Dasn’t/dassent
Posted: 18 October 2016 02:01 PM   [ Ignore ]
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My best friend’s father, a farmer in the rural area south of Chicago ca 1950s, used to use the word “dasn’t” to mean “you shoulld not” as in “you dasn’t put your hand in the milk pail (or tub) when milking cows.”

couldn’t find it in OED and not in Green’s. I thought I had posted it in the old site but couldn’t find it in the Yuku search either.

This father had the last name of “Lauffer” so I’m guessing a German heritage.

Just found it in MW:

partly contraction of (thou) darst not (from Middle English), partly contraction of (he) dares not

Anyone have anything more? Comments suggest that it is in Twain. Is it predominantly northern US as the comments also seem to suggest?

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Posted: 18 October 2016 10:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Google books has several references of which I can get only a snippet view. Here‘s one of them from The Locomotive Firemen’s Magazine (date c. 1886):
“You dasn’t fight!”
“Yes I dast!”

Maybe those in the US will get the full text and references of earlier books on a search of “I/you etc dast/dasn’t” in google books. I’ve got a very vague memory of hearing it from an old Cornish relative in the sixties. Or maybe I’m imagining it.

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Posted: 19 October 2016 05:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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couldn’t find it in OED

Dasn’t is in exactly two citations: s.v. fighting, adj. (1876 ‘M. Twain’ Adventures Tom Sawyer i. 23 You’re a fighting liar, and dasn’t take it up) and s.v. moonrise (1931 E. O’Neill Mourning becomes Electra i. i. 191 You dasn’t stay there till moonrise at ten o’clock).  Dassent is entered (s.v. do) as a U.S. regional form of doesn’t, which seems odd.

Comments suggest that it is in Twain

Comments where?

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Posted: 19 October 2016 07:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Thanks, Eliza. Great suggestion to search Google Books. Interesting hit on Mencken’s The American Language. A footnote there says that “dast” is “far more common in the negaative”. And in a suplement for that book, Mencken notes that the Scotch Irish usually say “I don’t dast”. He also notes that it is a regionalism located in New England but also found in the South.

Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer Among the Indians has

but I dasn’t go back after him, because the dark would catch me and I would lose this one, sure; so I had to keep tagging along after him afoot, coming as near to cussing the antelope meat as I dast, and getting powerful nervous all the time

Twain, of course, is using language set in Missouri along the Mississippi.

Eliza may have heard it in Cornwall. But most if not all the citations are in the US. Hmmm.

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Posted: 19 October 2016 07:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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languagehat - 19 October 2016 05:13 AM

couldn’t find it in OED

Dasn’t is in exactly two citations: s.v. fighting, adj. (1876 ‘M. Twain’ Adventures Tom Sawyer i. 23 You’re a fighting liar, and dasn’t take it up) and s.v. moonrise (1931 E. O’Neill Mourning becomes Electra i. i. 191 You dasn’t stay there till moonrise at ten o’clock).  Dassent is entered (s.v. do) as a U.S. regional form of doesn’t, which seems odd.

Comments suggest that it is in Twain

Comments where?

Thanks, LH. The comments section in the M-W definition.

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Posted: 19 October 2016 10:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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There are 26 citations in the Corpus of Historical American English, running from 1850 to 2005. The most citations (4) are in the decade of the 1910s. All but one of the citations are from fiction, most, if not all, in dialogue. The one exception is a 1917 piece on Mark Twain’s Letters in Harper’s. From the provided snippet, it’s not clear if the word was used by Twain, but it looks like it probably was.

The 2005 citation is from an abridged and “retold” version of Tom Sawyer. I don’t know if dasn’t appears in Twain’s original. I wouldn’t be surprised if it did.

DARE includes it under dare v and it appears to be a well established form with lots of variants. Early citations in DARE are predominantly from New England, but later ones are from the South.

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Posted: 19 October 2016 10:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Twain uses it in Tom Sawyer in Chapter 1, as LH quotes the OED above, and a couple of other places. This is from the Project Gutenberg edition:
(Since it’s a lengthy quote, I’ve highlightd “dasn’t” and also, since were were talking about it recently, highlighted Tom’s drawing a line in the sand [dust, actually, in this case].)

