KudoZ home » English » Art/Literary

says I

English translation: it is simply use of the vernacular

Advertisement

Login or register (free and only takes a few minutes) to participate in this question.

You will also have access to many other tools and opportunities designed for those who have language-related jobs
(or are passionate about them). Participation is free and the site has a strict confidentiality policy.
18:56 Dec 8, 2003
English to English translations [PRO]
Art/Literary
English term or phrase: says I
The expression appeared at least twice in David Copperfield.

¡§Peggotty,¡¨ says I, suddenly, ¡§were you ever married?¡¨
¡§Lord, Master Davy,¡¨ replied Peggotty. ¡§What¡¦s put marriage in your head!¡¨
She answered with such a start, that it quite awoke me. And then she stopped in her work, and looked at me, with her needle drawn out to its thread¡¦s length.
¡§But were you ever married, Peggotty?¡¨ says I. ¡§You are a very handsome woman, an¡¦t you?¡¨

But on the same page, Dickens also, confusingly, used "said I".

¡§But if you marry a person, and the person dies, why then you may marry another person, mayn¡¦t you, Peggotty?¡¨
¡§You MAY,¡¨ says Peggotty, ¡§if you choose, my dear. That¡¦s a matter of opinion.¡¨
¡§But what is your opinion, Peggotty?¡¨ said I.
I asked her, and looked curiously at her, because she looked so curiously at me.

¡§My opinion is,¡¨ said Peggotty, taking her eyes from me, after a little indecision and going on with her work, ¡§that I never was married myself, Master Davy, and that I don¡¦t expect to be. That¡¦s all I know about the subject.¡¨
¡§You an¡¦t cross, I suppose, Peggotty, are you?¡¨ said I, after sitting quiet for a minute.

This passage also shows that Dickens was inconsistent in his usage of tenses: "says Pegotty" and "said Pegotty" Why is that allowed? Is this blatant sloppiness which is tolerated only because he was famous? And does any body know where "says I" come from? Maybe learners of English should stay away from his works.
ying
English translation:it is simply use of the vernacular
Explanation:
Dickens is merely trying to express the way his uneducated characters speak.
Don't diss Dickens he is a world-class genius but it is hardly modern English!
Selected response from:

xxxTransflux
Local time: 04:56
Grading comment
Graded automatically based on peer agreement.
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer

Advertisement


Summary of answers provided
4 +7it is simply use of the vernacularxxxTransflux
4 +6hypercorrect
Michael Powers (PhD)
4 +3urgency of speaker
Madeleine MacRae Klintebo
3 +3....at least in the eighteenth century (Daniel Defoe and Henry Fielding's time)
DGK T-I
4 +1Just to add to Mike's answer & to support it.
Сергей Лузан
3an action (utterance) vs reporting
chica nueva


  

Answers


1 min   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +6
says i
hypercorrect


Explanation:
No, it is a realistic imitation of hypercorrection.

Mike :)

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 4 mins (2003-12-08 19:01:25 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

The confusion of verb tenses, the incorrect usage of number in the verb with the subject pronoun, coupled with the use of the nominative instead of the objective case, most commonly used by uneducated speakers, shows hypercorrection of the character.

This is the equivalent, albeit it less obvious, of today when people say \"between you and I\" this is what is going on, instead of saying correctly \"between you and me.\" When in doubt, hypercorrect. Uneducated or partially educated people have always done this.

Michael Powers (PhD)
United States
Local time: 22:56
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in pair: 1174

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Daniel Mencher: yes, it's just a style that Dickens liked to use, probably based upon a dialect of his time.
3 mins
  -> thank you, Dan - Mike :)

agree  jccantrell: and, I yam what I yam, says Popeye!
17 mins
  -> thank you, jccantrell - Mike :)

agree  Laurel Porter: hypercorrect, powers!
59 mins
  -> thank you, Laurel - Mike :)

agree  Gordon Darroch: yes, Dickens is drawing a comic effect from David's efforts to "talk proper". I don't think it's specific to any particular dialect.
12 hrs

neutral  DGK T-I: lavish alternate use of'saysI'&'said[I]'by David Balfour narrating RLStevenson's'Kidnapped',as well as use of'saysI'by well spoken characters inDefoe&Fieldingsuggest this was not necessarily incorrect/strange then.David Copperfield likely to'speak proper'
14 hrs

agree  chopra_2002
19 hrs

agree  Henrik Brameus
2 days 22 hrs
Login to enter a peer comment (or grade)

6 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +7
it is simply use of the vernacular


Explanation:
Dickens is merely trying to express the way his uneducated characters speak.
Don't diss Dickens he is a world-class genius but it is hardly modern English!

xxxTransflux
Local time: 04:56
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in pair: 16
Grading comment
Graded automatically based on peer agreement.

