Language in literature

This webpage is a repository of quotes from works of literature which are interesting for various linguistics-related reasons (at least for my purposes and thought processes).  These can be especially useful in seminars/lectures focusing on various aspects of language variation and change. If you found your way to this website, hope you enjoy these with me.

“the immanent subliminal / fern of her delicious voice / (of her voice which always dwells) / beside the vivid magical / impetuous and utter ponds”

e. e. cummings, Complete Poems. 1904-1962 (New York / London: Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2016) 23.


“Manager’s voice wasn’t like her usual one, and though her eyes were on the outside, I thought she was now looking at nothing in particular.”

Kazuo Ishiguro, Klara and the Sun (London: faber & faber, 2021) 21.

“Then, lowering her voice, Josie said: ‘Mom looks weird, I know, watching like that. It’s because I told her you’re the one I wanted.”

Ishiguro 23.

“Coming down the staircase, I saw the hall was filled with strangers talking in humorous voices.”

Ishiguro 65.

“Josie continued for a while to answer the Mother patiently, but before long the smile left her voice.”

Ishiguro 91.

“But I could hear the change in Josie’s voice. It was as if the effort she’d been making until this point had been abandoned, and she was suddenly exhausted.”

Ishiguro 94.

“But there was no smile in her voice. It was clear she wished to be alone to get on with her sketching, so I left the room, to stand outside on the landing.”

Ishiguro 110.

“[…] and she said from the bed in a sleepy voice […]”

Ishiguro 126.


“Now the human voice is an instrument of varied power; it can enchant and it can soothe; it can rage and it can despair; but when it lectures it almost always bores.”

Virginia Woolf, The Death of the Moth and Other Essays (Middlesex: Penguin Modern Classics, 1961) 196.


“[…] dissertation … fellowship …. readership … lectureship. She could not follow the ugly academic jargon, that rattled itself off so glibly […]”

Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse (Middlesex: Penguin Modern Classics, 1927) 15.


“‘I think I just don’t like names. Basically, I can’t see what’s wrong with calling me ‘me’ or you ‘you’ or us ‘us’ or them ‘them.” ‘Hmm,’ she said. ‘I do like the word ‘we,’ though. It has an Ice Age ring to it.'”

Haruki Murakami, The Wild Sheep Chase (London: Vintage Classics, 2003) 159.

“‘Eat shit!’ yelled the Sheep Professor from inside. A mighty healthy voice for seventy-three.”

Murakami 184.

“‘Haven’tseenit,’ said the Sheep Man. But it was obvious that the Sheep Man knew something about the Rat and the sheep. His lack of concern was too affected. The timing of his response too pat, his tone false.”

Murakami 253.

“Even in absolute lacquer-black darkness, seated back-to-back, I could tell he was smiling. You can tell a lot just by the tiniest change in the air.”

Murakami 276.


“The Great Osiris took out a fob watch and let it dangle in front of my face, commanding me in a voice that dripped syrup to keep my eyes on the watch.”

Malcolm Pryce, The Unbearable Lightness of Being in Aberystwyth (London: Bloomsbury Books, 2006) 52.

“‘That’s amazing!’ said the orderly. ‘The doll speaks the same language!’

We turned to face him in joint surprise.

‘How can it be possible? The same language?!’

‘It’s Welsh,’ said Eeyore.


‘It’s Welsh.’

‘What’s that?’

‘They speak it over there in Wales.’ He pointed through the wall, vaguely westward.

‘You mean those people have their own language?’


‘Well bugger me! We thought he was making it up.'” 

Pryce 82-83.

“I said, ‘What the fuck are you doing?’ And she told me not to swear. Like you’re not allowed to say ‘fuck’ when someone is trying to murder you.”

Pryce 95.


“WALTER. You’re a Northerner?

SALLY. That’s clever of you. I thought I’d…

WALTER. I can tell the accent.

SALLY. I thought I’d lost it…

WALTER. There’s something in your eyes too. You only find it in Lancashire girls.”

Harold Pinter, Tea Party and Other Plays (London: Eyre Methuen, 1970) 103.


“FLORA: But wasps do bite.

EDWARD: They don’t bite. They sting. It’s snakes… that bite.

FLORA: What about horseflies?


EDWARD [to himself]: Horseflies suck.”

Harold Pinter, A Slight Ache and Other Plays (London: Eyre Methuen, 1972) 13.


“As for the method of making [this introduction], it is best if the root spiritual teacher from whom [the dying person] personally received guidance is present. […] or if none of these at all can be present, someone who knows how to read aloud with correct pronunciation and clear diction should recite [the introductions] many times.” The Tibetan Book of the Dead (London: Penguin Books, 2007) 227.


“But you, madam, with your great experience of life and people, and Frieda, who was until yesterday Klamm’s mistress – I see no reason to avoid this word – I am sure you can easily arrange for me to speak to Klamm […].” Franz Kafka, The Essential Kafka (Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Classics), 218.


“”But how can the flowers tell the others about the ball? Flowers can’t talk, can they?” “No, not exactly,” answered the student; “but they do it in signs. Surely you’ve noticed them, when it’s a bit windy – how the flowers keep nodding and fluttering their green leaves; that means as much to them as if they talked.”” Hans Christian Andersen, 80 Fairy Tales (Odense: Høst & Søn), 31.

“[…] and the mole fell in love with her [i.e. Thumbelina] because of her pretty voice […]” Andersen 40.


“The condition of the operatives is becoming every day more like that of the English; and it cannot be wondered at, since, as far as I have heard or observed, the principal object is, not that mankind may be well and honestly clad, but, unquestionably, that corporations may be enriched.” Henry David Thoreau, Walden (London: MacMillan, 2004), 32. [More criticism of the English on page 60]

* “However, if one designs to construct a dwelling-house, it behooves him to exercise a little Yankee shrewdness, lest after all he find himself in a work-house, a labyrinth without a clue, a museum, an alms-house, a prison, or a splendid mausoleum instead.” Thoreau 34.

* “It is the luxurious and dissipated who set the fashions which the herd so diligently follow.” Thoreau 42.

* “And pray what more can a reasonable man desire, in peaceful times, in ordinary moons, than a sufficient number of ears of green sweet-corn boiled, with the addition of salt?” Thoreau 68.

* “I was not only nearer to some of those which commonly frequent the garden and the orchard, but to those smaller and more thrilling songsters of the forest which never, or rarely, serenade a villager […].” Thoreau 92.

* “As the sparrow had its trill, sitting on the hickory before my door, so had I my chuckle or suppressed warble which he might hear out of my nest.” Thoreau 120.

* “[…] so heedlessly did they grow and tax their weak joints, I heard a fresh and tender bough suddenly fall like a fan to the ground […].” Thoreau 122.

