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Folklore And Colloquialism
Folklore is one of America's traditions. The stories are handed down from generation to generation by word of mouth and rarely written down. Folklore comes from folks in small communities and is about their way of life, their legends, heroes, heroines, braggarts and other unusual characters or creatures. The country was raised on folklore of legendary tales, some true, some not so true. It was a way for Americans to express their sense of identity with their villages, their experiences, their beliefs and way of life. Since America is composed of various ethnic backgrounds, the tales are as varied as the culture of the peoples who have lived here for over 300 centuries and also for the Native Americans before us who lived here for thousands of years. There are myths, songs, games, legends and colloquialisms from every walk of life involved.
Some tales, when they are written down, are very hard to read when words are spelled phonetically as the people of the lore tend to talk. But, once you get the gist of the story, the words will come a little easier. A prime example of the spelling of words can be found in the Uncle Remus stories. When Brer (brother) Fox is speaking to Brer Rabbit, who got himself stuck up in the tar baby, it may take a few times to read before you understand what he is saying. The deep south had their own delightful way of speaking back in those days. The story would have lost much of it's impact and humour if it had been written in proper (today's) English. Take for example this paragraph, the way it was originally written and spoken:
"When Brer Fox fin' Brer Rabbit mixt up wid de Tar Baby, he feel mighty good, en he roll on de groun en laff. Bimeby he up en say, sezee, 'Well, I speck I got you dis time, Brer Rabbit,' sezee. 'You been runnin' roun' here sassin' atter me a mighty long time, but I speck you done come ter de een' er de row."
Compare that original with this:
"When Brother Fox found Brother Rabbit stuck in the Tar Baby, he felt pretty good, and he rolled on the ground and laughed. By and by he got up and said, 'Well, I guess I got you this time, Brother Rabbit. You have been running around here, sassing me for a very long time, but I guess you have now come to the end of the road."
It aint jist quite the same wit modern English spelling, now is it? Something was lost when I translated the wording and spelling and the character had lost his original personality and sense of humour.
Folklore is of the moment, right now - the way people of the locale actually spoke. Uncle Remus and his stories would never have been so well accepted and loved if the wording was not of the local colloquialism. Colloquialism is a beautiful thing! It gives you a vivid picture in your mind of the people in the stories and gives us a wonderful peek into the lives of people from the past. Mark Twain, although most of his stories and legends were written and published, could spin a yarn better than anyone. Part of the reason, I think, for Twain's success was his manner of speaking and the colloquialisms he used, which added greatly to the stories.
The use of words can be powerful and give stories that desired affect that catches the reader immediately. Colloquialism does just that. It puts you right smack in the middle of the story so you know what the people and the times are like. Too many words and descriptions can distract the reader and cause a lack of interest. Words have a character and personality of their own. You jist gotta git rite down in thar and put it like it is! And when the folks over yonder hear it, they will love it and will be tellin their lil' chillun from the time they are knee high to a grasshopper.
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