The Rain In Spain Is In My Ass a Pain: Dialect do's and don'ts

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Title: The Rain In Spain Is In My Ass a Pain: Dialect do's and don'ts
Creator:
Date(s): February 3, 2003
Medium: online
Fandom: many
Topic: dialects in fanfiction
External Links: The Rain In Spain Is In My Ass a Pain: Dialect do's and don'ts, Archived version
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Contents

Other Essays by ljc

The Rain In Spain Is In My Ass a Pain: Dialect do's and don'ts is an essay by LJC.

The topic is how to represent dialects in fanfic.

The essay was originally posted to Fanfiction.net. See The Rain In Spain Is In My Ass a Pain: Dialect do's and don'ts.

The title is a parody of the oft-repeated line "The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain," which Professor Henry Higgins uses to teach Eliza Doolittle proper pronunciation in My Fair Lady.


Excerpts

Once upon a time, I interviewed a professional Angel tie-in novelist, and we fell to talking about how to write Doyle. For those of you who missed the first season, the character had an Irish accent. And translating the character's "voice" to the page was proving troublesome for the author. His concern was that he didn't want Doyle to come across as "The Lucky Charms Leprechaun." However, going over transcripts of those nine episodes, what struck me was the fact that the lines as scripted were fairly standard American English, peppered only occasionally with distinctive Irish grammar or word choice. What was worrying the author wasn't so much trying to capture the character's dialect as it was the character's accent. It got me to thinking about the pitfalls of trying to translate dialect in fiction.
...each of the characters on Joss Whedon's Firefly have very distinctive voices. Mal and Kaylee use sentence structure, specific words and phrases, and general verbal ticks that immediately identify their dialogue. Like Doyle's Irish-isms, writing Firefly "cowboy speak" is about word choice and speech patterns. Writers should pay particular attention to which words are made into contractions and which phrases and constructions are used repeatedly. While an upper-crust-y character like Simon Tam might say "It was nothing," while Kaylee Frye would drawl "Weren't nothin'" and the reader can tell by what's being said, who's doing the talking.