Date: Wed, 17 Aug 1994 10:08:27 -0500

From: "Timothy C. Frazer" mftcf[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]UXA.ECN.BGU.EDU

Subject: Re: you

On Tue, 16 Aug 1994, Donald M. Lance wrote:

It seems to me that in the past decade there has been a considerable increase

in the use of "bad grammar" and four-letter words in quotations in newspaper

articles. We who've been (mis)quoted by reporters are well aware of where


of the quotes come. The news people would argue that they're attempting to

be more accurate, but stereotyping seems to me to have a higher priority than

accuracy in these quotes.

Bob Greene had a column on this phenomemom (chicago trib; dunno if it was

syndicated) and cited it as another example of the decline of civility

and civilization. If anyone saved it I'd like to get a copy.

I'm a 'was' rather than 'wuz' speaker, so my reaction to this particular item

of eye dialect is different from that of 'wuz' speakers. I mean that I use

the low vowel in stressed 'was' but of course use a schwa when the word is

in an unstressed position. From my own reaction, I suspect that some

writers who use 'wuz' in eye dialect are indirectly commenting on their own

"correct" pronuncation, the one taught by Miss Fidditch.

My guess would be that this distinction is unusual. I think I hve the

same vowel in both positions, as do most of the people I know. Do I just

have a bad ear? Or is the tendency I describe a striclty

inlandnorth/north midland thing? I know my students panic when they

can't hear the difference between a schwa and anything slightly lower or

low-bck (represented by an upside down "a", respectively, and a carrot in

IPA). I have to skip over that cause I can't either.


messiness notwithstanding, the use of 'wuz' is one of the most useful eye

dialect items that a writer can use to suggest dialect but not "heavy"


Yes, and I think it's useful precisely cause it does not represent a real

ifference between standard and vernacular. That's a tough one to prove

absolutely, though. Any suggestions out there?

Tim Frazer