a single word could be an idiom. Personally I thought the putative examples of single word idioms were very stretchy. Most dictionaries seem to specify 'group of words', although a few extend to single words too.

Dictionaries seem to struggle for a satisfactory definition of idiomatic. 'Having a meaning other than the literal one' and 'not deducible from the individual words' seem to address the issue from different angles.

I think there's an evolutionary process whereby original meanings get perverted as slang which then become respectable idioms until finally they're fully-fledged dictionary definitions qualifying as literal. So there's always going to be arguments about exactly which expressions qualify as idioms.

AJ

Ross at Play

Thanks to everybody who posted here. I've found all of the answers I need and I'm out of here.

And as for any outstanding issues, I'm out of here.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

What do others do for singing some words from a song?

I've run across this a few times, and to make it clear the person is singing (i.e. separating it from their dialogue surrounding it) I now include the Windows specific music symbol (& #9835;). Unfortunately, you've got to hard code it, as there is no html musical notation. :( However, it works well on SOL, and is accepted in most browsers as they typically support Windows characters on other platforms.

Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

My use of 'your' is idiomatic.

Are you sure about that?

I do the same thing, using "your" as a genetic "us" in hypothetical statements. Unfortunately, as I moved around the U.S. picking up a variety of different words from different areas in my youth, I'm unsure where (which part of the country) it originates from.

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

I googled "what's an idiom?" and the first result was a definition which said:

a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words (e.g., rain cats and dogs, see the light ).

I agree with that, as an 'idiom' is more closely tied to analogies than to regional differences in word usages.

@Dominions Son

Non regionally the use of ain't tends to be confined to those living in poverty, inner-city blacks, poor white trash, etc...

Sorta, but historically, the word entered 'black' usage when large groups of blacks emigrated to the northern cities (Chicago, Philadelphia and New York) during the endemic lynchings in the South), so that usage is intrinsically tied to their Southern heritage.

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

And as for any outstanding issues, I'm out of here.

You've always been 'out of here' (i.e. "Out there!"). 'D

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

to make it clear the person is singing (i.e. separating it from their dialogue surrounding it)


While being careful to limit the amount of song in the story (copyright consideration) I present the words of the song as if it's a block quotation to separate it from normal dialogue.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


While being careful to limit the amount of song in the story (copyright consideration) I present the words of the song as if it's a block quotation to separate it from normal dialogue.

That's useful too, but since I use the same blockquote technique for broadcast messages (where the message isn't from someone present and thus isn't dialogue, that might imply the song they're listening too is playing on the radio, rather than the main character singing it aloud. Adding the single musical note to the start of each line/paragraph is enough to highlight they're singing as opposed to merely reciting the lines.

Here's a copy from my currently posting book where I use both techniques (though, somehow, the musical symbols got deleted, probably because one of my outlets wouldn't support the non-html coding):

"Just let me know before anyone passes out," Al cautioned. Meanwhile, he started everyone on a chant.


" I don't know but I been told

"Inquisitor dicks are freezin' cold!

"Sound off one, two.

"Sound off three, four."


Of course, with Woodham repeating the cadence several moments later in a larger, bellowing voice which traveled farther, they were attracting more and more attention. However, Betty, Lamar and Mui were there, running in a sidewise step, encouraging them to join in.

"You can't say that!" Tillthilf insisted.


" I don't know but I been told

"Tillthilf is a cowardly scold!"


Everyone besides Tillthilf found the lyrics incredibly funny, though many were searching for disapproving officials anywhere around them.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

I hope you explain what the symbol is for at the start of the story, because I wouldn't understand what you mean if I was to simply come across it within the text. However, for that bit of work I'd do it more like this:

"Just let me know before anyone passes out," Al cautioned. Meanwhile, he started everyone on a chant by singing:

"I don't know but I've been told,
Inquisitor dicks are freezin' cold!
Sound off one, two.
Sound off three, four."


Of course, with Woodham repeating the cadence several moments later in a larger, bellowing voice which traveled farther, they were attracting more and more attention. However, Betty, Lamar and Mui were there, running in a sidewise step, encouraging them to join in.

"You can't say that!" Tillthilf insisted.

"I don't know, but I've been told,
Tillhilf is a cowardly scold!"


Everyone besides Tillthilf found the lyrics incredibly funny, though many were searching for disapproving officials anywhere around them.

......................

In coding for the above in html I'd use the < b r > command (spaces added) after each of the first three lines of the singing. The layout and italics shows it's more than the normal dialogue while the the last 2 words of the first section of narrative ensure the reader understands the situation and it sets them up to know the italic dialogue like that is singing. I'd also tend to restate the singing after a long break of no singing.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
StarFleet Carl

@Dominions Son

"Ain't" can crop up almost anywhere in the US, but you don't hear it that much outside of either black ghetto speak or the former Confederate states.


I ain't so sure about that.

I suspect you can include most areas of America that are rural in this as well, not just those areas that were victims of the War of Northern Aggression. Those of us who are a bit older and remember Wally and Beaver recall them using ain't.

Now, if you want to really make it negative, then I cain't hep ya. (cannot help you, as translation for those on here from other parts of the globe).

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@StarFleet Carl

Now, if you want to really make it negative


Bain't hard! (UK dialect)

AJ

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

I now include the Windows specific music symbol (& #9835;). Unfortunately, you've got to hard code it, as there is no html musical notation. :( However, it works well on SOL

Thanks, CW. I think that's self-explanatory and I've seen similar on captions for TV, etc.
I'll advise the author it wouldn't hurt to use the first 'singing' too the first time they use it.

madnige

@Crumbly Writer

I now include the Windows specific music symbol (& #9835;). Unfortunately, you've got to hard code it, as there is no html musical notation.


I'td be better to use the Unicode symbols than Windows-specific

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

In coding for the above in html I'd use the < b r > command (spaces added) after each of the first three lines of the singing. The layout and italics shows it's more than the normal dialogue while the the last 2 words of the first section of narrative ensure the reader understands the situation and it sets them up to know the italic dialogue like that is singing. I'd also tend to restate the singing after a long break of no singing.

Late response, but … that's what I do. Whenever something stands out (like messages, broadcast messages or groups singing), I'll either indent it (blockquote) and/or separate it with blank line (in my published books, I use the smallest support font size in an empty line, just so you know it's not the normal narrative or regular dialogue.

However, since I write so much sci-fi and internal dialogue, I tend to reserve italics for special circumstances (personal thoughts of, if in single quotes, telepathic messages). Thus using italics for something as simple as song lyrics might be misleading. :(

Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

Bain't hard! (UK dialect)

Then again, Baint seems to always be hard (which is why we keep him away from our sisters!).

Crumbly Writer

@madnige

I'td be better to use the Unicode symbols than Windows-specific

Do you know, or is there even, a Unicode musical symbol? In most instances, to use musical symbols you need a separate specialty font, and then require licensing and protections. With a Windows symbol, you can always code it as "charset=windows-1252", so it'll display the Windows specific characters regardless of which OS it's on (as it's supported by all browsers and the ebooks which borrow the common browser standards).

It's what allows websites developed on MS Windows systems to run on Mac and the older BE and other systems.

Replies:   madnige  Keet
madnige

@Crumbly Writer

Do you know, or is there even, a Unicode musical symbol?


There are plenty! A couple of links are in my previous post.

Keet
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

Do you know, or is there even, a Unicode musical symbol?

Those are available in unicode by default: Unicode musical symbols (pdf)

edit: Of course you need a font that supports it: Font support

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