LETTER: Wot an eye for English dialect

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The Independent Online
From Mr Dennis Freeborn

Sir: Meridel Holland's "should of" (Letters, 18 October) is a misspelling of "should've", the normal reduced spoken form of "should have" that everyone uses. "Should of" is the kind of written form called "eye-dialect" that novelists use to indicate a lower class character, like "wot" and "me moother" for "what" and "my mother". So it is inadmissible as evidence for a "new illiteracy".

Dr Holland's letter is patronising in its reference to "time-honoured and charming dialect usage". Non-standard dialect forms of English are neither more nor less "charming" than standard English. Objectively, they simply differ in their choice of a relatively small number of grammatical forms.

"Might've went" (Meridel Holland's second example) is dialectal. By what criterion is it to be judged a "creeping bane" rather than "charming", or even "exquisite", like "who telled thee it were one?", quoted in Ruth Clarke's letter (17 October)?

Yours faithfully,

Dennis Freeborn


18 October