The history of 'gonna'

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Kate Gladstone writes to draw my attention to an "interesting oddity about some people's (wrong) notions of how the English language sounded in a quite recent period of history". Commenting at Barking Carnival a couple of days ago, "Nero" decried the "sad state of subject-verb agreement" and the decay of penmanship, and also advanced this interesting hypothesis about the past fifty years of phonetic history:

I read an interview in Rolling Stone with the cast of AMC’s Mad Men and one of the actors said they have to be very careful with all of their pronunciation. “There was no ‘gonna’ or ‘shoulda’ back then [in the 1960's]”

I can assure Nero that both "gonna" and "shoulda" were common in 1960s American English.  Supplying documentation for this obvious fact is like footnoting the observation that in those bygone days, people already wore shoes; but here's what the OED has to say:

colloq. (esp. U.S.) or vulgar pronunciation of going to.
[Cf. the earlier Sc. ganna, gaunna: see Eng. Dial. Dict. s.v. Go, quots. 1806, etc.]

1913 C. E. MULFORD Coming of Cassidy ix. 149 Yo're gonna get a good lickin'. 1929 E. W. SPRINGS Above Bright Blue Sky 136, 5684 has a busted cylinder. Gonna put a new motor in it. 1952 A. BARON With Hope, Farewell 56 Put 'em all in clover, that's what I'm gonna do. 1967 M. SHULMAN Kill 3 II. iv. 81 I'm gonna keep on yelling tell you let me out.

I'm more interested in the question of what members of the cast of Mad Men might have said in Rolling Stone or elsewhere about this question. And if some of them actually believe that "gonna" and "shoulda" would be anachronistic in the 1960s, what does this do to their pronunciation as actors on the show?

As for that alleged Rolling Stone interview, I didn't turn anything relevant up after a few minutes with Google site search and the magazine's own search box, though I did find "The Ultimate 'Mad Men' Playlist" 8/2/2010, which includes Sam Cooke's 1964 hit A Change is Gonna Come.

Can anyone do better? Or was Nero just hallucinating, or joking around, or otherwise blowing smoke?

[Update — yesterday, Chris at TLL took a corpus-based approach to footnoting the fact that people in the 1960s wore shoes and said "gonna": "woulda coulda shoulda with cigarettes and booze". And Chris points to a 9/8/2010 post by David Crystal, who anticipates me in citing the OED, and adds that

In the 1602 Quarto edition of Merry Wives of Windsor we find Nym saying 'I should ha borne the humor Letter to her', and there are several similar examples in the literature of the period.

So we've brought a sledgehammer and several sticks of TNT to bear on the buzzing housefly of Nero's comment — but I still want to know, did anyone connected with the series Mad Men actually ever say anything remotely similar to what Nero attributed to them? ]


  1. rootlesscosmo said,

    September 10, 2010 @ 10:28 am

    I heard "woulda, shoulda, coulda" in 1963 from a horseplayer who said that phrase belonged on the tote board, just below "Win Place Show."

  2. Jonathan said,

    September 10, 2010 @ 10:28 am

    There's the Johnny Mercer lyric:

    "I'm gonna love you like nobody loves you / come rain or come shine."

    Or "I'm gonna sit right down and write myself a letter / and make believe it came from you" from a 1930s popular song.

    Try singing those as "going to…"

  3. Chris said,

    September 10, 2010 @ 10:34 am

    Sources? I had a touch of déjà vu reading this, because that quote from "Nero" is word-for-word on David Crystal's post On gonna from yesterday, attributed to "a correspondent." Is Kate playing both sides of the pond?

    [(myl) The quote from "Nero" is replicated because that's how he expressed himself here. Whether Kate was also David's "correspondent" I don't know.]

  4. Spell Me Jeff said,

    September 10, 2010 @ 10:37 am

    Off the top of my head: "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair": South Pacific (the musical), 1949.

    Closely related might be Jim's "Gwine" in Huckleberry Finn.

  5. Today listener said,

    September 10, 2010 @ 10:39 am

    Totally off-topic, but did any UK-based Language Loggers happen to hear the report on the Today programme on Thursday about Simon Heffer's campaign to have schoolkids taught proper grammar?

    Reporter Tom Bateman spoke to the journalist and author Simon Heffer, who argues that most pupils have been left with "nothing but a random and often erroneous understanding of the components of language".

