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Hermeston, Rodney (2014)
Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
Languages: English
Types: Article
Subjects:
This article examines the social meanings (indexical relations) of Tyneside dialect spoken by pitmen and keelmen in early nineteenth-century Tyneside dialect songs. I focus on the pitman Bob Cranky. Pieces about Bob and other pitmen and keelmen emerge from a song culture enjoyed by audiences of clerks, artisans, and shopkeepers. A debate emerged from the 1970s as to whether Bob is a subject of satire who could not appeal to a ‘working man’, or whether pitmen and keelmen derived self-celebration from him. Recently, the perspective of self-celebration has dominated. The songs, northern dialect literature more broadly, and dialect itself are said to promote communal values, regional, local, and ‘working-class’ solidarity, and populism.\ud I show that pitmen and keelmen are most closely associated in the songs with non-standard spellings and with expletives. Employing a notion of dialogism, I argue that the meaning of the songs and the language attributed to pitmen or keelmen depends on the attitudes of audiences towards their behaviour, and towards nineteenth-century discourses of ‘respectability’ and ‘correct’ language. Bob and his speech may be the subjects of satirical mockery, resistance to respectability, or self-celebration. The material also has potential to convey labouring-class and regional solidarity.
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    • Kossick, Kaye. 'Introduction'. Nineteenth-Century English Labouring-Class Poets: 1800-1900. Eds. John Goodridge, Scott McEathron, and Kaye Kossick. 3 vols. London: Pickering & Chatto, 2006. 2: xv-xxx.
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    • McCauley, Larry. '“Eawr Folk”: Language, Class, and English Identity in Victorian Dialect Poetry'. Victorian Poetry 39.2 (2001): 287-300.
    • McEathron, Scott. 'Introduction'. Ninteenth-Century English Labouring-Class Poets: 1800-1900. Eds. John Goodridge, Scott McEathron, and Kaye Kossick. 3 vols. London: Pickering & Chatto, 2006. 1; xvii-xxiv.
    • Medhurst, Andy. A National Joke: Popular Comedy and English Cultural Identities. London / New York: Routledge, 2007.
    • Mendoza-Denton, Norma. 'Language and Identity'. Eds. J. K. Chambers, Peter Trudgill, and Natalie Schilling-Estes. The Handbook of Language Variation and Change. Malden, MA / Oxford: Blackwell, 2002. 475-99.
    • Midford, William. A Collection of Songs, Comic and Satirical, Chiefly in the Newcastle Dialect. Newcastle upon Tyne: J. Marshall, 1818.
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