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  DGK T-I
14 mins

agree  Charlie Bavington: Some speak like that today when telling a story, e.g. "So I'm in the pub and this bloke comes up and spills my pint, and luckily he says 'sorry' else I'm gonna lamp him, and we get talking, and..." well, you get the idea !!
34 mins
  -> yes absolutely. Used to live in South London for several years.

agree  Laurel Porter: Also, when native Eng. speakers use the present tense in describing past events, they are trying to convey a sense of immediacy: "you are there". This device is also often used in journalism. The inconsistency you point out is realistic variation.
58 mins
  -> very good point well made

agree  melayujati
7 hrs

agree  Refugio: Yes, indeed, learners of English are hardly in a position to tackle the dialects of Dickens, much less to criticize his keen, anything-but-sloppy ear for the popular vernacular of his time.
9 hrs

agree  Vanessa Marques
1 day 1 hr

agree  Empty Whiskey Glass
1 day 2 hrs
Login to enter a peer comment (or grade)

39 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +1
Just to add to Mike's answer & to support it.


Explanation:
confusion of tenses & persons is used en English to create a humoristic effect (don't forget, Dickens was one of them). It's (was, of course) used by O.Henry, Mark Twain, S. Leacock etc. At the same time, 'you was' can convey the idea of 2nd person singular (used by American humorists, but idea seems quite fruitful to me - thou hast, willt etc. is used in poetical speech only). Of course, his language is out of date currently. Language is not something that follows the rules (even written rules). It's a subject that creates rules itself. When people begin to speak other way scientists easily can be found to confirm that this is the only & most convenient way to speak. Good luck, ying!

Сергей Лузан
Russian Federation
Local time: 06:56
Native speaker of: Native in RussianRussian
PRO pts in pair: 49

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  DGK T-I: It is very true that language and rules change,and that in an oral culture devices like this are an important (self conscious)skill-remember Dickens performed his writing aloud,as did much of his 'readership'.There is good evidence'says I' was normal
1 hr
  -> Thank you, Dr. Giuli Kvrivishvili! Read your interesting answer, perhaps it was normal at that time in some circles. I used to meet double negative related to WW2 times - it was used there to characterise "rustics" or "dialect speakers".
Login to enter a peer comment (or grade)

2 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +3
urgency of speaker


Explanation:
I've been looking at the passage for a while and can come to only one conclusion.
Dicken's use of says/said depended on the urgency of the speaker when an utterance was made.

The first and the final utterances show this clearly:

"Peggotty,¨ says I, suddenly, were you ever married?¨ (suddenly = says)

"You ain't cross, I suppose, Peggotty, are you?¨ said I, after sitting quiet for a minute." (for a minute = said)

It works on the other utterances as well if you try to imaging how urgently they are spoken.



Madeleine MacRae Klintebo
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:56
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish, Native in SwedishSwedish

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Peter Linton: A perceptive comment. Shows that Dickens was artful, ingenious, using different tenses to vary the pace and the mood, only apparently sloppy.
47 mins
  -> Thank you

agree  DGK T-I
1 hr

agree  MatthewS: I got the same impression when reading the passage
5 hrs
Login to enter a peer comment (or grade)

3 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5 peer agreement (net): +3
....at least in the eighteenth century (Daniel Defoe and Henry Fielding's time)


Explanation:
by the time of George Eliot it is also there, but maybe has a rustic/dialect feel. Dickens may have been in a transitional period. Forms that were standard spoken English, or a commonly used alternatives in one period, often go out of fashion a century or more later - in some cases becoming rustic, funny, lower class, dialect, or it is even forgotten that they were ever used at all. An example is the "I haven't got no bananas" double negative - found in Chaucer and French but abandoned in standard English - "someone has changed the rules."

You will find a few differences in Dickens, but you will also find far more that you can use today - and the small differences are interesting today. The characters in the books, and the lives they lead are the same as ours and different - and so are the words we and they use.

I like to know more about how people regarded it at the time it was used.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 3 hrs 8 mins (2003-12-08 22:05:10 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

In Defoe and Fielding otherwise well spoken characters appear to use it, as well as \"rustics\" or \"dialect speakers\".

