A brief touch on dialect

So I’m now reading Walt Wolfram and Natalie Schilling-Estes’s American English: Dialects and Variation, and I love the way they explain the details and quirks of the dialects as though the reader has never heard them. Not that that isn’t a good thing, because it’s generally known what assumptions can do to someone, but it’s highly entertaining to read:

Another Southern American helping verb form which serves to convey a meaning which is not readily indicated in standard English is the word liketa, as in It was so cold out there, I liketa died. Historically, liketa comes from like to have and seems to have been equivalent in meaning to almost. However, in some American dialects which use this form today, the meaning has been altered in a subtle way, so that liketa cannot be used to refer to things which almost took place in real life but only to things which almost happened in a figurative sense. Thus, when a speaker utters the sentence, It was so cold, I liketa froze, she is not conveying that she was in any real danger of freezing but only that she was very, very cold (45).

So simple, and, to me, so natural (to hear, at least; I’ve long since lost all but the dredges of any Texan/Southern speak). I like the writing style of this book, because, if nothing else, I have to grin when they describe the pronunciation of New England or “Southern American” speech, or lay out the dialect in simple rules that I “know”, but that I don’t know, like the above specific uses of “liketa”. I know how and when to use it (although if I ever do, I’m shooting myself for letting Luke bleed off on me), but I never thought of the rules as such.

And then I have to laugh at their examples. In a completely dead-pan-seeming book, they bust out with “It was so cold out there, I liketa died” followed by “but only that she was very, very cold”. Well, no shit.