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gonna, Daddy, gonna

Michael, that Gentlest of Readers, has been wandering though the back pages of this Tohu Bohu, and has left a few comments, here and there, which is awfully nice, like leaving little gifts around the house. It also, by the way, points out one of the nice things about this medium that is, I suspect, sadly underused: the ease with which the blogger can examine his own breadcrumbs, and the humility (as well as the sense of movement) that goes along with that. As Jed (mine host is, thank the Divine, home, and as he knows, carries with him not only Your Humble Blogger’s affection but admiration, whether at home or no) set up the Recent Comments to link to the comment, not the note, if a Gentle Reader wants to be reminded what I was on about when, the search field comes in handy. For instance, Michael has a cogent observation on my note Really changing management, from July 2003, the substance of which I had entirely forgotton. But, as it turns out, YHB has used the word management in only seven notes, three of which were from that summer month. Now that would make an interesting meme, if LJs are easily searchable that way.

Anyway, it turns out that YHB has only used the ‘word’ gonna in only seven notes as well. What I found interesting was how I used it... Twice it’s in the title and no-where in the body of the piece; both of those are cultural references. Four of them are song lyrics notes. The fifth is in a quote (or a paraphrase, anyway) from the great Rep. Barney Frank, speaking at the Democratic National Convention last summer. In other words, I’ve never said it in my own voice.

Now, in my speaking voice (look out, or I’ll start podcasting, now) I often say ‘going to’ with two syllables, probably more often than with three. And I’m scarcely reluctant to mangle spelling for effect. Yet I evidently used ‘going to’ 85 times, and I’m guessing almost all of those were in my own voice (or my ‘Vardibidian’ voice, anyway). Well, OK, you say, he’s fine with using hijjus or churchin’, but hesitant to use gonna. So what? Well, then, why do I use it so often in other people’s voices? And it’s not that I’m really identifying a particular dialect. The voices in question belong to The Proclaimers (Scotland’s favorite sons), Dr. John, Cab Calloway, the BoDeans, and June Christy, in addition to the Hon. Barney Frank. As for the first title, well, I hear it in the magnificent voices of Sweet Honey in the Rock, but then I should admit that if I were really going to dialecticize those voices, I might spell it Ain’t gon’ study woah no moah (and having begun typing, I had to restrain myself from typing Ain’t gon’ study wo’ fo’ shizzle). Still, in the relevant phrase, gonna ghit-beats going to by twenty to one, or more accurately by 4720 to 224, although leaving off both and searching for “study war no more” yields 13,800 which means that the four-word phrase is used more often without either (although, predictably, “study war no more” �gonna �“going to” gives only about 5,800 hits, leaving three thousand pages which neither do nor do not have one or another of the phrases). And, by the way, the only other misspellings I allow myself (deliberately, that is) in those lyrics notes are ev’ry, wond’ring, and splittin’ (to rhyme with Britain).

So, I suppose the answer is that I think the gonna spelling is OK if, and only if, I’m emphasizing scansion or rhyme. More generally, I think it’s OK to use dialect in quoting a song lyric, but only to the extent that it affects the scansion or rhyme, but not otherwise. It’s good to know that’s what I think; I never would have known.

chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek,