George Eliot on slang

Every now and then, I come across an argument in a centuries old book that still feels fresha and relevant.

From George Eliot’s Middlemarch.

“Are you beginning to dislike slang, then?” said Rosamond, with mild gravity.

“Only the wrong sort. All choice of words is slang. It marks a class.”

“There is correct English: that is not slang.”

“I beg your pardon: correct English is the slang of prigs who write history and essays. And the strongest slang of all is the slang of poets.”

“You will say anything, Fred, to gain your point.”

“Well, tell me whether it is slang or poetry to call an ox a leg-plaiter.”

“Of course you can call it poetry if you like.”

“Aha, Miss Rosy, you don’t know Homer from slang. I shall invent a new game; I shall write bits of slang and poetry on slips, and give them to you to separate.”

“Dear me, how amusing it is to hear young people talk!” said Mrs. Vincy, with cheerful admiration.

Technically, the scene was excerpted in Michael Schmidt’s The Novel: A Biography.

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About Thomas Mets

I’m a comic book fan, wannabe writer, politics buff and New Yorker. I don’t actually follow baseball. In the Estonian language, “Mets” simply means forest, or lousy sports team. Currently, I’m writing a few comic books about my grandparents’ experiences in Soviet Estonia for Grayhaven comics. You can email me at mistermets@gmail.com
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