Book 94.5 of 100

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists – Robert Tressell

I haven’t finished this, I’ll do a proper review when I have, but after only about 50 pages, this book is getting right on my nerves.  It’s about a group of working-class decorators in the early 20th century; the protagonist is the only one who’s a bit more intellectual.  He tries to persuade the others to his way of thinking regarding poverty and socialism. 

What’s really annoying me  was the use of phonetic spelling for some of the dialogue.  The more (self-)educated protagonist’s dialogue is written in proper English.  His colleagues’ is written phonetically to indicate their working-class accents.  Why?  Everyone’s got an accent and unlike some languages there are any number of ways to pronounce English words. 

For example, when the protagonist speaks it’s “what” and “and”, whereas if it’s one of the others it’s “wot” and “an”.  Maybe it was different 100 years ago, but as far as I’m concerned “wot” is a perfectly acceptable pronounciation of “what”, also I don’t really sound the “d” in “and” unless it’s followed by a vowel.  Nobody really says “fish anD chips” apart from maybe the Queen and Joanna Lumley.   I don’t mind so much when phonetic spelling is used to illustrate a genuinely unfamiliar accent (e.g.Wuthering Heights), but spelling “what” as “wot” when that’s how it’s usually pronounced anyway is completely superfluous.  If the author is trying to imply that what the protagonist is saying is thoughtful, and what the others are saying is ignorant, then that should come through in the dialogue itself, not by deliberately misspelling it.  For a book that’s supposed to be the workers’ Bible, you’d expect it to be a little less contemptuous of working class accents.


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