Inverse eye dialect from Doonesbury?

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It's a class-conscious respelling that's not used "to indicate that the speaker is uneducated or using colloquial, dialectal, or nonstandard speech".

(Click on the image for a larger version, as usual.)

[A reader ("grixit") wrote to remind us of the discussion of "pathetic little nickel plated aristocratic instincts" in Mark Twain's "The Private History of a Campaign That Failed":

There were fifteen of us. By the advice of an innocent connected with the organization we called ourselves the Marion Rangers. I do not remember that anyone found fault with the name. I did not, I thought it sounded quite well. The young fellow who proposed this title was perhaps a fair sample of the kind of stuff we were made of. He was young, ignorant, good natured, well meaning, trivial, full of romance, and given to reading chivalric novels and singing forlorn love ditties. He had some pathetic little nickel plated aristocratic instincts and detested his name, which was Dunlap, detested it partly because it was nearly as common in that region as Smith but mainly because it had a plebian sound to his ears. So he tried to ennoble it by writing it in this way; d'Unlap. That contented his eye but left his ear unsatisfied, for people gave the new name the same old pronunciation, emphasis on the front end of it. He then did the bravest thing that can be imagined, a thing to make one shiver when one remembers how the world is given to resenting shams and affectations, he began to write his name so; d'Un'Lap. And he waited patiently through the long storm of mud that was flung at his work of art and he had his reward at last, for he lived to see that name accepted and the emphasis put where he wanted it put by people who had known him all his life, and to whom the tribe of Dunlaps had been as familiar as the rain and the sunshine for forty years. So sure of victory at last is the courage that can wait. He said he had found by consulting some ancient French chronicles that the name was rightly and originally written d'Un'Lap and said that if it were translated into English it would mean Peterson, Lap, Latin or Greek, he said, for stone or rock, same as the French pierre, that is to say, Peter, d' of or from, un, a or one, hence d'Un'Lap, of or from a stone or a Peter, that is to say, one who is the son of a stone, the son of a peter, Peterson. Our militia company were not learned and the explanation confused them, so they called him Peterson Dunlap. He proved useful to us in his way, he named our camps for us and generally struck a name that was "no slouch" as the boys said.



  1. Ray Girvan said,

    May 9, 2008 @ 1:22 pm

    Just to lower the tone: this reminds me of the old joke about two business colleagues, Mr Sidebottom and Mr Ball, who are due to meet up. I forget most of the details, but the latter finds from a receptionist that his friend, to appear more sophisticated, is calling himself Mr Sidi-Bataam. "In that case," says the other, "tell him that Mr Testikala called".

  2. Coby Lubliner said,

    May 9, 2008 @ 1:37 pm

    It was my impression that the reference was a play on "Tess of the d'Urbervilles" (Tess's surname was Durbeyfield).

  3. y said,

    May 9, 2008 @ 7:26 pm

    Reminds me of Tess Durbeyfield.

  4. Martyn Cornell said,

    May 10, 2008 @ 6:22 am

    I wonder if Twain was aware – I'm sure he was – of the D'Eaths and the D'Arcys, both genuine surname variants, one English, the other Irish. And then there's the O'Nions family …

  5. Xboy said,

    May 11, 2008 @ 6:23 pm

    I knew a dentist named Dr. Ohara, of Japanese extraction (sorry, I couldn't resist). He often received mail addressed to Dr. O'Hara, including the occaisional flyer from genealogical groups inviting him to explore his Irish heritage.

  6. Benjamin Zimmer said,

    May 11, 2008 @ 6:43 pm

    And then of course there are the jokes about Barack O'Bama

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