Date: Mon, 11 Apr 1994 19:40:40 -0400


Subject: Janus Syndrome

T'Other Side of the Coin Department:

Having followed with interest the recent discussion of

personal stigmatization by dialect association

(l'affaire Cokie), I now find the April 1 issue

of the TLS testifying to a curious sort of mirror-image

attitude. In it we have Adam Mars-Jones's review of

James Kelman's "How Late It Was, How Late," a work

apparently narrated in (or at least heavily laden with)

Glaswegian speech forms. M-J in no way condemns

the dialect and remarks on the authenticity

of the language. The unexpected (to me) twist lies

in the following:

"Too much of the book is only kept by the prestige

of dialect from sounding like banality . . . ."

[author's word order; where ARE the TLS's editors?]

I take this as a claim that readers tend uncritically

to accept as "worthy," "insightful," or what have you,

an idea or observation earnestly presented in print

in non-standard dialect. Does this mean that if one's

language is "racy with the soil" (to steal

Padraig Colum's phrase), one will be damned or praised

depending on whether the words are spoken or written?

A curious brace of linguistic prejudices (if it indeed



Mike Agnes

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