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Another random language post - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Another random language post
I generally give more leeway to conversational comprehension issues than reading comprehension issues, as conversation happens in realtime and you don't have time to think about it. But in my daily eavesdropping at a restaurant, I heard a British visitor (no idea what part) tell his waitress--a fan of a boxer he was traveling with, as far as I could tell--that the boxer was "dead friendly." A second later, he repeated it, then said, "Oh, very. Very friendly." And the waitress makes this relieved sound and says, "Oh... I thought you said he was dead!" Now, granted, I know "dead _____" from much reading of HP and other British books, but when something is repeated twice, casually, in the context of a friendly conversation while stuck in the rain, and followed by "friendly"... it's hard to miss the contextual clue that it means "very" and not "dead." If "dead" were the main adjective instead of the modifier, how in the world would "friendly" even fit in the sentence?

On other dialect news, someone reported a wank in which someoned the phrase "so don't I" (or a variant of it--"and so don't other people"), to mean "so do I." I realized I hadn't heard that particular monstrosity for years, and went out to Google to see how far it ranged from what I presumed was its native home in Western New York. And it turns out that it's seen as a New England phrase! New York is hardly mentioned, except by one former Rochester resident who said that he'd thought the SNL guys were trying to pass off a WNY-ism as a Bostonism. (I never noticed it on SNL for some reason.) I've never once heard it in Boston, either. I associate it purely with the rural area between Rochester and Buffalo, though both cities would be immediately familiar with it.
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asphodeline From: asphodeline Date: May 13th, 2006 06:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
I supppose I use "dead" quite a lot to mean very or really. It's a commone Scottish-ism but used throughtout GB I think.
My favourite variation being "drop dead...." as in "he's drop dead gorgeous" !
harriet_wimsey From: harriet_wimsey Date: May 13th, 2006 06:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
We say "drop dead gorgeous" in the US, too, but we don't use "dead" in those other contexts.
From: mrs_muggle Date: May 13th, 2006 06:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yep, dead=very - it's very widespread in British English.
From: arclevel Date: May 13th, 2006 06:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, you'd think "dead _____" would be pretty obvious from context. As to the other, "so don't I," I usually think of that as meaning, "and neither do I." I'm not sure where I've heard it most, but I have family in or from central upstate New York, so I might have picked it up from them.
From: myxginxblossoms Date: May 13th, 2006 06:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have to admit I'd be a bit confused if someone spoke quickly and used "dead" in that way. While I see it in books, I don't hear it often and never say it, as it sounds really unnatural if I attempt to describe myself as "dead clumsy."

And I've never heard "so don't I." That's an interesting one. I do, however, say "so as" or "so's" all the time, as in "I need to borrow your comb so as/so's I can brush my hair." It drives my roommate nuts--but then, she's also driven nuts by the fact that I say "bubbler" and drop "to be" out of my speech a lot (as in, "Your hair needs brushed"). She's just lucky I don't use "prinure" ("pretty near," pronunced PRIH-nyur) the way my grandmother does!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 13th, 2006 07:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
I use "so's," too. "Prinure"? I don't use it myself, but I've definitely heard "pritner." "Bubbler" is still alien to me, but it doesn't sound weird. I wonder how many people would be baffled by the use of "goat" as a verb. ("I have to goat the store later"... "I really need to goat the bathroom!") ;)
rabidsamfan From: rabidsamfan Date: May 13th, 2006 07:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
I knew a college student from the Lowell/Chelmsford area a few years ago and she used "so don't I" quite often. So did her (equally local) best friend. But I don't hear it as often closer to Boston. I do hear "wicked" for "good" or for "very"...

Overheard a lovely misunderstanding while I was waiting for a Martha's Vineyard Ferry last week, though. Some passengers were asking about senior discounts and were told that there were only discounts for Cape or Islands residents. They asked, "Which Islands are those?" and the ticketperson patiently explained, "Martha's Vineyard or Nantucket". A few minutes later I hear the passengers saying to each other that they never knew that they were called the "Caper Islands" before...
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 13th, 2006 07:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ha! I like it.
From: isabela113 Date: May 13th, 2006 07:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'll vouch for this as a New England phrase. My cousins in Rhode Island and the Brockton, Mass. area have been saying "so don't" for years and it has always driven me nuts!
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 13th, 2006 09:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
If the use of "dead" is confusing, or at any rate unAmerican, how does that effect Debbie Gliori's "Pure Dead Wicked" books? Or doesn't it matter that the titles don't mean the same in the USA, or aren't they on sale in the USA?

