Linguistics; Ozark English; "massacree"
am still in shock from the Presidential Debate Massacree. Comments have
ensued. Let's see if I can straighten it out.
My native dialect is Ozark English. Very nonstandard; to such an extent
that one of my linguistics profs once said that I was either lying about
the facts of the dialect or all Ozark-English-speakers are ETs. (I
straightened that out, but it took a while.) OzEng has the word "massacre"
just as the hypothetical "Standard" English does, and it's a serious word
with grave content, used to describe an event that results in many deaths.
Ozark English also has the word "massacree" -- but it's not an alternative
spelling for "massacre."
A "massacree" (usually written with a capital letter, as in "Presidential
Debate Massacree") is something else entirely. It's the OzEng label for an
event so wildly and improbably and baroquely messed up that the results are
almost impossible to believe. It can be used for something as trivial as a
child's blunder or a school play that takes an unexpected turn. It can be
used for something relatively serious, even something at once hilarious and
pathetic and potentially tragic -- like the Presidential "Debate" the
other night and the whirlwind of pundit-garbage and
political-operative-garbage that followed it. It can be used for
everything in between those two extremes. But it's never used for an event
in which people die; that would be a massacre, not a massacree.
"Masacree" is a useful word (and a useful alternative to an obscenity that
will perhaps have crossed your mind as you were reading); I'd miss it if it
weren't available. But I hadn't realized that "Standard" English speakers
might mistake it for just a spelling error.
When I wrote the Ozark Trilogy I had to fight my copy editors every step of
the way to get them to let me use Ozark English in the dialogue my
characters spoke. I wrote many many pages of explanations and arguments,
trying desperately to convince them that "a while" and "awhile" are not the
same, that "myself' and "my self" are not the same, that "would of" and
"would have" and "would've" are not interchangeable.... Sometimes I won,
sometimes I lost. I'm amazed, now, that none of them ever tried to
"correct" my spelling when I used "massacree."
Final note ... elfwreck has suggested that my written English is a tad
formal, and that perhaps it's the result of all my years as an academic.
Those are valid and reasonable suggestions, for sure. But I think the real
difference in my language behavior is simply that it's Ozark English.
People tend to think that Ozark English is only the dialect spoken by Paula
Jones, or the dialect they see on placemats in restaurants when they travel
in the southern mountains. There are in fact three Ozark English varieties
-- Rural Ozark (that's the placemat one), Urban Ozark (which is the one I
speak and write, and the one Senator Dale Bumpers speaks and writes), and
Hifalutin Ozark (reserved for the courthouse, the church, speechifying, and
so on). When Ozarkers of my generation debate, we use Hifalutin