“He said that he had read and written letters for those who could not, but he never tried to write thoughts – no, he could not, he could not tell what to put first, it would kill him, and then there was spelling to be attended to at the same time!” Thoreau 157.

* “Children come a-berrying, railroad men taking a Sunday morning walk in clean shirts […].” Thoreau 163.

* “Near at hand, upon the topmost spray of a birch, sings the brown thrasher – or red mavis, as some love to call him […].” Thoreau 168.

* “I am convinced, that if all men were to live as simply as I then did, thieving and robbery would be unknown.” Thoreau 183.

* “Its pickerel, though not abundant, are its chief boast.” Thoreau 196.

* “Many a forenoon have I stolen away, preferring to spend thus the most valued part of the day; for I was rich, if not in money, in sunny hours and summer days, and spent them lavishly […].” Thoreau 204-205.

“[…] even if the language is sometimes antiquated, the issues and dilemmas are thoroughly up to date.” Thoreau 355 (afterward by Sam Gilpin).

* “at evening” Thoreau 256.

“Suddenly an unmistakable cat-owl from very near me, with the most harsh and tremendous voice I ever heard from any inhabitant of the woods, responded at regular intervals to the goose, as if determined to expose and disgrace this intruder from Hudson’s Bay by exhibiting a greater compass and volume of voice in a native, and boo-hoo him out of Concord horizon. What do you mean by alarming the citadel at this time of night consecrated to me? Do you think I am ever caught napping at such an hour, and that I have not got lungs and a larynx as well as yourself?” Thoreau 286.

* “titmice” Thoreau 289

* “They, of course, are Walden all over and all through; are themselves small Waldens in the animal kingdom, Waldenses.” Thoreau 300.


“The Peugeot’s wipers sounded like an old man’s raspy, hoarse cough.” Haruki Murakami, Killing Commendatore (London: Harvill Secker, 2018), 22.

“I sighed. ‘Have you had dinner?’ ‘I ate already.’ ‘What did you eat?’ ‘My aunt isn’t a very good cook,’ the girl said. Not a real answer to my question – it was clear she wanted to let the matter drop. Maybe she didn’t want to recall what she’d eaten for dinner. ‘Does your aunt know you came here by yourself?’ Mariye didn’t reply.” Murakami 367.

“‘So you think she’s taken to him?’ ‘I guess so. She really lit up when she talked to him. Her face, and her voice – it got higher. She wasn’t like usual. I bet he felt the change too.'” Murakami 372.

“‘Anyway, back to my uncle’s suicide letter,’ he said, his voice abruptly serious.” Murakami 398.

“‘Can I come visit you later,’ Mariye said in a small voice just before we finished our morning’s work. The lack of inflection made it sound like an assertion, but it was a clear question.” Murakami 466.

“His voice was deep and low, befitting his height.” Murakami 561.


“Then she began to tell me about the new fiancé, mumbling. ‘Don’t talk like that,’ I said. ‘What’s the matter with you? Blow your nose. Why do you give me this Ivy League jive? This soft-spoken stuff? It’s just done to take advantage of common people and make them bend over so as to hear you. You know I’m a little deaf,’ I said. ‘Raise your voice. Don’t be such a snob.'” Saul Bellow, Henderson the Rain King (Great Britain: Penguin Books, 1975) 29.

* “[…] but Haponyi says it is the only way, this fat Hungarian. He knows about fifty words of English, the main one being ‘dear’. He says, ‘Dear, take de bow like dis vun, not like dis vun, so. Und so, so, so. Not to kill vid de bow. Make nice. Do not stick. Yo, yo, yo. Seret lek! Nice.'” Bellow 32.

“And this did have some effect on them, as I suppose they heard in the tone of my voice that I felt a certain amount of distress also […].” Bellow 51.

“Then the man with whom Romilayu had been speaking came up and spoke to me in English, which astonished me, for I would never have thought that people who spoke English would have been capable of carrying on so emotionally.” Bellow 51.

“I was very upset, but what upset me was not his expression, which soon changed for the better; it was, among other tings, the fact that he spoke to me in English. I don’t know why I should have been so surprised – disappointed is the word. It’s the great imperial language of today, taking its turn after Greek and Latin and so on. The Romans weren’t surprised, I don’t think, when some Parthian or Numidian started to speak to them in Latin; they probably took it for granted. But when this fellow, built like a champion, in his white drooping cloth and his scarf and middy, addressed me in English, I was both shaken up and grieved.” Bellow 52.

“‘Well,’ I said, ‘I see you have been out in the world anyway. Or is English everybody’s second language here?’ ‘Sir,’ he said, ‘oh no, just only me.’ […] ‘Malindi school. I went, and also my late brother. Lot of young fellows sent from all over to Malindi school. After that, Beirut school. I have travelled all over. So I alone speak. And for miles and miles around nobody else, but only Wariri king, Dahfu.” Bellow 54.

“[…] he [Dahfu, the king] began again to speak to the lioness, saying, ‘Oh, my sweetheart, dolly girl, this is Henderson.’ […] the kind still talked softly and calmingly to her while her breath blew out the green silk of the Sungo trousers.” Bellow 208.

* [the prince:] “‘Nobody have evah see such a ahnimal.'” Bellow 59.

“From his attitude I could tell that under some unwritten laws he was not allowed to encourage me in my purpose, but that he and all the rest of the Arnewi would consider me their very greatest benefactor. For Itelo [the prince] would not answer directly but kept sighing and repeating, ‘Oh, a very sad time. ‘Strodinary bad time.'” Bellow 60.

“‘Just the contrary, I fear,’ said the king, in his curious, singsong, nasal, African English.” Bellow 173.


* “‘Shouldn’t ter like it?’ he asked tenderly. ‘ ‘Appen not, it ‘ud dirty thee.” She has never been ‘thee’d’ and ‘thou’d’ before.” D. H. Lawrence, Sons and Lovers (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1973) 19.

* “‘I’ve brought thee a cup o’ tea, lass,’ he said.” Lawrence 39.

* “‘You mun get me a drop o’ laxy vitral,’ he said, ‘It’s a winder as we canne ha’e a sup i’ th’ ‘ouse.’ So Mrs Morel bought him elixir of vitriol, his favourite first medicine.” Lawrence 60.

* “‘It’s a poor tale,’ said Mrs Morel, ‘that you’re so ready to side with any snipey vixen who likes to come telling tales against your own children.’ ‘I’ll learn ‘im!’ said Morel.” Lawrence 66.

“‘They’re hateful, and common, and hateful, they are, and I’m not going any more. Mr Braithwaite drops his “h’s”, an’ Mr Winterbottom says “You was”.'” Lawrence 93.

“‘Fetch me a hanky, Chubby dear!’ she said, putting up her mouth to him, and using the same intimate tones as if they were alone; which made the rest of the family feel as if they ought not to be present.” Lawrence 146.

