Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Talk Like a Pirate ... Within Reason

by Susan

Avast me hearties! International Talk Like a Pirate Day is coming up September 19. Perhaps the rest of the world doesn't notice, but librarians take this celebration seriously. In fact, the University of Wyoming Library purchases Mango Languages for all Wyoming residents to use, and you can find a short course in Pirate among the offerings. (Your library card and PIN gets you in.)

The event got me thinking about writing in dialect -- conveying the accents, rhythms, and word choices of someone who "ain't from 'round these parts," so to speak.

Writing dialogue, in general, is a balancing act of making it sound as if real humans said it without replicating what real humans actually verbalize. No one wants to read all the "umms" and "errs" and awkward moments where someone excuses themselves for passing gas.

Dialect raises that tightrope a little higher. Too little, and it might not be clear it's a pirate talking. Too much can be difficult to read. Too little and you can sanitize a character. Too much may even descend into stereotype.

Since I'm no expert -- I only know how much of the stuff I can tolerate as a reader -- I thought I'd collect a few links for you:

I happen to like a light touch where dialect is concerned. I never could make heads or tails of Brer Rabbit as a child. And although Their Eyes Were Watching God is a classic, and an amazing story, I had trouble deciphering the language. On the other hand, many people admire it for the very language that made me struggle. You'll have to find your own balance.

As with any writing, you can only get better with practice. Give writing dialect a try. And don't forget to Talk Like a Pirate on September 19. Arrrrr!

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