    The link to listen again is at

    He came across – to me at least – as a complete ******** ********** ****.

  6. Dane said,

    September 10, 2010 @ 10:56 am

    a hard rain's a-gonna fall, 1962… just looking at my itunes, I count 25 songs with 'gonna' pre-1960.

    I've noticed that 'gonna' is sometimes pronounced 'guh-noo' which actually retains the last vowel of 'going to' better than 'gonna' does. 'Guh-noo' sounds really weird if you think about it too long, but it comes more natural in certain circumstances, though I don't know exactly what those circumstances are.

  7. KevinM said,

    September 10, 2010 @ 11:19 am

    The real question is not whether "gonna" existed in the 1960s; obviously it did, and it was in widespread colloquial use. I'd be more interested in whether the "Mad Men" set would have felt constrained to use more formal diction. My guess is that they would. Don Draper doesn't say "ain't" either, but not because the word hadn't been invented.

    [(myl) This is a valid point, but I wonder what the facts are? There have certainly been some changes in norms of formality — jackets and ties were required in the Freshman Union at Harvard in the 1960s (and women were of course excluded), and similar dress-code issues changed in many settings (and not in others) during the early 1970s. But I'm skeptical that the norms of ordinary conversation in a New York business setting in the 1960s (or earlier, for that matter) would have excluded forms like gonna.

    There should be ample evidence from the sound track of films from the 50s and 60s, but here's one bit of textual evidence. Thurber's Walter Mitty is the right sort of character from a geographical and social point of view, "a vague and mild-mannered man who drives into Waterbury, Connecticut with his wife for their regular weekly shopping and his wife's visit to the beauty parlor", who was surely modeled in part on Thurber himself. The 1963 script for the musical adaptation of the story is full of passages like this one:

    For some remarks tending somewhat in the other direction, see John McWhorter's "Oh, R-o-ob, The Bad Words Won't Go Away", discussed here.]

  8. Jonathan said,

    September 10, 2010 @ 11:33 am

    You could look at advertising execs in films ca. 1960 and see whether our notion of how they oughta talk and dress corresponds to the expectations of a 1960 spectator. I suspect their is a distortion caused by our excessive stylization of the past. The whole look and sound of the show is so stylized that the result is an overcorrection, a perfection that doesn't correspond to anything real.

  9. JC Dill said,

    September 10, 2010 @ 11:39 am

    What KevinM said. I was in grade school in the 1960s. It was drilled into me (by nuns, by public school teachers, by my parents, by their friends, etc.) that dropping g's was low class. Obviously there would have been many lower class (working class, etc.) people who said "gonna" in the Mad Men era, but it would simply Not Be Acceptable to talk like that at a Madison Ave. Advertising Agency in New York City. According to my teachers, this was the sort of thing that would turn a promising interview sour, and could make the difference between getting hired, or rejected.

    When he says "they have to be very careful with all of their pronunciation. “There was no ‘gonna’ or ‘shoulda’ back then [in the 1960's]” he's obviously talking about the actors who represent employees at the Agency. I'm sure they wouldn't worry about "gonna" if they had a walk-on role for a plumber. Heck, they might write a few gonna's into his script, just to help cement in our minds how the plumber is Not One Of Them.

    [(myl) I'm not sure whether sociolinguists have ever studied this, but my impression is that the geographical distribution (and social evaluation) of gonna and of g-dropping are quite different. Both are informal, certainly, but in many places and contexts I believe that g-dropping is stigmatized in a way that use of reduced forms like gonna is not.]

  10. Mr Fnortner said,

    September 10, 2010 @ 11:57 am

    As a post-war baby who headed off to college in the Sixties, in my formative years I was frequently exhorted by my father to enunciate clearly. Of course, all teenagers mumble, but his was not a plea to make myself audible, but to more closely hew to a speech standard he (college educated, professional) felt acceptable. I was unaware then that this was generally expected and practiced speech in professional circles. The habit proved useful landing me a few announcing and narrating opportunities over the years.

  11. Mike W said,

    September 10, 2010 @ 12:00 pm

    I recall there being an episode where Roger Sterling comments that Don occasionally drops his g's, and that he suspects that Don has a lower-class background (but he doesn't pry too deeply into it).

  12. a George said,

    September 10, 2010 @ 12:07 pm

    Here we go again, off-topic;
    @ Dane: no, the gah-noo was from Flanders and Swann "I'm a g'nu, a gah'nother gah'noo", 'At the Drop of a Hat', 1959. (- a little animal song).