The summer evenings were long. It was not dark, yet. Presently Tom checked his whistle. A stranger was before him—a boy a shade larger than himself. A new-comer of any age or either sex was an im-pressive curiosity in the poor little shabby village of St. Petersburg. This boy was well dressed, too—well dressed on a week-day. This was simply astounding. His cap was a dainty thing, his close-buttoned blue cloth roundabout was new and natty, and so were his pantaloons. He had shoes on—and it was only Friday. He even wore a necktie, a bright bit of ribbon. He had a citified air about him that ate into Tom’s vitals. The more Tom stared at the splendid marvel, the higher he turned up his nose at his finery and the shabbier and shabbier his own outfit seemed to him to grow. Neither boy spoke. If one moved, the other moved—but only sidewise, in a circle; they kept face to face and eye to eye all the time. Finally Tom said:

“I can lick you!”

“I’d like to see you try it.”

“Well, I can do it.”

“No you can’t, either.”

“Yes I can.”

“No you can’t.”

“I can.”

“You can’t.”

“Can!”

“Can’t!”

An uncomfortable pause. Then Tom said:

“What’s your name?”

“‘Tisn’t any of your business, maybe.”

“Well I ‘low I’ll make it my business.”

“Well why don’t you?”

“If you say much, I will.”

“Much—much—much. There now.”

“Oh, you think you’re mighty smart, don’t you? I could lick you with one hand tied behind me, if I wanted to.”

“Well why don’t you do it? You say you can do it.”

“Well I will, if you fool with me.”

“Oh yes—I’ve seen whole families in the same fix.”

“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.”

“Aw—take a walk!”

“Say—if you give me much more of your sass I’ll take and bounce a rock off’n your head.”

“Oh, of course you will.”

“Well I will.”

“Well why don’t you do it then? What do you keep saying you will for? Why don’t you do it? It’s because you’re afraid.”

“I ain’t afraid.”

“You are.”

“I ain’t.”

“You are.”

Another pause, and more eying and sidling around each other. Presently they were shoulder to shoulder. Tom said:

“Get away from here!”

“Go away yourself!”

“I won’t.”

“I won’t either.”

So they stood, each with a foot placed at an angle as a brace, and both shoving with might and main, and glowering at each other with hate. But neither could get an advantage. After struggling till both were hot and flushed, each relaxed his strain with watchful caution, and Tom said:

“You’re a coward and a pup. I’ll tell my big brother on you, and he can thrash you with his little finger, and I’ll make him do it, too.”

“What do I care for your big brother? I’ve got a brother that’s bigger than he is—and what’s more, he can throw him over that fence, too.” [Both brothers were imaginary.]

“That’s a lie.”

“Your saying so don’t make it so.”

Tom drew a line in the dust with his big toe, and said:

“I dare you to step over that, and I’ll lick you till you can’t stand up. Anybody that’ll take a dare will steal sheep.”

The new boy stepped over promptly, and said:

“Now you said you’d do it, now let’s see you do it.”

“Don’t you crowd me now; you better look out.”

“Well, you said you’d do it—why don’t you do it?”

“By jingo! for two cents I will do it.”

The new boy took two broad coppers out of his pocket and held them out with derision. Tom struck them to the ground. In an instant both boys were rolling and tumbling in the dirt, gripped together like cats; and for the space of a minute they tugged and tore at each other’s hair and clothes, punched and scratched each other’s nose, and covered themselves with dust and glory. Presently the confusion took form, and through the fog of battle Tom appeared, seated astride the new boy, and pounding him with his fists. “Holler ‘nuff!” said he.

The boy only struggled to free himself. He was crying—mainly from rage.

“Holler ‘nuff!”—and the pounding went on.

At last the stranger got out a smothered “‘Nuff!” and Tom let him up and said:

“Now that’ll learn you. Better look out who you’re fooling with next time.”

[ Edited: 19 October 2016 10:55 AM by Dr. Techie ]
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