A Way With Words: Keep it Short
- HomeA Way With Words: Keep it Short
I’m from the South, and like most of us below the Mason Dixon line, I have a touch of an accent, or as my Yankee kin tell me, a drawl. It is never more evident than when I visit my extended family in Tennessee. By the second day, I’m throwing out “shucks,” and “y’all” with the best of ‘em.
You’ve heard the jokes about how southerners add extra syllables and letters onto words, and trust me, there is a lot of truth in that punch line. To be clear, I am well aware that there is no “r” in the word, “wash.”
It may be my self-awareness of the southern vernacular to draw out our speech that I over compensate and clip my words – dropping unaccented syllables at the beginning of words (aphesis), the ending of words (apocope), and the middle of words (syncope).
When I’m writing, that tendency is not as frequent. I have time to write with more precision if I want to sound more conventional, but sometimes, blunting words is perfectly acceptable.
Shortening words is a practice that is often used as a literary tool to affect poetic speech, and dialects. There are also terms we use without considering that they are abbreviated versions of longer words. A few of these truncated words are no longer, well… longer. The abbreviated versions have become the norm (see that: the apocope of “normal.”)
In formal speech and writing, we use “it was” or “it is.” The everyday use of contractions and clipped words, colloquial dialogue and shortened text-speak, is laid-back and relaxed.
Period pieces would work better with strict usage of whole words, and a present day tale would make use of modern conversational language.
Aphesis – loss of beginning sound:
abated – bated
around – round
avow – vow
beneath – neath
because – cause (cuz)
it was – twas
it is – tis
Syncope- loss of middle sound:
never – ne’er
over – o’er
ever – e’er
heaven – heav’n
Apocope – loss of ending sound:
telephone – phone
photograph – photo
automobile – auto
synchronization – sync
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