Can someone find specialized words in American culture and the practices of the Southern states in the book.  (Chapters and page numbers will be useful)

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird certainly presents an accurate depiction of speech within the setting of the Deep South in the 1930s.  Much of the dialect, in fact, is still prevalent today in Lee's home state of Alabama. 

--For instance, although children do not address their teachers as such much anymore, children do still address adults with whom their families are friendly and rather close as "Miss + the first name" just as Scout and the others address Miss Caroline. (Ch.

--Another example of Southern dialect is Scout and Jem's use of "ain't," and "gonna" and "wanta" and "scared'a," "disgracin'"[dropping the ending g], all of which would not be permitted at that time by Northern well-educated parents such as Atticus.

--Still another example of archaic English--which ain't is-- is Jem's use of the word yonder and reckon and recollect.  Because so many families from the South had ancestors dating back to the 1700s, many archaic English words have remained in the Southern culture as they are passed from generation to generation.

--Certain colloquial expressions such as "I'll be dogged" as Scout says in Chapter 3 are particular to Alabama and, perhaps, neighboring Southern states.

--Within the lower classes, more dialect is present than in the better -educated people.  The Ewells certainly use words that a man such as Atticus would never use; for instance, Bob Ewell crudely insists at the trial that he "seen that black n--yonder ruttin' on my Mayella!"  And, he says that he heard his daughter "screamin' like a stuck hog inside the house."  He further describes his daughter as "lyin' on the floor, squallin'--[crying].  When asked if he thought Mayella may have needed a doctor, Bob Ewell replies that he has never called a doctor to "any of his'n in his life." [The misuse of pronouns is prevalent.  For instance,such words as hisself and theirselves are used.] (Ch.17)

--Another poor group is, of course, the black community, whose educational opportunities have been minimal.  Their dialect is such that verbs are often omitted.  For instance, when Calpurnia takes the children to church with her on Sunday, Lula. a member of the congreation, says to Calpurnia,

"You ain't got no business bringin' white chillun here--they got their church, we got our'n...."

Yet, one of the other members of the congregation, Zeebo steps forward,and greets the children,

"Mister Jem....we're mighty glad to have you all here.  Don't pay no 'tention to Lula, she's contentious because Reverend Sykes threatened to church her.  She's a troublemaker from way back, got fancy ideas an'haughty ways--we're mighty glad to have you all."  (Ch. 12)


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To Kill a Mockingbird

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