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dassent, dassn't

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dassent, dassn't

Postby Brazilian dude » Wed Jun 21, 2006 10:42 pm

From Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage:

Safire 1984 quotes a correspondent who uses the spelling dassent and another who wonders if it shouldn't have been dassn't. This contractoin - from dares not, apparently - was common in the 19th century and the early 20th (theDictionary of Amerian Regional English shows many spellings) and was used for dares not, dare not and dared not. The spelling variations are presumably intended to approximate speech. Dassent as a spelling is neither the most frequent nor the rarest:

... I whipped Ed Walker twice, Saturday. I don't like girls. You dassen't catch toads unless with a string..." - O. Henry, "The Ransom of Red Chief," 1907

Dassn't (now the commonest form) and its variations are basically dialectal but, as te use by a correspondent of Safire's suggests, are among those countrified terms trotted out for effect in otherwise straightforward writing.

Like those beetles on the waterpond, you can bend the surface tension film but you dassn't break through - Christopher Morley, The Man Who Made Friends With Himself, 1949

... chortling openly at the things a bigot thinks but dassn't utter - Jack O'Brien, Springfield (Mass.) Union, 1 Dec. 1973

I like dassn't. :)

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Postby Garzo » Thu Jun 22, 2006 8:00 am

Here in the Westcountry, I often here daren't, which is pronounced like /dɛɹnt/ (it is a rhotic accent). Colloquially it is often used instead of wouldn't.
dialect: I daren't do 'at if I be 'oo!
standard: I would not do that if I were you!


I've never head dassent around here. Actually there would be a problem with the first vowel — it would sound too much like doesn't. This makes me wonder about the source. Westcountry English was important in the development of American-English phonology.

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Re: dassent, dassn't

Postby Huny » Thu Jun 22, 2006 12:20 pm

Brazilian dude wrote:I like dassn't. :)

Brazilian dude


'Tis a word I've never heard before. I must say I like it. Sounds elegant to me ears. :)
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Postby skinem » Thu Jun 22, 2006 12:31 pm

In the U.S., dassent was generally associated with the South...and generally regarded as poor English and grammer and a sign of poor education. Not necessarily true, but I don't know an English teacher that would regard it well.
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Postby gailr » Thu Jun 22, 2006 5:42 pm

I originally invoked "dasn't" in memory of my grandma R; her peeps were German immigrants. She married into a family descended from Welsh immigrants, and lived in the midwestern "Sam Hills" [:D] all her life. I don't know where she got it from, although I do know that higher education was not a priority for many farm or ranch girls of her generation and place of residence. I suspect she would have arched a brow at anyone who questioned her grammar in this regard, though!
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Postby Stargzer » Thu Jun 22, 2006 10:35 pm

It appears as dasn't in Tom Sawyer. From part of an argument between Tom and a new boy in town; Tom is the first speaker:

"Smarty! You think you're SOME, now, DON'T you? Oh, what a hat!"

"You can lump that hat if you don't like it. I dare you to knock it off--and anybody that'll take a dare will suck eggs."

"You're a liar!"

"You're another."

"You're a fighting liar and dasn't take it up."



Later, Tom is trying to co-opt Jim, the slave, into whitewashing the fence while he does Jim's chore of fetching water in a bucket for his owner:


"Oh, never you mind what she said, Jim. That's the way she always talks. Gimme the bucket--I won't be gone only a a minute. SHE won't ever know."

"Oh, I dasn't, Mars Tom. Ole missis she'd take an' tar de head off'n me. 'Deed she would."

"SHE! She never licks anybody--whacks 'em over the head with her thimble--and who cares for that, I'd like to know. She talks awful, but talk don't hurt--anyways it don't if she don't cry. Jim, I'll give you a marvel [a marble]. I'll give you a white alley!"

Jim began to waver.

"White alley, Jim! And it's a bully taw."

"My! Dat's a mighty gay marvel, I tell you! But Mars Tom I's powerful 'fraid ole missis--"

"And besides, if you will I'll show you my sore toe."

Jim was only human--this attraction was too much for him. He put down his pail, took the white alley, and bent over the toe with absorbing interest while the bandage was being unwound. In another moment he was flying down the street with his pail and a tingling rear, Tom was whitewashing with vigor, and Aunt Polly was retiring from the field with a slipper in her hand and triumph in her eye.
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Postby Perry » Fri Jun 23, 2006 10:10 am

Mr. Clemens' Aunt Polly could never be mistaken for Pollyanna!
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Postby hotshoe » Sat Jul 22, 2006 2:07 pm

My vote is for dast. Dastn't. Dinosaurs walked the earth the last time I saw the word, and I always understood it to be an archaic contraction of darest, as in "Darest thou speak thus to thy betters?"
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Postby Palewriter » Sat Jul 22, 2006 8:32 pm

The rendering of dialect words seems to me to be entirely based on the subjective transcription of heard sounds. I really can't see any "right" or "wrong" in it. And why, indeed, would there need to be?

Of course, I'm firmly in the camp of utmost flexibility in spelling in general, so better not listen to me.

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Postby skinem » Sat Jul 22, 2006 9:27 pm

Of course, I'm firmly in the camp of utmost flexibility in spelling in general, so better not listen to me.


Ah, what educators call "creative spelling"...and it musn't be discouraged lest (but not least!) we damage any fragile psyches!
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Postby Bailey » Sun Jul 23, 2006 9:01 am

or fragic psycles.

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