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'Twarnt / 'Twas

Use this forum to suggest Good Words for Professor Beard.

'Twarnt / 'Twas

Postby Stargzer » Mon Jul 11, 2005 9:19 am

This is actually Dr. GoodWord's Good Word:

Dr. Goodword wrote:'Twarnt nothin. I've lived through them all (well, most of them).


'Twarnt (or Twarnt) means It wasn't. The corresponding positive is Twas, as in the first line of Clement Clarke Moore's poem, A Visit From St. Nicholas, first printed in the Troy, New York, Sentinel:

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro' the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;


I suspect that 'Twas, being a contraction of It was, has more legitimacy than 'Twarnt, which uses a non-standard verb form. 'Twasn't would be the proper contraction of It wasn't or It was not.

The Library of Congress has manuscripts from the Federal Writer's Project, 1936-1940. Among them is a transcript of an interview with a former slave, James Cape. Below is his description of herding horses during a hail storm, likening the stones themselves to the ball used in our national sport:

. . . "'Twas never hard fo' to drive de hosses, 'cause deys not skiddish 'bout [gwine?] on de stomp like de cattle am. 'Course if a bustin' storm comes in de face of the hosses den [deys?] will try fo' to run de tudder way.

"De [worstest?] time Ise [?] wid a herd of hosses am one time weuns am [fetchin'?] 'bout 200 from Mexico. De hosses am fine stock {Begin page no. 3}dat have racin' blood an' de Marster an awful pa'ticula' 'bout de critters. 'Cause of de ind of hosees deys am weuns whar awful carful 'bou losin' 'em.

"Twas hot day, awful hot. De hosses am all wet an' whar just moppin' 'long. De drivin' boss am named Rodgers and ' him sez to weuns, 'gosh fo' mighty boys, weuns am gwine to have pert spell of weather an' weuns will have plenty of ridin' to do holdin' de critters.' Sho nuff, de wind comes, dat am alright fo' weuns hold 'em. Den de rain come an' dat am alright, 'cause weuns hold 'em, but den hail come an' dat warnt alright weuns don't hold 'em. No sar, dem hosses goes plum loco.

"When de hail hits de hosses turns 'bout likes a bunch of sojiers an' deys goes hilter-skilter running' 'way from de storm. 'Twarnt any woods near by, so 'twarnt any place fo' shelter, but deys runnin' fo some place anyway.

. . . Weuns am told by de boss man,' don't mind de hail just save de hosses', but how can weuns don't mind de hail when deys am acamin' wham, wham, plunk, bustin' weuns on de back, legs an' arms. De big hat saved de heads. If 'twarnt fo' de big hat weuns sho would been knocked loco. Weuns keeps ridin' 'cause 'twas no shelter an' weuns just as well ride as stand still. Ise stay in de lead an' de tudders of de riders ride at de side fo' to keep de hosses from scatterment. {Begin page no. 4}"De hail last 'bout 10 minutes, an' Ise bet in de 10 minutes de hosses runs 10 miles. Every time a hail stone hits de hosses deys tries to run a little faters. Soon as de hail stopped Ise Ise starts to circle and de herd follows me. 'Twarnt long after dat 'til weuns have de animals settled. But, weuns lost a couple dat am knocked down by de hail. Yas, Sar, just plum knocked down an' de tudder animals stomped on de hosses till deys is dead. All de tudder hosses am bumps all over thar bodies. Weuns mens am de same. Fo' a week after weuns squeel like pigs when weuns tries to move fast, 'cause of de sore spots. Dem hail stones am big, some of dem am big as base balls, but feel like two base balls when deys hit.


You should read his description of life in the Confederate Army. :D

. . . Den one day Marster Bob comes an' sez to me, he sez, 'Jim hows youse likes to jine de army an' look after de hosses fo' de Gen'al. Now, what Ise know 'bout de army am nothin'. So, Ise sez to Marster Bob:

"'What does de Gen'al does in de army?'"

"'De Gen'al am de big boss. He dresses in fine cloths wid pretty buttons an' have awful fine hosses'". He tells me. "'Deys have music an' lots of fun'.

"'Sho, Ise like to 'tend de Gen'al's hosses'", Ise tell him. 'Cause Ise like to wo'k wid fine hosses, an' likes fine music, an' likes to have fun. So I sent away to jine de army.

. . . Well, it goes well fo' short time. Ise tend de hosses fo' de Gen'al an' de Sergants an' de Captains, but 'twarnt much music o de kind Ise like. Den after while 'twas lots of music, but such kind Ise don't like. {Begin page no. 7 . . . Youse see deys drilled me to learnt how to do army fittin'. Deys sez 'twas fo' de pu'pose in case sometain' happens da calls fo' me to fit de Ya k's. Well, dat somthin' happens at In'pedence (Indenpendence). Deys fitted fo' three nights an' days. Thar am [lenty?] music. It [oes?] whiz, whiz, bang, boom an' bang. Den de Captain man puts a gun in my hands [n'?] tells me to jine de [?]'

"Weuns fit hard when weuns warnt 'treatin'. Weuns does mo's running dan fittin' an' dat suits dis person smarter than me. 'Treatin' am one thin' Ise could do bettah da anythin' else.

. . . See de scar on dis left shoulder. Well, dats whar Ise gets shot when Ise am fittin', but Ise don't know it 'til de blood wets my shirt. Ise just too 'cited to feel de bullet when it hits me.

. . . 'Tis too rough. Dem Yankmens don't play nice.
Regards//Larry

"To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them."
-- Attributed to Richard Henry Lee
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Postby tcward » Mon Jul 11, 2005 1:23 pm

I've heard of 'tweren't but not 'twarnt.

-Tim
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Postby Stargzer » Mon Jul 11, 2005 5:32 pm

tcward wrote:I've heard of 'tweren't but not 'twarnt.

-Tim


A conversation between Huck and Jim from Gutenberg's Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain:

"Well, 'twarn't no use to 'sturb you, Huck, tell we could do sumfn--but we's all right now. I ben a-buyin' pots en pans en vittles, as I got a
chanst, en a-patchin' up de raf' nights when--"

"WHAT raft, Jim?"

"Our ole raf'."

"You mean to say our old raft warn't smashed all to flinders?"

"No, she warn't. She was tore up a good deal--one en' of her was; but dey warn't no great harm done, on'y our traps was mos' all los'. Ef we hadn' dive' so deep en swum so fur under water, en de night hadn' ben so dark, en we warn't so sk'yerd, en ben sich punkin-heads, as de sayin' is,
we'd a seed de raf'. But it's jis' as well we didn't, 'kase now she's all fixed up agin mos' as good as new, en we's got a new lot o' stuff, in de place o' what 'uz los'."


There's a whole passel more o' them there warn'ts in the story. OOOOH! There's another Good Word! :wink:
Regards//Larry

"To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them."
-- Attributed to Richard Henry Lee
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