Food for thought

Nobody puts talk into a dictionary

(What do you think of these thoughts on spoken language? This text is from a magazine from 1909.)


‘If Opal’s goin’ to be a school-teacher, mebbe she wants summat to practice on,’ grinned her father.


“‘Oh, Pa, you mustn’t say summat–it isn’t a word,” remonstrated his daughter.


“‘Ain’t a word!’ shouted her father with increasing excitement. ‘Well, hear that! How do you know it ain’t a word?’


“‘It isn’t in the dictionary,’ said Opal.


“‘Shucks,’ disparaged Pa, ‘what’s the dictionary got to do with it? The words that git into the dictionary ain’t common talkin’ words nohow; they’re written words–nobody puts talk into a dictionary.’


“‘Why not?’ questioned Opal, astonished at her father’s apparent knowledge of the making of dictionaries.


“‘Cause why? Cause spoken words is too lively for ‘em–who can go round and keep track of every word that’s spoke? I can make up a hull mouthful myself, and no dictionary’ll ever know anything about it–see?'”



(Bessie R. Hoover, “A Graduated Daughter.” Everybody’s Magazine, December, 1909)




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