* “In the front hundreds of white narcissi seemed to be growing.” Lawrence 207.

“‘I’ve told you about Mrs Dawes,’ said Miriam huskily; she was nervous.” Lawrence 228.

“‘No, tha’d drop down stiff, as dead as a door-knob, wi’ thy nesh sides.’ ‘Why is a door-knob deader than anything else?’ asked Paul, curious. ‘Eh, I dunno; that’s what they say,’ replied his father.” Lawrence 242.

“‘Do you think they’d have the damn cheek to send us away?’ ‘Well, I’m sure,’ she exclaimed, ‘they would if they heard your language.'” Lawrence 296. [Paul and his mother in the cathedral in Lincoln]

“He liked to lapse into the dialect when he talked to her.” Lawrence 302. [Arthur and Beatrice]

* “The next evening he went into the cinematograph with her for a few minutes before train-time.” Lawrence 369.

“‘Why, it’s impossible! You don’t understand what a woman forfeits –‘ ‘No, I don’t. But if a woman’s got nothing but her fair fame to feed on, why, it’s thin tack, and a donkey would eat it!'” Lawrence 388.

* “He caught her hand impulsively, and they went along the narrow twitchel.” Lawrence 389.

“‘I’ll come down directly. I’ve got a visitor just now.’ Dawes knew from his tone that he had been speaking to Clara. He stepped forward. ‘Yer little devil!’ he said. ‘I’ll visitor you, inside of two minutes! Think I’m going’ ter have you whipperty-snappin’ round?'” Lawrence 223.

“Thomas Jordan started out of his little glass office, and came running down the room. ‘What’s a-matter, what’s a-matter?’ he said, in his old man’s sharp voice.” Lawrence 424.

“She listened, feeling she could learn more from his whistling than from his speech. It was a sad dissatisfied tune […].” Lawrence 428.

* “‘And what is love?’ she asked. ‘Has it to have special hours?'” Lawrence 432.

* “‘Is Newton come?'” Lawrence 450.

“‘And I’ll write to you what the doctor says,’ said Pail. ‘But tha writes i’ such a fashion, I canna ma’e it out,’ said Morel. ‘Well, I’ll write plain.’ It was no good asking Morel to answer, for he could scarecely do more than write his own name.” Lawrence 456.

“‘Don’t think I didn’t like your house, Annie,’ she said, ‘but it’s nice to be in my own home again.’ And Morel answered huskily: ‘It is, lass, it is.'” Lawrence 460.

* “He’d lend it you.” Lawrence 463.

* “‘Dos want owt to eat?’ asked Morel.” Lawrence 486.

“‘Do you want me, Baxter?’ she asked. His voice was hoarse as he answered: ‘Do you want to come back to me?’ She made a moaning noise, lifted her arms, and put them round his neck, drawing him to her. He hid his face on her shoulder, holding her clasped. ‘Take me back!’ she whispered, ecstatic. ‘Take me back, take me back!’ And she put her fingers through his fine, thin dark hair, as if she were only semi-conscious. He tightened his grasp on her. ‘Do you want me again?’ he murmured, broken.” Lawrence 497.


“– Do you understand what he says? Stephen asked her.

— Is it French you are talking, sir? the old woman said to Haines.

Haines spoke to her again, a longer speech confidently.

— Irish, Buck Mulligan said. Is there Gaelic on you?

— I thought it was Irish, she said, by the sound of it. Are you from west, sir?

— I am an Englishman, Haines answered.

— He’s English, Buck Mulligan said, and he thinks we ought to speak Irish in Ireland.

— Sure we ought to, the old woman said, and I’m ashamed I don’t speak the language myself. I’m told it’s a grand language by them that knows.

— Grand is no name for it, said Buck Mulligan. Wonderful entirely.” J. Joyce, Ulysses (New York: Random House, 1946) 16.

*”I will tell you, he said solemnly, what is his proudest boast.” Joyce 31.


“A chain smoker with a hoarse voice and a tough manner, Muriel was constantly spilling cigarette ashes that Ida, with her zeal for order, would brush away with scolding […].” J. Heller, Good as Gold (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1976) 23.

“Sid finally found nerve enough to suggest in a voice that was delicate and kind, “I think you ought to buy a condominium.”” Heller 61.

“A symbiotic system of new criminal classes; and medical science had created something infinitely worse, a long life span, with a larger and larger number of people who were unneeded by society, had nothing to do, and were not revered.” Heller 74.

“He resumed after a moment in his quiet mellow voice in which the rounded vowels of the South were euphoniously interblended with the distinct consonants of the best English tutors and preparatory schools.” Heller 236.

“”In just those words.” Pride rang triumphantly in Harris Rosenblatt’s voice, and his enunciation too, Gold noted now from the hardened r, had taken on the meticulous polish of a tenth-generation Midwestener.” Heller 252.

“”Bruce, what does boggle mean? I’ve been looking it up everywhere but can’t seem to find it in any dictionary in the world, and no one I ask is sure.” Gold said, “There’s no such word.” “Really?” Ralph found this curious. “How are we able to use it if it doesn’t exist as a word?” “Because that,” said Gold, “is how people are.”” Heller 266.

* “without even a hat on, I betcha” Heller 268.

“and at the end of the year we moved again and were back in a Jewish neighborhood and I was going to school. I think I spoke English with a very funny accent, but I was too dumb to realize that until the other boys and girls started imitating me. Even then I didn’t understand right away that it was me they were making fun of. I only knew they would start talking funny when they were around me, and then I would try to talk funny like them in the same way, imitating them as they were imitating me.” Heller 295.

“”What’s the Jewish word for orange?”

“In Yiddish? Ahrange.”




Benena. We had no words for them, Bruce.”” Heller 296.

“Still a grubba, still a zshlub.” “I don’t understand Yiddish,” Harris Rosenblatt told Gold at once, “and any words I may have known as a child I have forgotten. Although,” Harris Rosenblatt continued in a softer tone with a kind of confiding geniality, “I used to be Jewish, you know.” “I used to be a hunchback.” “Isn’t it amazing,” exclaimed Harris Rosenblatt in a glad cry, “how we’ve both been able to change!” Heller 380.

“Cowboys ain’t short, ain’t chubby, and don’t talk with no Jewish accent, I told him.” Heller 432.

“The old shouldn’t be with just the old. The old should be with the young, but they don’t want us no more.” Heller 437.

“”Yiskadal v’yiskadish,” Gold began the prayer for the dead, reading the Hebrew words phonetically from an English text […]. Greenspan was the only one there who could read the language in the original.” Heller 444.

“Gold felt like a big schmuck when he finally found his mother’s grave after the final prayers on the last day and saw that every character on the headstone was in Hebrew. He recognized not a one.” Heller 446.


