Rhymes and Reactions (Nov 1926)
By George Sterling
I have just read that book of short stories (some of them admirable) by Barry Benefield, called "Short Turns." It contains the tale "Daughters of Joy," worthy of de Maupassant, and the almost as good "Carrie Snyder." The former story appeared in "Smart Set," before that magazine had sunk into the scx-bog.
Reading Benefield's book, I was again struck by the continual misuse of dialect spelling. Writers, in their justifiable attempt to imitate the speech of an illiterate person, almost invariably fall into a trap. It is this: that in rendering the pronunciation of a word, they misspell it in such a manner as really to give its actual sound when correctly spoken. Thus, Benefield spells "victuals" "vittals" and "marble" "marbul." Well, how would either word be pronounced? Why, evidently, "vittals," and "marbul." So they might as well have been correctly spelled in the first place. Look at any speech rendered in dialect, or to be precise, in illiterate English, and you may note how all authors, so far as I have seen, fall into this thoughtless error.
Profound Meditations on Street Railways
Imprimis, as they say on the water-front, Heaven help the poor wretches condemned, as I, to use the (expletives; more expletives; and then some) things!
What has become of the old-time motorman and gripman? They had the ability, and the willingness or necessity to use it, of starting or stopping a car with out sending its standing passengers into profane heaps. Nowadays, the grip or the current is abruptly applied, and, what of women about to add to the population, already too large by ninety millions, of the United States, it is a wonder that the companies' damage-suits do not attain astronomical figures at the compensation demanded. I am informed that there are orders against this brutal inefficiency, by the Municipal Railways, but that the motormen, secure in civil-service jobs, do as they damned please, which is a plenty. At. any rate, they invest the term "civil-service" with memorable irony.
Speaking of the Municipal Railways, why does one almost invariably have to wait to have a transfer punched? It is usually ready for me on the other street railways, thus avoiding a small, but annoying, delay. But my main curiosity is: Why do the Sutter Street cars hunt in packs? One often has to wait over five minutes for one, and when the miserable thing does finally appear, it is closely followed by three or four others. Why should this condition be so usual? The Sutter Street system is almost as important as the Geary Street one, and yet one seldom encounters such mismanagement on the latter. I have evolved a theory that the Sutter Street system is run by menagerie apes, or if not, by persons taking a sadistic pleasure in the woes of the public. Perhaps I am wrong, but the idea has its plausibility as well as its fascination, to one forced to exchange comfort for time by the use of the (expletives; more expletives: expletives ad lib.) things.
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A strong race, a strong and terrible race! notorious for one justice for the rich, another for the poor, saturated with a million weird superstitions, bigoted from dandruff to toe-nails, intolerant to the point of deadly menace, lawless until old age, bilious with hatred of new ideas and the mental function generally, idiotic with worship of mere physical prowess, idolizers of the mattoids of the movies, scornful of all it cannot comprehend, pleasure-mad and crazed for comfort, sex-besotted to an unimaginable and unprintable degree, maggotty with graft, driven like so many sheep by the vast and complacent powers that hold them in unrealized bondage,' Vacuum-worshipers and adorers of each jitney messiah that appears—and crucifiers of those that have any claim to respect, haters of beauty, even subconsciously, swift to enthrone the false god and as swift to cut him down, with all possible cruelty, blinded, fearful, mentally deliquescent, hypocritical above all other tribes of history—I refer, of course, to that deplorable people, the head-hunters and cannibals of the Solomon Islands. We cannot too sadly lament the conditions in which it has pleased the Divine Power to place them, even as we look forward to the happy time when we shall have brought them the blessings of American civilization.