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Old 01-08-2019, 01:17 PM
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Dickens: What accent?


I've been working my way through a compilation of all of Charles Dickens' novels (I thought I was familiar with Dickens, but then I realized it was just a case of being bombarded with A Christmas Carol and A Tale of Two Cities throughout my lifetime, and that gave me a false sense of "knowing" Dickens).

Anyway, I'm currently reading through Martin Chuzzlewit, and this novel has a character that has a rather over-the-top caricature of a particular accent I've seen pop up in other characters in other Dickens novels: Mrs. Gamp. Her manner of speaking (shared with a number of other characters in other novels) features near-constant using a "w" sound in place of "v" sounds. This isn't always consistent, but I can't say if that's an inconsistency of the character or simple author oversight. Mrs. Gamp goes even further in mispronouncing whole barrels full of words.

Does Mrs. Gamp's manner of speech represent a particular English accent? I notice that all or most of the characters who speak similarly are from somewhere in London, but I don't know enough of London geography to pick up on precisely what part of London these characters come from. The characters other than Mrs. Gamp seem more or less uneducated, but Mrs. Gamp is a nurse (though how much education that entailed in 18th- 19th-century London is unknown to me).
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Old 01-08-2019, 01:27 PM
Dale Sams is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mister Rik View Post
I've been working my way through a compilation of all of Charles Dickens' novels (I thought I was familiar with Dickens, but then I realized it was just a case of being bombarded with A Christmas Carol and A Tale of Two Cities throughout my lifetime, and that gave me a false sense of "knowing" Dickens).

Anyway, I'm currently reading through Martin Chuzzlewit, and this novel has a character that has a rather over-the-top caricature of a particular accent I've seen pop up in other characters in other Dickens novels: Mrs. Gamp. Her manner of speaking (shared with a number of other characters in other novels) features near-constant using a "w" sound in place of "v" sounds. This isn't always consistent, but I can't say if that's an inconsistency of the character or simple author oversight. Mrs. Gamp goes even further in mispronouncing whole barrels full of words.

Does Mrs. Gamp's manner of speech represent a particular English accent? I notice that all or most of the characters who speak similarly are from somewhere in London, but I don't know enough of London geography to pick up on precisely what part of London these characters come from. The characters other than Mrs. Gamp seem more or less uneducated, but Mrs. Gamp is a nurse (though how much education that entailed in 18th- 19th-century London is unknown to me).
My very brief research would indicate.....very drunk cockney?
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Old 01-08-2019, 01:32 PM
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Not an expert on Dickens; someone who knows him better will point out that Samuel Weller is referred to as Samivel Veller throughout the Pickwick Papers.

But on the matter of accents, Mayhew's London Labour and the London Poor, which you can find as an ebook on line (and which predates Dickens writing career by a couple of decades), has some of the speech of the poor spelled out phonetically. If you google eg <did dickens know mayhew> there seems to be a body of feeling that Mayhew is a source work, FWIW.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Mayhew

j
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Old 01-08-2019, 01:33 PM
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Page 333 of John C. Wells' Accents of English says:
"As long ago as 1836 Smart, the author of a work entitled Walker Remodelled, calls the interchange of w and v 'the habit of a more distant generation of Cockneys'. On the other hand Wylf (1936:292) remembers the substitution of [w] for [v] as a jocular pronunciation among middle-class adults in 1870-80, the inference being that this was, or had until recently been, a characteristic of lower-class London speech of the day. . . . At the present time it is utterly obsolete."
Source
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Old 08-07-2019, 06:01 PM
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Thanks. Yes, the references were to dialog. So, people did pronounce the words that way. But not everyone. It was clearly a lower class way of speaking and Dickens had some of his characters speak that way in order to make explicit the nature of his subjects.
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Old 08-07-2019, 08:50 PM
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I love Sairey Gamp AND Seth Pecksniff from Martin Chuzzlewit, and have no idea how either of them talk.
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Old 08-07-2019, 10:19 PM
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Since the current discussion is in GQ, I'll just close this one.
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