What vernacular words does Twain use in "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" and how is this more authentic?

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andrewnightingale's profile pic

andrewnightingale | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Vernacular refers to the language used by everyday people in a particular place or region. It identifies the history and culture of such people and creates a bond between them. Since it is spoken only in a certain area, the idiom and vocabulary they use identify their singularity. Mark Twain uses specific language that is evidently unique to Calaveras County in his story, of which the following are examples:

  • feller - referring to a male person or fellow
  • curiosest - superlative for curious, instead of 'most curious'
  • see - commonly used also as past tense instead of saw
  • uncommon - meaning 'unusually' as in 'uncommon lucky'
  • setting - sitting, as in 'two birds setting on a fence'
  • reglar - instead of 'regularly,' as in 'he would be there reglar'
  • straddle-bug - a long legged insect
  • foller - follow
  • dangdest - an expletive to express what a risk taker Jim Smiley was
  • resk - risk / bet
  • cipher - write as in 'cipher it down'
  • ornery - ordinary  
  • chaw - chew
  • thronged - throw as in 'thronged up the sponge' i.e. 'threw in the towel' or gave up / surrendered
  • cal'klated - calculated
  • edercate - educate
  • hisself - himself
  • yeller - yellow
  • bannanner - banana

The use of the vernacular makes the story more authentic because it reflects how the characters actually spoke and identifies their heritage. It provides the story with its flavor and depicts the nuances in language that gives it a specific style and character. If the vernacular were not used, the story would lose most of its humor and charm. 

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

The word "vernacular" in this case sort of means something like slang or informal language as opposed to the sort of formal, educated language that you often see in literature.  Mark Twain has Simon Wheeler speak almost exclusively in the vernacular.  His speech makes a very distinct contrast with that of the narrator, which is very formal.  I think that makes the story more authentic because presumably some guy in a bar in a mining camp would not be talking the way the narrator does.

Some examples of vernacular from the story are:

  • flush
  • busted
  • setting (instead of sitting)
  • straddle-bug
lit24's profile pic

lit24 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted on

Much of the humor in Mark Twain's short story "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calveras County" is result of the native dialect in which the  "good-natured, garrulous old Simon Wheeler" tells his story to Mark Twain. The use of the native dialect in addition to giving an authentic ring to the story foregrounds  the native folk element of the narrative. Simon Wheeler belongs to the now defunct mining camp of Angel's and in order to make the story as authentic and realistic as possible Mark Twain makes Simon Wheeler speak in the native dialect of Angel Camp.

Some examples are as follows:

1. 'feller' instead of 'fellow.'

2. 'solittry' instead of 'solitary.'

3.  'anywheres' instead of 'anywhere.'

5.  'dangdest'   slang expressing annoyance or dislike.

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