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"Why, listen to the birds singing Kate"

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    "Why, listen to the birds singing Kate"

    Did anyone actually talk like this or was it just a literary convention from the 20s and 30s?

    And why "Why?" Why use a query when you're not asking a question? It just seems odd, unless it's heard as a milder form of exclamation. Any thoughts?

    #2
    The old use of Why is an oddity isn't it, like "Why I oughtta..."

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      #3
      The same thing written more recently would begin with 'so' rather than 'why'.

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        #4
        Or, in films of a certain period, "Say...what's the big idea..." or "Say, why don't we go out for a drink...".

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          #5
          Originally posted by Sean of the Shed View Post
          The same thing written more recently would begin with 'so' rather than 'why'.
          "So" is in daily usage though (over-usage even) but I'm not yet convinced "Why" ever was. It still appears in writing from the late 30s and beyond, but as a kid I never heard it, and would have expected to if only now and again. It feels to me like a poetic trope transferred into fiction but I've no evidence of that.

          Or, in films of a certain period, "Say...what's the big idea..." or "Say, why don't we go out for a drink...".
          Ebonics innit? Or at least it appears in blues songs from early in the last century.

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            #6
            Well, I can't argue with that.

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              #7
              I think that the non-questioning sentence-opener was used very regularly in North America, was it not? I mean, back in the days when folk were a little politer to one another - viz 'Why, thank you, ma'am!'

              ('Say' [as in WOM's example] has always struck me as more forceful, as though to precede a 'recommendation'.)

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                #8
                Couple of theories here https://english.stackexchange.com/qu...tion-come-from

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                  #9
                  Where’s that opening quote from? It’s bugging me that I recognise it but can’t place it.

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                    #10
                    Loving by Henry Green.

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                      #11
                      Cheers. No wonder I couldn’t place it: one of the “forgotten” C20 novelists.

                      It’s a good 35 years since I read Green - and I only stumbled across him because I was fascinated back then by The Auden Generation, and Wystan bigged him up. His stories were slight, but his style was tinged with modernism and I remember enjoying reading a couple of his novels.

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                        #12
                        Yes. I confess I'd never heard of him until last week, when I picked up a collection of his novels from the local book/swap box. He seems to be one of those writers who was more admired among his peers (Updike, Pritchett) than the public. Though I'm enjoying what I've read so far.

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                          #13
                          I love henry green

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                            #14
                            In parts of Co Durham sentences can start with “Why...” (pronounced more like wey) used like “well...”
                            and of course “Geordies” are supposed to say “Why aye” all the time but they don’t really

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                              #15
                              Art often flattered the upper middle class audience by pretending everyone spoke like them. Dickens, for example.

                              It was a shock when writers began presenting actual speech.

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