Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Reader's Diary #52: Mary Dalton: Merrybegot (FINISHED!)

Earlier I had criticized the publishers for not mentioning the Dictionary of Newfoundland English website until the end. But after completing the book, I can now see an argument for its placement in an afterword.

Working backwards myself, I'll make my argument with the title. As I've said before, "Merrybegot" means bastard. However, if one didn't know this, it might bring up connotations of something happier, "merrier". If one was to run to the dictionary right away and not reflect upon the connotations brought about by the sound of the word, the essence of this collection might be missed. It seems to me that the title is an excellent representation of the poems in this book, which are in turn excellent representations of life in Newfoundland. Just like "merrybegot" masquerades as a prettier word, these poems wear their own masks. Some are tragedies masquerading as comedies and some are comedies masquerading as tragedies. And as our mummering heritage would indicate, we love a good masquerade.

The title is also significant in its meaning. Plenty other words in this book are prettier or funnier sounding than the meaning would suggest, but the "bastard" reference is often applied to Newfoundland's English. And while some might cringe at Newfoundland's English being called "bastardized English" I would question why even the term "bastard" by itself would make anyone cringe in this day and age. The whole "born out of wedlock" thing is exactly one of those pseudo-tragedies mentioned above.

1 comment:

Robert Hiscock said...

Some time ago, after hering Dalton read, I came across this Vehicule Press interview with her concerning Merrybegot. I was interested to hear her take on the origins of the poems, the significance of The Dictionary of Newfoundland English and the role of aural appreciation in poetry. I thought I'd pass the link along.