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 3 hrs 10 mins (2003-12-08 22:07:23 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

The times change, and we change with them (and stay the same?).

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 3 hrs 12 mins (2003-12-08 22:09:45 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

typo. \'I\'d like to know...\'

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 4 hrs 40 mins (2003-12-08 23:37:21 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

that doesn\'t help with explaining the switch in tense, but I think it is intentional

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 10 hrs 13 mins (2003-12-09 05:10:44 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Ruth\'s interesting point reminds me that in the lovely dialect of Somerset, \'s\' is added to I..., you..., and he... in for example, \"I likes to do that\", \"I enjoys a nice bit of Cheddar cheese on toast\" (standard modern, \'I like to do that\', etc). This form isn\'t used in that dialect out of ignorance, but because it\'s \"the way that it always has been done\" in that dialect. Forms in English dialect often descend from forms that were once standard options, in older times, and combined with the use in Fielding & Defoe, I think think this is what happened here.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 10 hrs 29 mins (2003-12-09 05:26:45 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Apparently \'I likes\' is also still used in Birmingham dialect (Midlands of England, Somerset being in the South-West) as this British writer mentions (search on \'I likes\' and don\'t be put off by all the Russian messages)
\"I likes to cop out with a glass of becks of a sunday afternoon\"
http://www.efl.ru/forum/threads/454/

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 10 hrs 52 mins (2003-12-09 05:49:28 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

For another good example of same switch between \"says I\" and \"said I\" being used by a classic author, using the standard language of his time, see Robert Louis Stevenson\'s \"Kidnapped\" -
here too it\'s being used by a narrator to tell a story:

\"\"Well,\" said I, \"he was kind to me in his way.\" \"And so he was to Alan,\" said he; \"and by my troth, I found his way a very good one! But ye see, David, the loss of the ship and the cries of these poor lads sat very ill upon the man; and I\'m thinking that would be the cause of it.
\"Well, I would think so,\" says I; \"for he was as keen as any of the rest at the beginning. But how did Hoseason take it?\"
\"It sticks in my mind that he would take it very ill,\" says Alan. \"But the little man cried to me to run, and indeed I thought it was a good observe, and ran. The last that I saw they were all in a knot upon the beach, like folk that were not agreeing very well together.\"
\"What do you mean by that?\" said I. \"Well, the fists were going,\" said Alan; \"and I saw one man go down like....\"

and many many more examples (see:
http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=cache:CVzpe7Ip1PgJ:books.ra...
(or)
books.rakeshv.org/ps/kdnpd10.ps

It clearly is intentional, not sloppy.


--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 10 hrs 57 mins (2003-12-09 05:53:56 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Thinking about it, David Copperfield (\"Master David in the passage\") is likely to speak good English (of his time) from what I remember.

DGK T-I
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:56
PRO pts in pair: 401

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Refugio: As for the term "says I," I have heard it in modern Texas dialect in the following format: "Says who?" "Says I!"
6 hrs
  -> Thanks Ruth ~

agree  Christine Andersen: Although David would speak good English, this is perhaps to make it sound a childish, or an unconscious 'talking down', since the subject is delicate, bringing himself to Peggoty's level. He does not pronounce 'says I' but might modify other words.
13 hrs
  -> That's an interesting idea too ~

agree  chopra_2002
16 hrs
  -> Thanks Lang ~
Login to enter a peer comment (or grade)

1 day 16 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5
says i
an action (utterance) vs reporting


Explanation:

1 It seems to me it is acting like this:

says -> denotes speaking taking place as an action, part of behaviour and interaction (like I 'advanced') -a dramatic instruction if you like.

said -> is simply a prose convention accompanying the direct speech.

2 However, I agree it may also be a stylistic characteristic of novels of the period. Though didn't they use 'say I'?

3 What its grammatical origins I don't know. But 'quoth I/quoth he' (archaic) = I/he said, and 'says/sez you' is in colloquial use today. saith he (archaic)

4 'says I'does sound like oral speech

5 Another possibility is that you have two narrator personas, one David Copperfield the boy, and the other David Copperfield the adult narrator - and here they both exist on the same page...

chica nueva
Local time: 16:56
Native speaker of: English
PRO pts in pair: 83
Login to enter a peer comment (or grade)




Return to KudoZ list


KudoZ™ translation help
The KudoZ network provides a framework for translators and others to assist each other with translations or explanations of terms and short phrases.



See also:



Term search
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search