“He poured himself another vodka. “Be very careful,” he growled, voice husky from the spirits burning his throat.” S. Joyce, “A flaw in the system”, At the River’s Mouth (Aarhus: Silkefyret, 2018) 70.


“”Have you realized, Doctor, that all our names begin with K, yours and mine and Kafka’s? And then there is Claire – and Miss Clark!” “The alphabet,” he reminds me, a language teacher, “only has twenty-six letters. And there are billions of us in need of initials for purposes of identification.”” (P. Roth, The Breast (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1972) 64.

“I spent several hours every morning listening to the records of Laurence Olivier playing Hamlet and Othello, Paul Scofield as Lear, the Old Vic company doing Macbeth. Unable to follow along with a text while the play is being spoken, I miss the meaning of an unfamiliar word, or my mind will wander, and when I return I find that for lines on end I am at sea in the syntax and the sense. I make every effort not to lose my place, as it were, but despite that effort – that effort! always that effort! – to keep myself firmly fixed on the plight of Shakespeare’s heroes, I do continue to consider my own more than I should like to.” Roth 70.


“[…] the brandy bottle again, followed by brandy-voice, and words more intoxicating than booze…”  S. Rushdie, Midnight’s Children (Great Britain: Pan Books) 16.

*”But there were cows, too: sacred kine roaming the dusty streets, each patrolling its own territory, staking its claims in excrement.” Rushdie 32.

“I don’t know how my grandmother came to adopt the term whatitsname as her leitmotif, but as the years passed it invaded her sentences more and more often. I like to think of it as an unconscious cry for help… as a seriously-meant question. Reverend Mother was giving us a hint that, for all her presence and bulk, she was adrift in the universe. She didn’t know, you see, what it was called.” Rushdie 41.

“These scholars of hers […], everyone knows they have to perform extra-curricular duties. They go to her bedroom in the dark, and she never lets them see her blotchy face, but bewitches them into bed with her voice of a singing witch!” Rushdie 47.

“He enjoyed her brilliant circle of friends who were as much at home in Persian as they were in German.” Rushdie 47.

“‘If God meant people to speak many tongues,’ she argued, ‘why did he put only one in our heads?'” Rushdie 47.

“‘Tell me, Mr Methwold,’ Ahmed Sinai’s voice has changed, in the presence of an Englishman it has become a hideous mockery of an Oxford drawl, ‘why insist on the delay? Quick sale is best business, after all.'” Rushdie 96.

“[…] they have all failed to notice what is happening: the Estate, Methwold’s Estate, is changing them. Every evening at six they are out in their gardens, celebrating the cocktail hour, and when William Methwold comes to call they slip effortlessly into their imitation Oxford drawls; and they are learning, about ceiling fans and gas cookers and the correct diet for budgerigars, and Methwold, supervising their transformation, is mumbling under his breath.” Rushdie 99.

* “But me no buts, it’s me all right, I just know it for sure.” Rushdie 99.

“And my father – apeing Oxford drawl, anxious to impress the departing Englishman – responded with ‘Actually, old chap, ours is a pretty distinguished family, too.'” Rushdie 110.

“[…] it raised her voice to an unusually shrill pitch; it unleashed from her lips a violence which would have wounded me, were I still vulnerable to words.” Rushdie 121.

“And, moving across to Versailles Villa, here is Mrs Dubash with her shrine to the god Ganesh, stuck in the corner of an apartment of such supernatural untidiness that, in our house, the word ‘dubash’ became a verb meaning ‘to make a mess’ … ‘Oh, Saleem, you’ve dubashed your room again, you black man!'” Rushdie 129.

“Telepathy, then: […] before I began to act – there was a language problem. The voices babbled in everything from Malayalam to Naga dialects, from the purity of Lucknow Urdu to the Southern slurrings of Tamil. I understood only a fraction of the things being said within the walls of my skull. Only later, when I began to probe, did I learn that below the surface transmissions – the front-of-mind stuff which is what I’d originally been picking up – language faded away, and was replaced by universally intelligible thought-forms which far transcended words…” Rushdie 168.

“[…] cursing her in the language of his reincarnations” Rushdie 171.

“India had been divided anew, into fourteen states and six centrally-administered ‘territories’. But the boundaries of these states were not formed by rivers, or mountains, or any natural features of the terrain; they were, instead, walls of words. Language divided us: Kerala was for speakers of Malayalam, the only palindromically-named tongue on earth; in Karnataka you were supposed to speak Kanarese; and the amputated state of Madras – known today as Tamil Nadu – enclosed the aficionados of Tamil. Owing to some oversight, however, nothing was done with the state of Bombay; and in the city of Mumbadevi, the language marches grew longer and noisier and finally metamorphosed into political parties, the Samyukta Maharashta Samiti (‘United Maharashta Party’) which stood for the Marathi language and demanded the creation of the Deccan state of Maharashtra, and the Maha Gurajat Parishad (‘Great Gujarat Party’) which marched beneath the banner of the Gujarati language and dreamed of a state to the north of Bombay City […].” Rushdie 189.

“In Marathi which I hardly understand, it’s my worst subject at school, and the smiles asking, ‘You want to join S.M.S., little princeling?’ And I […] shake my head No. And the smiles, ‘Oho! The young nawab does not like our tongue! What does he like?’ And another smile, ‘Maybe Gujarati! You speak Gujarati, my lord?’ But my Gujarati was as bad as my Marathi; I only knew one thing in the marshy tongue of Kathiawar; and the smiles, urging, and the fingers, prodding […] so I told them what I knew, a rhyme I’d learned from Glandy Keith Colaco at school, which he used when he was bulying Gujarati boys, a rhyme designed to make fun of the speech rhythms of the language […]. but when I’d recited them, the smiles began to laugh […].” Rushdie 191.

“By my show of erudition and by the purity of my accent, I shamed them into feeling unworthy of judging me; not a very noble deed […].” Rushdie 212.

“Bare knees proved my childishness to Pia; deceived by ankle-socks, she held my face against her breasts while her sitar-perfect voice whispered in my good ear: ‘Child, child, don’t fear; your clouds will soon roll by.'” Rushdie 242.

“Catrack’s grip tightens; his voice becomes low, but also cobra-like, sibilant; inaudible in the room with the green-striped sofa, his words penetrate my one good ear: ‘Give this to your aunty. Secretly secretly. Can do? And keep mum; or I’ll send the police to cut your tongue out.'” Rushdie 247.

“Our names contain our fates; living as we do in a place where names have not acquired the meaninglessness of the West, and are still more than mere sounds, we are also victims of our titles. Sinai contains Ibn Sina, master magician, Sufi adept; and also Sin the moon […].” Rushdie 304.

“No no no, but she coaxed him in her voice like crumpled paper, until because he was alone, end of the world and out of all time, alone with this impossible mythological old harridan […].” Rushdie 319.