  13. Alice said,

    September 10, 2010 @ 12:26 pm

    It's not a hallucination, but the quote is a bit off, and the story, by Eric Konigsberg, is not available online to non-subscribers, so I can't give a link. Here it is in full, though:

    "It's all very meticulous and researched to a pinpoint," says January Jones."There's no ad-libbing or changing anything. Matt will come down during a take to fix your pronunciation of a word. There's no 'gonna' or 'shoulda' – it's 'going' and 'should have.'"

    Konigsberg uses this to illustrate the show's attention to period detail, but I'm not sure Jones really meant to say that no-one said "gonna" in the 60's, or even, as some have suggested above, that the Mad Men characters in general wouldn't have. More likely, she has been picked up on her use of contractions in contexts where her character Betty would not have used them.

    And as an upper middle class housewife and mother, Betty might well have avoided contractions more than most. For one thing,like JC's parents above, she would likely have been drilling Sally not to drop her g's. But more than that, many of her own interactions outside the home are, to my eye, structured around just the kind of status display those drills were targeting.

  14. Dick Margulis said,

    September 10, 2010 @ 12:29 pm

    Disclaimer: I have not seen Mad Men.

    From 1968 to 1970, I worked at J. Walter Thompson, then the world's largest advertising agency. It was not the very stodgiest, but it was certainly in the upper ranks of stodginess. I worked in the creative department. My recollection is that on our floor, it was permissible for women to wear pantsuits and for men to wear sport coats and slacks rather than suits (if they were feeling particularly jaunty and didn't have a client meeting), and to take their jackets off during the day and roll up the sleeves on their dress shirts. On the other floors, none of these relaxations of cultural norms applied.

    The use of anything resembling slang or nonstandard usage in an actual advertisement required approval at the highest level. While we creative types might regularly use slang in conversation among ourselves, to demonstrate our sympatico with the American zeitgeist, our pinstriped colleagues on the eleventh floor did not engage in such daring speech acts, at least not at work. At least not before lunch. Looser lips were in evidence after lunch.

    Still and all, I don't think anyone would have batted an eye at gonna or shoulda in rapid, conversational speech, even if they would have rejected its use in a formal presentation or in written communication.

  15. Alice said,

    September 10, 2010 @ 12:30 pm

    btw, Here's an image to substantiate my version of the quote.

    [(myl) Thanks!]

  16. Josh said,

    September 10, 2010 @ 12:37 pm

    The iTunes season pass for Mad Men this season includes a little 5 minute behind-the-scenes with the cast/crew about that week's episode. I do remember one of them a couple weeks ago discussing language choice. The head writer and creator was talking about the decision processes they go through to remain "authentic" to the period. When I get home later tonight, I'll see if I can't find that and transcribe the relevant portion here.

  17. Dan Lufkin said,

    September 10, 2010 @ 12:37 pm

    Didn't we have a session here a while ago on "wanna" / "want to" contrasts?

    "Barack Obama is a man I wanna succeed" means that I hope to become the next president.

    "Barack Obama is a man I want to succeed" means that I hope that his administration will not fail.

    (Actually, I think that Bleeding-gums Murphy was the nominee, but you get the idea. I don't get a hit searching there.)

    "Gonna" and "oughta" should have parallels.

  18. Spell Me Jeff said,

    September 10, 2010 @ 12:39 pm

    [anything resembling slang or nonstandard usage]

    I think that's the crux right there. I'm not sure that dropped Gs or reduced forms really count as slang or usage problems. They are not matters of vocabulary or syntax. They are matters of pronunciation, and I suspect we evaluate pronunciation differently. There still might be a stigma attached, as Mark explains. But I'm wondering if we process it differently?

  19. exackerly said,

    September 10, 2010 @ 12:48 pm

    Gosh, even a quick google uncovers a clip where one of the characters says "gonna". Not an employee of the ad agency though, presumably.

  20. exackerly said,

    September 10, 2010 @ 12:50 pm

    … and sure enough, here's an audio clip where one of the characters says "gonna" in the office. I think we can lay this to rest now.

  21. Chris said,

    September 10, 2010 @ 12:52 pm

    According to TV fanatic, Mad Men in fact has used gonna several times, particularly in season 3, and it was none other than Dapper Don Draper himself who used the offending construction:

    Don: I'm not gonna beg you.

