Lucinda Elliot

US English and its Continued Use of Forms from Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century UK English

Mr.  B snooping and being a hypocrite as usual and Pamela being modest. Does he need reading glasses? He seems to suffer from ‘short arm syndrome’. 

It is an interesting fact that US English retains some of the words and expressions of seventeenth and eighteenth century English, which are wrongly thought of as ‘American English’.

For instance, there is use of the word that is commonly now spelt as ‘aint’, but can be found as ‘in’t’ and ‘an’t’.  That was once as common as the modern ‘isn’t’ and only later stigmatized as non-standard English in the UK. You will find it in plays of the Restoration era such as William Congreve’s play ‘Love for Love’ (1696) and in writings by Joanathon Swift.

You will find ‘an’t’  as a matter of interest, in Samuel Richardson’s ‘Pamela’  (1740) and as ‘in’t’ in Fanny Burney’s ‘Evelina’ (1775).

‘Ain’t’ in fact, persisted up to the early nineteenth century, and was used in Pierce Egan’s ‘Life in London’ (1823).

Then, in reading one William Shakespeare, I have come across various expressions seen as quintessentially American, and meaning more or less the same thing as they do today. For instance, ‘trash’ in Julius Caesar, and ‘right now’ in Henry VI Part II.

There is also the use of such expressions as the US ‘Out the’ rather than the UK ‘Out of the’form.

This can be confusing to those not particularly well versed in the development of English, and various readers have taken me  to task for using ‘ US English’ in my novels set in the UK of the eighteenth century.

This Amazon review by an Australian reader of my spoof highwayman romance ‘Ravensdale’ takes this view to extremes, insisting that in the English speaking countries outside the US, the expressions ‘hey’ and ‘for sure’ have never been used:

when Americans write English period novels: or, why you should use a better editor

In fact, ‘hey’ is a very old English exclamation (though not, so far as I know, used as a greeting as in the US), and you need look no further than a nursery rhyme to find it: ie,in the sixteenth century nursery rhyme:  ‘Hey Diddle Diddle, the Cat and the Fiddle’  .  Again, it features in Shakespeare’s song, ‘Hey Nonny Nonny’ from ‘Much Ado About Nothing’  (1598/1599).

As for ‘for sure’ , it is constantly used by Mrs Honour in Henry Fielding’s ‘Tom Jones’  (1749) and also features in Richardson’s ‘Pamela’.


And talking about ‘Ravensdale’, for those interested,  it is at the moment free on Here

and  Here  

…And I would like to add that whilst I may sometimes be confused by the content of reviews of my novels, I always appreciate them, good or bad.

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