“[…] and while the Prime Minister in her exultation at this partial victory began to abuse her opponents in language of which a Koli fishwife would have been proud, my Parvati’s labour entered a phase in which […].” Rushdie 418.

“[…] life unlike syntax allows one more than three, and at last somewhere the striking of a clock, twelve chimes, release.” Rushdie 463.


*”Christ, John, whyn’t you come to me?” K. Kafka, True North (New York: Penguin Group Plume books, 2000) 22.

*”Who couldn’t fill out a application?” Kafka 22.

“”No, I’ll do it,” she said, putting a little spit into the t for good measure.” Kafka 119.

“”Soon as I get the juice I’ll fuel up and skedaddle.”


“Haven’t you heard that before?”

“I don’t know. Maybe once or twice. It doesn’t seem like the kind of word you’d use.”” Kafka 138-9.

“”Yep,” his lips smacked shut on the p.” Kafka 154.

“”Okay,” she said. He tried to gauge her tone of voice. With women, some okays were not really okays.” Kafka 210-1.


‘”A cinch,” said Dick, “I promise you, honey, we’ll blast him all over them walls.” “‘Those'” walls,” said Petty. A dictionary buff, a devotee of obscure words, he had been intent on improving his companion’s grammar and expanding his vocabulary ever since they had celled together at Kansas State Penitentiary.’ T. Capote, In Cold Blood: A True Account of a Multiple Murder and its Consequences (London: Penguin Books, 2000) 20-1.

*’Christ, then he would have knowed I wasn’t telling the truth.’ Capote 21.

‘Square, squat, in the earlier forties, and Englishwoman fitted out with an accent almost incoherently upper-class, Mrs Archibald William Warren-Browne did not at all resemble the café’s other frequenters, and seemed, within that setting, like a peacock trapped  in a turkey pen.’ Capote 110.

*’How a body can’t sleep.’ Capote 111.

*’he is beginning to think of a more easier way of supporting himself in line with life.’ Capote 125.

“‘I believe that the English language is the most expressive and contagious form of communication. To begin with, we should be thankful that we have this unique gift of a great language. And if we abuse it we are only abusing ourselves. So let us listen, heed, acknowledge our heritage, and yet explore and take risks with language… […] We must forget England and their use of our common tongue. Even though English usage is fine, our own American language contains many deep wells of unexplored resources. These resources, as yet, remain untapped. Given the proper moment and the proper writers, there will one day be a literary explosion…'” Charles Bukowski, Ham on Rye (Edinburgh/London: Canongate, 2015 ) 124-5.

‘”Our American culture,” she [Miss Gredis] said, “is destined for greatness. The English language, now so limited and structured, will be reinvented and improved upon. Our writers will use what I like to think of, in my mind, as Americanese…”‘ Charles Bukowski 128.

‘”See this slot?”



“I mean, “yes.””‘ Charles Bukowski 249.

‘Sometimes as the instructors talked on and on about the evils of nazism (we were told always to spell ‘nazi’ with a small ‘n’ even at the beginning of a sentence) and fascism I would leap to my feet […].’ Charles Bukowski 291.

*‘”Can I see it?”

He belched, then said, “Foller me…”‘ Charles Bukowski 323.

‘Not I! I don’t overeat myself […].’ D. H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover (Great Britain: Penguin Popular Classics, 1997) 35.

The whole book is sociolinguistically interesting!

*“I hope, sister, things are not so very bad with you neither -” J. Austen, Mansfield Park (Great Britain: Penguin Books, 1966) 63.

*“It would save me many a heart-ache.” J. Austen, Park X.

*“”Fanny,” said Edmund, after looking at her attentively; “I am sure you have the headach?”” J. Austen, Park 101.

“”Do you think the church itself never chosen then?” “Never is a black word. But yes, in the never of conversation which means not very often, I do think it. […] A clergyman is nothing.” […] “The nothing of conversation has its gradations, I hope, as well as the never.”” J. Austen, Park 120.

*“There was nothing disagreeable in Mr Rushworth’s appearance, and Sir Thomas was liking him already.” J. Austen, Park 195.

“”[…] I am so glad your eldest cousin is gone that he [=Edmund] may be Mr Bertram again. There is something in the sound of Mr Edmund Bertram so formal, so pitiful, so younger-borther-like, that I detest it.” “How differently we feel!” cried Fanny. “To me, the sound of Mr Bertram is so cold and nothing-meaning – so entirely without warmt or character! – It just stands for a gentleman, and that’s all. But there is nobleness in the name of Edmund. It is a name of heroism and renown – of kings, princes, and knights; and seems to breathe the spirit of chivalry and warm affections.” “I grant the name is good in itself, and Lord Edmund or Sir Edmund sound delightfully; but sink it under the chill, the annihilation of a Mr – and Mr Edmund is no more than Mr John or Mr Thomas”.” J. Austen, Park 224.

*“A large income is the best recipé for happiness  I ever heard of.” J. Austen, Park 226.

*“[…] you look very nicely indeed.” J. Austen, Park 233.

“and having talked of poetry, the richness of the present age, and gone through a brief comparison of opinion as to the first-rate poets, trying to ascertain whether Marmion or The Lady of the Lake were to be preferred, and how ranked the Giaour and The Bride of Abydos; and moreover, how the Giaour was to be pronounced […].” J. Austen, Persuasion (Oxford: OUP) 98.

* ‘(turning to the waiter), “did not you hear, – did not his servant say whether he belonged to the Kellynch family?” “No, ma’am, – he did not mention no particular family; but he said his master was a very rich gentleman, and would be a baronight some day.”‘ J. Austen, Persuasion 103.

“Why, the Black Princess, though she has only left school, must be two or three and twenty. And you should see the hand she writes! Mrs Colonel Haggistoun usually writes her letters, but in a moment of confidence she put pen to paper for my sisters; she spelt satin “satting”, and Saint James’s, “Saint Jams”.” W. M. Thackeray, Vanity Fair (Great Britain: Wordsworth Classics, 2001) 184.

“”My master would have four,” said Mr Joseph Sedley’s servant, who was in waiting; and he and Mr Osborne’s man agreed, as they followed George and William into the church, that it was a ‘reg’lar shabby turnhout, and with scarce so much as a breakfast or a wedding favour’.” Thackeray, Vanity 196.

“Then these two lads went off to the Slaughters’, and having ordered a famous dinner, sat down and wrote off letters to the kind anxious parents at home – letters full of love and heartiness, and pluck and bad spelling.” Thackeray, Vanity 218.

“”You will now, if you please, my dear, sit down at the writing-table and pen me a pretty little letter to Miss Crawley, in which you’ll say that you are a good boy, and that sort of thing.” So Rawdon sate down, and wrote off, “Brighton, Thursday,” and “My dear Aunt,” with great rapidity: but there the gallant officer’s imagination failed him. He mumbled the end of his pen, and looked up in his wife’s face. She could not help laughing at his rueful countenance, and marching up and down the room with her hands behind her, the little woman began to dictate a letter, which he took down.