    Don: I'm not gonna let you break up this family.

    Don: Everything's gonna be fine.

    Don: We have a new President and we're all gonna be sad for a little bit.

    Maybe this is transcription error, not sure. Gotta wait until the 16th to find out who said the quote (unless someone wants to pony up $20 for an online subscription).

  22. Xmun said,

    September 10, 2010 @ 1:27 pm

    I was an undergraduate at Oxford in the 1950s, studying Modern Languages, and remember one of my lecturers in the History of the French Language course speaking of the new English auxiliaries "gonna" and "gotta". Did he call them modal auxiliaries? I can't remember, but I think probably he should have. He may also have mentioned "wanna".

    This wasn't Professor Ewart. It was that other, excitable chap.

  23. Miguel Llorens said,

    September 10, 2010 @ 1:49 pm

    If the quote came froma Rolling Stone article, it may have come from this month's (September 2010) issue. It is out in newsstands on Sept. 16 and available online but behind the paywall, so perhaps a Rollong Stone subscriber can resolve the mystery.

  24. Xmun said,

    September 10, 2010 @ 1:51 pm

    That same lecturer left us with a question to think about, and I've never found an answer. The question was: "English prose is steeped in the Bible. What is French prose steeped in?" I think the period referred to is (roughly) the 16-19th centuries.

  25. KevinM said,

    September 10, 2010 @ 2:44 pm

    Thanks, Alice, for pointing out that January Jones was the source of the quote. Her character, Betty, is excruciatingly stiff in her diction; that might have been all she meant. Don, try as he might, can't help betraying his humble origins from time to time, explicitly or linguistically.
    Relatedly, ML, I'd use the Walter Mitty example with care. Over the course of the story, he role-plays as a surgeon, military hero, etc., with corresponding shifts in diction, usually parodic of language used in popular fiction and movies.

  26. Paul Zukowski said,

    September 10, 2010 @ 2:53 pm

    I became an advertising copywriter in 1972 on Michigan Avenue in Chicago at a branch of the coutry's oldest agency, N.W. Ayer & Son (started by the son BTW and named for the father for gravitas), and we would NEVER speak in vernacular English, not with the account men ("suits") or clients. As counselors of what sells, we maintained a level of education, decorum, and Standard English. We studied the vernacular, of course, and often ccalled for it in radio and TV spots, but we were above that in the office.

  27. Clarissa at Talk to the Clouds said,

    September 10, 2010 @ 3:17 pm

    To this day, I've heard students tell me that they wouldn't dare say things like "gonna" or "shoulda" (or "'n'" or "th'" or…) in front of a professor. Those students are rare, and some (although not all) are international students, but I've definitely head such pronouncements.

    Five minutes later, of course, they say exactly those things (and so does the professor, because virtually no American will say "I. Am. Going. To. Go. Down. The. Hall. And. Ask. The. Secretary. For. You."–because that is not Standard American English; it's utterly bizarre).

  28. 2010-09-10 Spike activity « Mind Hacks said,

    September 10, 2010 @ 6:22 pm

    […] A fascinating look at supposedly new slang like 'gonna' and 'shoulda' over at LanguageLog digs up the fact that they have a fine vintage in the English language. […]

  29. Yuval said,

    September 10, 2010 @ 8:11 pm

    "History"? Just as I was getting used to "annals".

  30. Hob said,

    September 10, 2010 @ 8:43 pm

    I'm reliably informed by Damon Runyon that there were no contractions prior to 1950.

  31. The Ridger said,

    September 10, 2010 @ 10:16 pm

    Self-reporting is notoriously unreliable. I've heard people swear they say thee before any word beginning with a vowel, when five minutes with a tape recorder proved they almost never did. I'd take any person's claim that they never said 'gonna' with more than a grain of salt; it's not "slang", it's normal pronunciation.

  32. maidhc said,

    September 11, 2010 @ 1:06 am

    We're talking about Madison Avenue in the era that produced "Winston tastes good like a cigarette should"?

  33. Atmir Ilias said,

    September 11, 2010 @ 1:35 am

    [n] is in a position similar to [t].The air comes out through the nose.
    [ng] is back in the throat with [g]. The back of the tongue presses back, and again, the air comes out through the nose.
    [t] the air comes out over the tip of the tongue. The tongue is tense.

