18th century English


Senior Member
Hello again!

This time I've got a period piece to translate and the following interaction left me a bit puzzled. I wonder if you are more familiar with a bit older English. The surroundings are set in the 18th century and at the very beginning we see two ladies engaging in the following conversation:

"-What's it you running from York, miss Collins?
-I've heard London has much to recommend it."

There's not much background I can give you, other than it appears that the ladies don't know each other very well and seem to just exchange a few words in a social event. I'm grateful for any ideas. :)
  • bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    My suggestion:
    In line one, the questioner is wondering if Miss Collins is running from something in York, thus explaining her desire to be in London. This may only be figurative, a joking way of asking about Miss Collins or her reasons for traveling to London.
    The second line might be read as: "I have heard many good things about London," a circumlocutious way of answering or evading the question, most likely said in a bantering manner.


    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    "-What's it you running from York, Miss Collins?"
    I'm bothered by that sentence.
    Even allowing for the age of the setting, it doesn't sound right.
    Could you give us a little more - was the dialogue written in the 18th century or is it something written recently but set back then?
    Can you tell us who wrote it?
    And (ahem) are you sure you transcribed it right?


    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    Another possibility, one that I am unqualified to judge in regard to its applicability to the speech of this era, is that "running" refers to transporting goods, possibly illicitly. Examples of this are "rum-running" and "gunrunning."
    Admittedly, this is less likely; the original text ought to make it easy to tell.
    Yes, the lines sound funny, but I would imagine that they might be considered slang in those days.


    Senior Member
    United States English
    The first sentence is not grammatically correct, and I think bibliolept provided the missing word: "in". Thus, what are you running from in York? In other words, tell me what the problem is that you have in York that you are trying to escape. The other lady avoids the question, and speaks about what draws her to London, instead.
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