“Before quitting the country and commencing a campaign, which very possibly may be fatal.”

“What?” said Rawdon, rather surprised, but took the humour of the phrase, and presently wrote it down with a grin.

“Which very possibly may be fatal, I have come hither—”

“Why not say come here, Becky? Come here’s grammar,” the dragoon interposed.

“I have come hither,” Rebecca insisted, with a stamp of her foot, “to say farewell to my dearest and earliest friend. I beseech you before I go, not perhaps to return, once more to let me press the hand from which I have received nothing but kindnesses all my life.”

“Kindnesses all my life,” echoed Rawdon, scratching down the words, and quite amazed at his own facility of composition.

“I ask nothing from you but that we should part not in anger. I have the pride of my family on some points, though not on all. I married a painter’s daughter, and am not ashamed of the union.”

“No, run me through the body if I am!” Rawdon ejaculated.

“You old booby,” Rebecca said, pinching his ear and looking over to see that he made no mistakes in spelling—”beseech is not spelt with an a, and earliest is.” So he altered these words, bowing to the superior knowledge of his little Missis.

“I thought that you were aware of the progress of my attachment,” Rebecca continued: “I knew that Mrs. Bute Crawley confirmed and encouraged it. But I make no reproaches. I married a poor woman, and am content to abide by what I have done. Leave your property, dear Aunt, as you will. I shall never complain of the way in which you dispose of it. I would have you believe that I love you for yourself, and not for money’s sake. I want to be reconciled to you ere I leave England. Let me, let me see you before I go. A few weeks or months hence it may be too late, and I cannot bear the notion of quitting the country without a kind word of farewell from you.”

“She won’t recognise my style in that,” said Becky. “I made the sentences short and brisk on purpose.” And this authentic missive was despatched under cover to Miss Briggs.

Old Miss Crawley laughed when Briggs, with great mystery, handed her over this candid and simple statement. “We may read it now Mrs. Bute is away,” she said. “Read it to me, Briggs.”

When Briggs had read the epistle out, her patroness laughed more. “Don’t you see, you goose,” she said to Briggs, who professed to be much touched by the honest affection which pervaded the composition, “don’t you see that Rawdon never wrote a word of it. He never wrote to me without asking for money in his life, and all his letters are full of bad spelling, and dashes, and bad grammar. It is that little serpent of a governess who rules him.” They are all alike, Miss Crawley thought in her heart. They all want me dead, and are hankering for my money.”” Thackeray, Vanity 233-4.

Thackeray, Vanity, chapter XXVII & XXVIII (Irish English).

“Jos accompanied the ladies in the public boats, the which all old travellers in Flanders must remember for the luxury and accommodation they afforded.” Thackeray, Vanity 252.

“So it is! Power is there, and always will be. As soon as two or three men come together, especially to do something, then power comes into being, and one man is a leader, a master. It is inevitable.” D. H. Lawrence, Apocalypse (Praha: Levné knihy KMa, 2007) 18-19.

“The Antichrist and the Urdummheit are just the fellow who is different from me. To-day Antichrist speaks Russian, a hundred years ago he spoke Frenchm tomorrow he may speak cockney or the Glasgow brogue. As for Urdummheit, he speaks any language that isn’t Oxford or Harvard or an obsequious imitation of one of these.” Lawrence, Apocalypse 52.

“Symbols mean something: yet they mean something different to every man. Fix the meaning of a symbol, and you have fallen into the commonplace of allegory.” Lawrence, Apocalypse 69.

“‘Have some more sherry, Hilary, just a smidgin?’ A new fashionable word of Laura’s. Diminutive of ‘smudge’? […] ‘Have some white wine, Hilary.’ ‘Just a smidget.’ […] ‘Some whisky?’ ‘A smudgeling.’ ‘A what?’ ‘A smudgeling.”” Iris Murdoch, A Word Child (Great Britain: Triad/Panther Books, 1976) 7-11.

“She still had her northern accent. I had got rid of mine.” [of Crystal] Murdoch, Child 14.

“I also learnt, of course, my own language, hitherto something of a foreign tongue. I learnt from Mr Osmand how to write the best language in the world accurately and clearly and, ultimately, with a hard careful elegance.” Murdoch, Child 21.

“Grammar books were my books of prayer. Looking up words in the dictionary was for me an image of goodness. The endless endless task of learning new words was for me an image of life.” Murdoch, Child 22.

“I was not a philological prodigy. I lacked that uncanny gift which some people have for language structure which seems akin to a gift for music or calculation. I never became concerned with the metaphysical aspects of language. (I am not interested in Chomsky. That places me.)” Murdoch, Child 23.

“I got rid of my northern vowels.” [describing his studies at Oxford] Murdoch, Child 23.

“I loved words, but I was not a word-user, rather a word-watcher, in the way that some people are bird-watchers. I loved languages but I know by now that I would never speak the languages that I read. I was one for whom the spoken and the written word are themselves different languages.” Murdoch, Child 28.

“I early saw that the nature of words and their relationship to reality made metaphysical systems impossible.” Murdoch, Child 28.

“Her father, never visible, was a dispensing chemist in Fife. Tommy, in referring to him, always mentioned that he was a ‘gentleman’: presumably a Scotticism.” Murdoch, Child 34.

“She pronounced it ‘skairmish’.” [a Scottish character, skirmishMurdoch, Child 43.

“Her voice was something of a surprise. I had expected the chi-chi accent, so unmistakable, so indelible, so charming. But this was an English voice, even, as I later discovered, with traces of London vowels.” [of an Indian girl] Murdoch, Child 54.

“As for Tommy’s letter with its picture of happy home life with the little ones it made me want to spew. At any rate she had not been gurgling about ‘bairns’, as she sometimes did.” Murdoch, Child 83.

“‘Poetry is where words end.’ ‘Poetry is where words begin.'” Murdoch, Child 88.

“‘I always thought the Tower of Babel such a sinister myth,’ said Freddie. ‘Who could love a God who deliberately confused mankind in that mean way?’ ‘One could respect him,’ said Clifford. ‘He knew his business.’ ‘I wonder if there’ll ever be a real international language?’ said Freddie. ‘There is. English.’ ‘Hilary is so chauvinistic.’ ‘What about Esperanto?’ said Laura. ‘Hilary, do you know Esperanto?’ ‘Of course.’ ‘Do you think it – ?’ ‘How can one tolerate a language where the word for “mother” is “little father”?” Murdoch, Child 97.

* “You make me to see and to be.” Murdoch, Child 198.

* “[…] the rain which had been tap-tapping discreetly upon Gunnar’s window […].” Murdoch, Child 205.

