America's Authors


Mark Twain in one sentence

Florida, Missouri is where Mark Twain (also known as Samuel Clemens) was born; its location in the South and by the Mississippi River were later huge subjects of Twain's work.

Works of note:

A notable aspect of Twain: dialect

One of the things Twain is most known for is the way he reproduces dialects: the unique accents and styles of people's talking. Regarding this, Twain once said, "I have traveled more than anyone else, and I have noticed that even the angels speak English with an accent."

The Talking Like Jim Contest

One particular challenge if you chose to read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn will be interpreting Jim's dialect. Jim is a slave on the run, and Twain captures the specifics of his talk in great detail. Try entering yourself in the "Talking like Jim" contest by using the recorder below. Just attach the microphone (you can get one from Mr. Sheehy if you're in class) and read the passage below the recorder. Good luck, and remember - if you record it, you're granting permission to post it! Click below to hear hear Mr. Sheehy try it, and realize - it can be done better.

The Recorder

A description of the passage

This is from page 101 of the Washington Square Press edition of Huckleberry Finn. In this part, Jim and Huck are discussing whether Solomon was wise. Solomon was a king of Israel and famous for his wisdom, which he requested of God. In the incident to which Jim refers below, two women came before Solomon with one child, both claiming to be the mother. To determine who was the mother, Solomon declared that the child be cut in half and split between the two women. The first woman said, "Fine. So be it." The second woman cried out against it, offering to let the first woman have the child as long as the child was not hurt. King Solomon gave the child to the second woman. (Read the account here.)

The passage

"Well, den! Warn' dat de beatenes' notion in de worl'? You jes' take en look at it a minute. Dah's de stump, dah-dat's one er de women; heah' you-dat's de yuther one; I's Sollermun; en dish yer dollar bill's de chile. Bofe un you claims it. What does I do? Does I shin aroun' mongs' de neighbors en fine out which un you de bill do b'long to, en han' it over to de right one, all safe en soun', de way dat anybody dat had any gumption would? No; I take en wack de bill in two, en give half un it to you, end de yuther half to de yuther woman. Dat's de way Sollermun was gwyne to do wid de chile. Now I want to ast you: what's de use er dat half a bill? - can't buy noth'n wid it. En what is a half a chile? I wouldn' give a dern for a million un um."

The Attempts

Here are the folks who have dared enter the Talkin' Like Jim contest. It's not easy, especially if, like me, you've rarely heard anyone talk skillfully in this dialect.

Outside Resources:

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