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 13th, 2006 10:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, while it's vaguely confusing to people who aren't into it, in fact, books with British slang have their own whole genre, mostly thanks to Louise Rennison, though JKR hasn't exactly hurt the cause. For every waitress who misses the context of "dead," you find twenty teenage girls knocked out by their nunga-nungas while dancing in their nuddy-pants. I can't even imagine a British audience going so mad to read things written in valley-girl or hip-hop dialect, but the Rennison crowd has been known to go so far as to adopt horribly bad fake accents in an attempt to be as cool as British slang.
rikibeth From: rikibeth Date: May 14th, 2006 12:03 am (UTC) (Link)
"So don't I" is very townie Boston. The kids around the corner, who also said "idear," said it all the time. My mother would have killed me.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 14th, 2006 02:46 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, mine would have killed me for it, too. I heard "idear" at home quite frequently, too. Though nothing along the line of the dropped "r"--we love our "r"s, and would never leave a poor abandoned one lying around. We also never had my townie landlady's accentual habit of making two syllables of one. I thought she was quite the collector of Mesoamerican art, with all the things she said were "Mayan," until I realized it was just "mine"!
parallactic From: parallactic Date: May 14th, 2006 12:30 am (UTC) (Link)
Huh, I thought "dead" as a substitute for "very" was also a type of Americanism, as in "drop dead gorgeous" and "dead serious". Eh, shows what I know. BTW, I'm an American.
jadedmara From: jadedmara Date: May 14th, 2006 01:08 am (UTC) (Link)
Me too. I didn't realize it was a Britishism until this post. Of course, now I realize I keep thinking of Fat Bastard saying "I'm dead sexy", and of course he's Scottish.

But we do have "dead serious", and I definitely hear fellow American women say "He's dead sexy".
alkari From: alkari Date: May 14th, 2006 12:41 am (UTC) (Link)
"Dead" as an adjective is certainly well understood in Australia. "Dead cert" = complete certainty; "dead set" = absolutely, such as dead set unlucky; "dead ringer" = now that IS an old Aussie term, meaning complete image, such as 'he's a dead ringer for George Bush'; etc. It would have originally come from the UK, but of course has been modified and adapted locally.

persephone_kore From: persephone_kore Date: May 14th, 2006 01:00 am (UTC) (Link)
Ah, dead ringer's one I think is in use here. Either that or I absorbed it when I was still in the phase of completely missing the idea that dialect differences and setting might have some sort of relationship....
lady_sarai From: lady_sarai Date: May 14th, 2006 05:29 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, I'm from Maine and I hear "so don't I" all the time. >_< It's annoying, but there you have it. (It does tend to be the "townies" who use it most, or the people who "don't do real good" with certain grammatical concepts.
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 14th, 2006 04:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh the poor little abandoned r! I have some relatives who feel so sorry for it, they add it to words that never had it- "I'm going to warsh the dishes now," e.g.

From: (Anonymous) Date: May 14th, 2006 09:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
We use 'dead' in the same context here in Ireland but we also (especially Dubliners) use 'deadly' to mean very cool. So when Randy says 'it's the bomb' on American Idol us Irish would say 'That was f**kin' deadly!' (we Irish swear alot! It's what comes of colonial powers inflicting their language on us. We use and abuse it to great effect!)

Also if we wanted to say that you were a very nice person we would describe you as being 'dead on'. Another expression we use to describe people is 'sound' which basically means a reliable, trustworthy person.
_borntolose From: _borntolose Date: May 14th, 2006 10:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
hello i lurk about to read your fic and couldn't resist commenting on this, as a scot and someone who overuses dead for very

Dead is a very common Scottish and particularly Glaswegian substitute for very, most often to emphasise and occasionally prefixed with pure
From: hesterlester Date: May 15th, 2006 10:35 am (UTC) (Link)


In Australia 'deadly' is sometimes used to mean really good. It's an Aboriginal English term which is now used more widely. The Aboriginal music awards are known as the Deadlies. Not sure if there is any relationship between this and the English useage.
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