“‘I thought you couldn’t possibly really come from India.’ ‘Why?’ ‘Because of your voice. You’re a little Cockney girl, aren’t you? You were born in, let me see – Stepney?’ ‘East India Dock Road.’ […] Her voice had indeed the flat twang of east London, but her speech had some more ancient simplicity or perhaps it had just been in some way maimed or gutted as a result of living for so many years among educated people without being one of them.” Murdoch, Child 235 & 236.

* “‘I may call you “Hilary”, mayn’t I?'” Murdoch, Child 239.

“There was also, I saw, a memorial tablet of Thomas Stearns Eliot. How is it now with you, old friend, the intolerable wrestle with words and meanings being over? Alas, I could not pray for your soul any more than I could pray for Clifford’s. You had both vanished from the catalogue of being. But I could feel a lively gratitude for words, even for words whose sense I could scarcely understand.” Murdoch, Child 384.

“‘Don’t greet so, my poor bairn,’ said Tommy to Crystal. ‘Must you use these affected Scotticisms?’ I said to Tommy. […] ‘That’s what’s fashing her.'” Murdoch, Child 385-386.

“Roland Weary and the scouts were safe in a ditch, and Weary growled at Billy, “Get out of the road, you dumb motherfucker.” The last word was still a novelty in the speech of white people in 1944. It was fresh and astonishing to Billy, who had never fucked anybody – and it did its job. It woke him up and got him off the road.” Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse 5 (Great Britain: Vintage, 2000) 24.

“What would Victoria become, here? Would she grow up into a street urchin, plimsolls, no socks, grimy tee shirt, with a London accent grating on a nicely-brought-up ear?” Angela Cartner, The Magic Toyshop (London: Virago Press, 1994) 58.

“”Is it five she is?” wrote Aunt Margaret with a trace of brogue.” The Magic, 48.

“He spoke with a faint but recognisable Irish lilt.” Carter, The Magic, 35.

“Pearls are the tears of fishes […].” Carter, The Magic, 195.

“”´E´s ´orrible!” gasped Victoria, making her mind up about Uncle Philip in a rush. Her recently acquired aspirates gave way completely under the stress of emotion.” Carter, The Magic, 75.

“His flat, South London voice seemed coarse to Melanie and, once again, she hoped Victoria would not pick the accent up.” Carter, The Magic, 80.

“”I come in for me rosin and you´re lying on the ground. The dog sniffing.” He talked as if he never thought in words and had to invent them to describe the shapeless, bulky concepts in his mind as he went along.” Carter, The Magic, 119.

“[…] you might think was a hand unless it is still your distress.” Carter, The Magic, 120-121.

“They gave it me St Patrick´s night […].” Carter, The Magic, 126.

“The thumb the father, short and thick-set, probably a Northcountryman, with flat, assertive vowels in his speech […].” Carter, The Magic, 161.

“”Is “pet” an Irish endearment?” she asked, sidetracted. “Oh, it´s quite common all over the British Isles, I should think.” Carter, The Magic, 168.

CLOV: The bastard! (tj. blecha)

HAMM: Did you get him?

CLOV: Looks like it. [He drops the tin and adjusts his trousers.] Unless he’s laying doggo.

HAMM: Laying! Lying you mean. Unless he’s lying doggo.

CLOV: Ah? One says lying? One doesn’t say laying?

HAMM: Use your head, can’t you. If he was laying we’d be bitched.

Beckett, Endgame, f&f, 27.

HAMM: Yesterday! What does that mean? Yesterday!

CLOV: [Violently.] That means that bloody awful day, long ago, before this bloody awful day. I use the words you taught me. If they don’t mean anything any more, teach me others. Or let me be silent.

Beckett, Endgame, f&f, 32.

“Go and see is she dead.” (41) “Go and see did he hear me.” (43)

Beckett, Endgame, f&f.

“What did I do with that stoops?”

Beckett, Endgame, f&f, 46.

“Ah pardon, it’s I am obliged to you.”

Beckett, Endgame, f&f, 51.

“”As far as I have had opportunity of judging, it appears to me that the usual style of letter-writing among women is faultless, except in three particulars.”

“And what are they?”

“A general deficiency of subject, a total inattention to stops, and a very frequent ignorance of grammar.””

Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey (England: Penguin Books, 1972) 49. 

“This question answered, as it readily was, the stranger pronounced her’s to be Thorpe.”

Austen, Abbey 52.

“After a few minutes consideration”

Austen, Abbey 75.

“Do you go and see for her, Mr Morland, said I.”

Austen, Abbey 77.

“And yet I have heard that there is a great deal of wine drank in Oxford.”

Austen, Abbey 83.

“and those men who do not chuse to dance or marry themselves”

Austen, Abbey 95.

“”The nicest; – by which I suppose you mean the neatest. That must depend upon the building.”

“Henry,” said Miss Tilney, “you are very impertinent. Miss Morland, he is treating you exactly as he does his sister. He is for ever finding fault with me, for some incorrectness of language, and now he is taking the same liberty with you. The word “nicest,” as you used it, did not suit him; and you had better change it as soon as you can, or we shall be overpowered with Johnson and Blair all the rest of the way.”


“Oh! it is a very nice word indeed! – it does for everything. Originally perhaps it was applied only to express neatness, propriety, delicacy, or refinement; – people were nice in their dress, in their sentiments, or their choice. But now every commendation on every subject is comprised in that one word.””

Austen, Abbey 122-3. 

“while the trunks were carrying down”

Austen, Abbey 162.

“”I have just learnt to love a hyacinth.” […] “But now you love a hyacinth.” […] “but you may in time come to love a rose?””

Austen, Abbey 178-9.

“”Anyway, it’s not old chip,” I told him in the end, during one of our disputes over how our game should proceed. “It’s old chap.” Akira, as I knew he would, protested vigorously. “Not at all. Not at all. Mrs Brown. She make me say again and again. Old chip. Old chip. Correct pronunciation, everything. She say old chip. She teacher!””

Kazuo Ishiguro, When We Were Orphans (Britain: faber & faber, 2000) 52.

“his English often let him down if I spoke out of context like this.”

Ishiguro, When We 72. 

“”You’re going to be as fit as a fiddle in no time.”

There was another pause, and I remembered from years ago how Akira would fail to follow me if I used colloquialisms.”

Ishiguro, When We 260.

“She had many acquaintance in the place, for her father was universally civil […].”

Jane Austen, Emma (Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1979) 39.

“Miss Taylor has been use to have two persons to please […].”

Emma 42.

“[…] and the wedding cake […] was all eat up.”

Emma 49.

“[…] but still the cake was eaten […].”

Emma 50.

“But will there be good room for five couple? […] five couple are not enough to make it worth while to stand up. Five couple are nothing, when one thinks seriously about it.”

Emma 254.