    Natural combination's take e less energy and muscularity to produce than artificial ones
    In my native language, the word “gagaç” is a words that sound like what it describes.” Gagaç’ means “stammer”. “g+x +g+t”-It is not a good combination.

  34. Victoria Martin said,

    September 11, 2010 @ 2:17 am

    I don't for a moment think that the creators of Mad Men are attempting to reproduce the way people actually spoke in the 60s – no TV show tries to reproduce the way people actually speak, it's always a cleaned-up, streamlined version, devoid of most speech errors, hesitations, repetitions, construction that would be too unfamiliar to the majority audience, and so on and so forth. What Mad Men is trying to do (I assume) is find a way of indicating that speech, like dress, was, in certain settings, more formal than it is today, and they think that avoiding constuctions like "gonna" is an effective way of conveying that formality. They aren't aiming for an authenticity that would convince a sixties audience, they're aiming for a particular effect on a modern audience.

  35. Atmir Ilias said,

    September 11, 2010 @ 2:49 pm

    We tend always to find out the mistakes only in the spoken language and never in the written language.
    Nobody thinks that the written language has ever been wrong in some concepts, or ever would be wrong,or even some recast that come from the spoken language maybe would be a right option for the future written language.
    The mouth has some phonetics rules that maybe 500 years ago were unknown.

  36. Atmir Ilias said,

    September 11, 2010 @ 2:52 pm

    We always tend to find out the mistakes only in the spoken language and never in the written language.
    Nobody thinks that the written language has ever been wrong in some concepts, or ever would be wrong,or even some recast that come from the spoken language maybe would be a right option for the future written language.
    The mouth has some phonetic rules that maybe 500 years ago were unknown.

  37. John said,

    September 11, 2010 @ 3:05 pm

    (Not a Madmen watcher, but…)

    I'd have thought that speech in the 1960s was more regionalized than today, especially given the effects of TV and population movements since that time.

    My middle-class parents both have stronger NYC accents than I do (heck, I had a stronger one than I do now).

    Listen to some older upper-class Manhattanites. There's a clear regional accent.

  38. James Kabala said,

    September 11, 2010 @ 3:09 pm

    A question I've long had is: Do dropped letters and contracted forms exist in other languages? It seems so many English-language usage questions revolve around these issues: g-dropping (so-called), h-dropping by Cockneys and others, rhotic vs. non-rhotic accents, etc. Are there languages where people complain about m-dropping or p-dropping or !-dropping, or this solely an English language phenomenon?

    [(myl) You're asking two different questions: (1) are there segmental deletions in other languages; and (2) are they sometimes stigmatized, so that people complain about them as evidence of the decay of civilization? The answer to both questions is "yes", but there are more of the former than the latter. (Of course it's true in English as well that only a small fraction of lenition or deletion phenomena are stigmatized.)]

    Clarissa: "Not Standard American English" is a bit of a stretch. Just because someone says "going to" (which I agree few people do consistently all the time, but at the same time few people never use the full form at all) doesn't mean he or she pauses portentously between every word as your example does.

  39. Xmun said,

    September 11, 2010 @ 4:28 pm

    Similar variations exist in the pronunciation of Maori, but the differences are regional and there's little complaining about them (that I know of).

    For example, Sir Apirana Ngata, coming as he did from the East Coast, pronounced his surname "Nata". In parts of the South Island, "ng" became "k", so the place name Aorangi (cloud in the sky) is so spelt in the North Island, but is Aoraki in the South.

    There are similar regional variations in the pronunciation of "wh": as [f], as [w], as [hw], and possibly even as something else in some places.

    The spelling and pronunciation of the place name W[h]anganui has become controversial in recent years. The correct spelling, and the only meaningful one in Maori, is Whanganui (big harbour) but the traditional Pakeha spelling is without the h. As it happens, the Whanganui tribes pronounce "wh" as [w].

  40. James Kabala said,

    September 11, 2010 @ 9:18 pm

    I would still be curious to hear specific examples of these deletions in other languages. I appreciate Xmun's reply, but I'm not speaking so much of recognized dialectal differences as cases where speakers pronounce the same word differently based on the formality of the situation.

    [(myl) There are some relevant examples and discussion in A. Krišjānis Kariņš, "Vowel deletion in Latvian", Language Variation and Change 1995.]

  41. kim said,

    September 11, 2010 @ 10:00 pm

    I can distinctly remember using different modes of speech for home and school when I was in primary school. At school I used more formal language, and at home more colloquial, 'g'-dropping, etc.

