Me and Mat was down there fishing.

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stephenlearner

Senior Member
Chinese
Hi,

I am reading the story "Robert Louis Stevenson Banks aka Chimley" by Ernest J. Gaines. I think there're some ungrammatical sentences. Is this phenomenon normal? Is it because the author wanted to write in the way black people used English? For instance:
"Me and Mat was down there fishing."
"Mathu told him he wasn't nobody's servant."
"We been going to that one little spot like that every Tuesday and Thursday the last ten."

Thank you very much.
 
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  • Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Is it because the author wanted to write in the way black people used English?
    Yes, it would appear so. Are these all part of direct speech, or part of a first-person narration? First-person narration and direct speech usually reflects the language the author imagines the character would actually use, at least in respect of word substitutions and omissions; relatively few writers mark contractions and dialect, as this can become very difficult for readers to read.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    It could equally well be British English "popular" or uneducated speech, and probably also American speech "of the people", not especially of black folks.

    The expression "every Tuesday and Thursday the last ten" is dated I think, rather than "black". When was this written?
     

    stephenlearner

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    The story is from A Gathering of Old Men, set in Louisiana in the 1970s. Published probably in 1983.
    What I quoted are part of a first-person narration.
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    My (white) neighbours in south London (even the speakers of traditional Cockney rather than Caribbean-influenced "Multicutural London English (MLE)" might well say
    "Me and Matt was fishing down there"
    "Matt told him he wasn't nobody's skivvy."
    "We been going to that one little spot."

    The sentence contain features that are not part of standard English but that are nevertheless very widespread.
    - The "nominative" pronouns such as "I" function as a positional variant of "me" that only appears as the sole and unqualified subject of a finite verb.
    - In irregular verbs, the simple past tense and past participle merge into a single form.
    - Double negatives in the sense of a single negative.
    - Ellipsis of unstressed auxiliaries such as have. (You been there? You going tomorrow? You done it yet?)
    Some of these are so common and widespread that they are widely regarded as shibboleths marking out uneducated people.
     
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