“”Do come with me,” said Mrs Weston, “if it be not very disagreeable to you.””

Emma 242.

“[…] that the Churchill’s might not allow their nephew to remain a day beyong his fortnight.” (262) “the Eltons” (271)

Emma 262 & 271.

“[…] he was happily placed, quite at his ease, ready to talk with pleasure of what had been atchieved […].”

Emma 353.

“It’s useful function, you know, at a time like this, when everything is an official secret, to remind people that their tongues were made to talk with and that the truth is meant to be spoken about.”

Graham Greene, The Heart of the Matter (London: Vintage, 2004) 248.

“The words vibrated with sincerity: it gave them the sound of foreign language – the sound of English spoken in England. Here intonations changed in the course of a few months, became high – pitched and insincere, or flat and guarded. You could tell that Wilson was fresh from home.”

Greene, Heart 32.

“He said in an unmistakably Scottish accent, ‘Ah’m Loder, chief engineer.'”

Greene, Heart 104.

“As they moved up the hill to the bungalow, the persistent Scottish voice, as regular as the pulse of a dynamo, came back to them.”

Greene, Heart 105.

“Words! Mere words! How terrible they were! How clear, and vivid, and cruel! One could not escape from them. And yet what a subtle magic there was in them! They seemed things, and to have a music of their own as sweet as that of viola or of lute. Mere words! Was there anything so real as words?”

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (Praha: Levné knihy KMa, 2005) 28.

* “Come on. Who’s this? Who’s this got my box?”

Harold Pinter, The Caretaker (French’s Theatre Group, 1960) 25.

* “I mean, I got used to sleeping this way. It isn’t me has to change, it’s that window.”

Pinter, The Caretaker 31.

“Mr Tulliver did not willingly write a letter and found the relation between spoken and written language, briefly known as spelling, one of the most puzzling things in this puzzling world. Nevertheless, like all fervid writing, the task was done in less time than usual, and if the spelling differed from Mrs Glegg’s – why, she belonged, like himself, to a generation with whom spelling was a matter of private judgement.

George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss (London: Penguin Popular Classics, 1994) 129.

“He had not been there a fortnight before it was evident to him that life, complicated not only with Latin grammar but with a new standard of English pronunciation, was a very difficult business, made all the more obscure by a thick mist of bashfulness.”

Eliot, Mill 134.

“About Latin he had an opinion and thought that in case of another war, since people would no longer wear hair-powder, it would be well to put a tax upon Latin as a luxury much run upon by the higher classes and not telling at all on the ship-owning department.”

Eliot, Mill 231.

“‘She speaks French?’ Mrs Poultney’s alarm at this appalling disclosure was nearly enough to sink the vicar. But he ended by bowing and smiling urbanely. ‘My dear madam, so do most governesses. It is not their fault if the world requires such attainments of them.’

John Fowles, The French Lieutenant’s Woman (Great Britain: Pan Books, 1987) 33.

“Sarah’s voice was firm, rather deep. It retained traces of a rural accent, but in those days a genteel accent was not the great social requisite it later became. There were men in the House of Lords, dukes even, who still kept traces of the accent of their province; and not one thought any worse of them.”

Fowles, Woman 36.

“He had a very sharp sense of clothes style-quite as sharp as a “mod” of the 1960s; and he spent most of his wages on keeping in fashion. And he showed another mark of this new class in his struggle to command the language. By 1870 Sam Weller’s famous mobility to pronounce v except as w, the centuries-old work of the common Londoner, was as much despised by the “snobs” as by the bourgeois novelists who continued for some time, and quite inaccurately, to put it into the dialogue of their Cockney characters. The snobs’ struggle was much more with the aspirate; a fierce struggle, in our Sam’s case, and more frequently lost than won. But his wrong a’s and h’s were not really comic; they were signs of a social revolution, and this was something Charles failed to recognize.”

Fowles, Woman 41.

“‘From Mr Charles, Miss Tina. With ’er complimums.’ Mary spoke in a dialect
notorious for its contempt of pronouns and suffixes.”

Fowles, Woman 70.

“It is difficult to imagine today the enormous differences then separating a lad born in the Seven Dials and a carter’s daughter from a remote East Devon village. Their coming together was fraught with almost as many obstacles as if he had been an Eskimo and she, a Zulu. They had barely a common language, so often did they not understand what the other had just said.”

Fowles, Woman 115.

Mal (if I may add to your stock of useless knowledge) is an Old English borrowing from Old Norwegian and was brought to us by the Vikings. It originally meant “speech”, but since the only time the Vikings went in for that womanish activity was to demand something at axe blade, it came to mean “tax” or “payment in tribute”. One branch of the Vikings went south and founded the Mafia in Sicily; but another – and by this time mal was spelt mail – were busy starting their own protection rackets on the Scottish border. If one cherished one’s crops or one’s daughter’s virginity one paid mail to the neighbourhood chieftains; and the victims, in the due course of an expensive time, called it black mail. If not exactly engaged in etymological speculation, Sam was certainly thinking of the meaning of the word […].”

Fowles, Woman 182-3.

“But the more these conscious illusions of the ruling classes are shown to be false and the less they satisfy common sense, the more dogmatically they are asserted and the more deceitful, moralizing and spiritual becomes the language of established society.”

Marx in Fowles, Woman 211.

“We all write poems; it is simply that poets are the ones who write in words.”

Fowles, Woman 132.

“Language is like shot silk; so much depends on the angle at which it is held.”

Fowles, Woman 391.

“He saw, too, what had always been dissonant between them: the formality of his
language – seen at its worst in the love-letter she had never received – and the
directness of hers. Two languages, betraying on the one side a hollowness, a foolish constraint – but she has just said it, an artificiality of conception – and on the other a substance and purity of thought and judgment […].”

Fowles, Woman 383-4.

“In those days only the uncouth Yankees descended to telegraphese.”

Fowles, Woman 286.

“Even if it was hardly yet reflected in their accents and use of the language, these two were rising in the world; and knew it.”

Fowles, Woman 363.

“‘Well, for sure case, I knawn’t how they can understand t’ one t’other: and if either o’ ye went there, ye could tell what they said, I guess?’ ‘We could probably tell something of what they said, but not all – for we are not as clever as you think us, Hannah. We don’t speak German, and we cannot read it without a dictionary to help us.'”

Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre (London: Penguin Books, 2006) 436.

“She is not an uneducated person, I should think, by her manner of speaking; her
accent was quite pure; and the clothes she took off, though splash and wet, were little worn and fine.”

Brontë, Jane Eyre 444.

“They speak with the broadest accent of the district. At present, they and I have a difficulty in understanding each other’s language.”

Brontë, Jane Eyre 470.


  1. Tak ten Míšin přístroj se mě snažil přinutit, abych se identifikoval jako Henry Lewis, velký to velšský jazykozpytec.

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