  42. Kylopod said,

    September 11, 2010 @ 10:45 pm

    One variation I haven't seen much discussion of is "gonnu." If you keep your ears alert, you'll hear people use that word, especially at the end of a sentence–"Clean your room!" "No, I'm not gonnu!"

    Now, obviously there is little if any documentation for this word, as opposed to the massive textual evidence for "gonna," but I suspect it is almost as old. I'm not quite sure what the distinction is in meaning between the two.

  43. groki said,

    September 12, 2010 @ 3:53 am

    @Kylopod gonnu:

    my conjecture, fwiw, is that gonnu has to do with keeping the to emphasized (even as it gets changed), with the emphasis coming from the echoing of its oo-as-in-boot sound: like your example ("No! I'm not going to!" -> "…gonnu!") or indeed a semantic opposite ("I already said I'm going to!" -> "…gonnu!").

    if to can comfortably* slide on over to ta then gonna is feasible ("going ta be here" -> "gonna be here"), while gonnu can be used on those occasions when to is somehow felt to be more necessary than ta would indicate (eg, some (many?) statements that end on the to, as you noted).

    *and unfortunately for my claim, "comfortably" is not a well-specified metric.

  44. maidhc said,

    September 12, 2010 @ 4:08 am

    There's also Southern US "gone" — "I'm gone come back tomorrow" — which can be further abbreviated to "I'm own" — "I'm own come back tomorrow".

    But a more puzzling form is "I'm a-gonna" (or "I'm a-gone"). There's an "a-" sometimes used for the a present habitual — "He's a-whittlin'" — which is a survival of a Middle English formation (like "yclept").

    But "gonna" is a future form. Maybe "I'm a-gonna" is a double formation, coming from "I'm own gonna"?

    I'm a-gonna love you too – Buddy Holly
    I'm a-gone a-fishin 'cause everybody's fishing – Doc Watson
    I'm a-gonna do some riding on the midnight train – Hank Williams
    I don't know where I'm a gonna go – Jimmy Buffett
    I'm a gonna get on that ol' turnpike and I'm gonna ride – George Jones

    There was a previous discussion of "I'ma" at

  45. maidhc said,

    September 12, 2010 @ 4:13 am

    a typo and a mistake: the a present habitual could you please substitute "a present continuous" and that would be more what I meant

  46. groki said,

    September 12, 2010 @ 5:06 am

    @maidhc: I'm a gonna get on that ol' turnpike and I'm gonna ride – George Jones

    I don't know the song, but is the second gonna (without a) just to fit the music, or do you think there is some meaning difference Mr Jones is pointing to?

  47. James Kabala said,

    September 12, 2010 @ 9:44 am

    Kylopod and grokki: I think perhaps coming at the end of the sentence (as in Kylopod's original example) leads to a greater emphasis on the remnants of the "to." I rarely hear the form in the middle of a sentence.

    Dr. Lieberman: Thank you for the link on the Latvian. I also think I worded my original question badly. I'm not so much interested in condemnation of letter-dropping as simply the awareness of it. You often see in Anglophone literature attempts to depict colloquial or working-class speech (whether sympathetically or mockingly) that end up with practically every other character in the page being an apostrophe. I haven't read much foreign literature in the original, and I was wondering if that was true in, say, French or German literature as well.

    [(myl) Take a look at Raymond Queneau's novel Zazie dans le métro. I haven't been able to find any sections on line, but you may be able to get some of the flavor here.]

  48. Sili said,

    September 12, 2010 @ 12:24 pm

    Hah! You can't fool me! I've seen Hair. Noöne wore shoes in the sixties.

  49. Ben F. said,

    September 12, 2010 @ 8:25 pm

    Here's the "offending" quote, which turns out to have been badly misrepresented by Nero:

    From January Jones (who plays Betty, Don's wife):

    "It's all very meticulous and researched to a pinpoint…There's no ad-libbing or changing anything. Matt will come down during a take and fix your pronunciation of a word. There's no 'gonna' or 'shoulda' – it's 'going' and 'should have.'"

    The statement is clearly based on her experience with her character, a New Englander from a wealthy family, and not meant to imply that those words didn't exist at all "back then."

  50. Kate Gladstone said,

    September 13, 2010 @ 2:10 am

    Yes, I sent the same message to David Crystal.

  51. Nero said,

    September 15, 2010 @ 12:02 am

    Mark Liberman –

    if you wanted to know the answer to this question –

    "…but I still want to know, did anyone connected with the series Mad Men actually ever say anything remotely similar to what Nero attributed to them?"

    …you could have found it yourself with just the slightest bit of effort. You make it sound as if I made it up. It was paraphrased, but here it is for you plain as day from Rolling Stone 1113 (September 16, 2010, available at newsstands EVERYWHERE) page 48.

    "It's all very meticulous and researched to a pintpoint" says January Jones. "There's no ad-libbing or changing anything. Matt will come down during a take to fix your pronunciation of a word. There's no 'gonna' or 'shoulda' – it's 'going' and 'should have'"

    I didn't say it, January Jones did.

    The above comment by KevinM hits the nail on the head –

    "The real question is not whether "gonna" existed in the 1960s; obviously it did, and it was in widespread colloquial use. I'd be more interested in whether the "Mad Men" set would have felt constrained to use more formal diction. My guess is that they would. Don Draper doesn't say "ain't" either, but not because the word hadn't been invented."

    Also, you shouldn't quote randoms from the internet anyway. If I had known I was going to be dressed down for relating a quote from a magazine that you didn't even bother to corroborate, then I would have at least give the proper quote instead of a paraphrase. Re-reading it, I see that the quote could possibly have nothing to do with the 1960's anyway, and is just a reflection of Matthew Weiner's meticulousness as a director.

  52. Nero said,

    September 15, 2010 @ 12:12 am

    I went back and looked at what I had typed that you hijacked for this piece, and you grossly misrepresented the context of my comment. Have you ever even read The whole thing is a tongue-in-cheek sports blog. The specific post that I was replying to is here:

    This post is a satire of a Texas longhorn sports journalist. My comment, in full below –

    "I love Fake Ken’s quixotic attacks on the sad state of subject-verb agreement in present day longhorn journalism.

    I read an interview in Rolling Stone with the cast of AMC’s Mad Men and one of the actors said they have to be very careful with all of their pronunciation. “There was no ‘gonna’ or ‘shoulda’ back then [in the 1960's]”

    And penmanship! Have any of you written a letter recently by hand? Technology has really screwed my cursive."

    Get a little context next time. It's not like I was writing a thesis.

  53. Alon Lischinsky said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 5:39 am

    @James Kabala: deletions are common in colloquial Spanish, and they often carry the same stigma as in English. Spakers of all varieties tend to reduce /s/ when followed by a consonant, and Latin American varieties will also do this between vowels, so that ⟨Las Heras⟩ will become [laˈhe.ɾah] or even [laˈe.ɾa]. The former kind of reduction isn't usually noticed, let alone commented on, but the latter two are stigmatised in cultured speech. Conversely, Latin American speakers will often be derisive of Peninsular simplification of /ks/ clusters; [e.seˈlen.te] is acceptable in most registers in Spain, but certain to cause smirking elsewhere.

    I suppose the same happens with Caribbean assimilation of consonant clusters (whereby ⟨puerto⟩ becomes [ˈ]), but I have little experience with Caribbean speakers.

  54. Don O'Shea said,

    September 27, 2010 @ 8:28 am

    NYT's Today's Headlines in E-mail
    "Efforts Meant to Help Workers Batter South Africa’s Poor"
    It links to the Web page with a different headline:
    "Wage Laws Squeeze South Africa’s Poor"

  55. Featured Feeds: Language Log | This is Conlan said,

    April 17, 2011 @ 9:57 pm

    […] fascinating and entertaining assortment of word histories, malapropisms, puns, and neologisms (and "neologisms"). I love it when they use data to debunk and deconstruct common language myths. (Freebies: Eskimos […]

  56. Kate Gladstone said,

    April 19, 2013 @ 9:23 pm

    Yes, i was David Crystal's unnamed correspondent.

  57. Anonymous Educator said,

    January 10, 2014 @ 4:10 pm

    FYI, I spent the last few days watching marathons of 1930s movies and noticed how often "gonna" was said by the actors in them. That made me wonder how far back "gonna" was used –which ultimately led me here… It's use in the 60s was never a question for me, because I vividly recall using it then, as well as writing "gonna" on a paper for school. In response, I was told by my teacher that it was only acceptable in informal speech and to always use "going to" in written language unless I was quoting someone.

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