Letter to Times Literary Supplement regarding Johan A.C. Greppin's article "The Triumph of Slang"
Sir, - Naw, c'mon y'all (a colloquialism that I like your reviewer was in New Orleans long enough to learn can indeed be used there in the singular) should know better than to deny that English of some sort or t'other has been spoken continuously since 1607 in Jamestown as Johan A.C. Greppin did in The Triumph of Slang (February 1). It was Raleigh's colony Roanoke that "began briefly" not "Jamestown in 1607" that predated Plymouth by 13 years. The first Africans arrived there in 1619, giving Afro-Americans a pedigree longer than that of the descendants of the Pilgrim Fathers, the source of their inordinate pride of place. If your astute reviewer had spent as much time in Charlottesville, VA as in Cambridge, MA in both of which one can hear a more recognizable form of English spoken than in New Orleans, Jamestown or Plymouth, he would surely have learned of the priority of Virginia over Plymouth Plantation, but then alas in London, ever in this era of the Concorde and the internet, you and speakers of the queens English elite seem still too distant to get the geography and history of your illustrious former colonies quite right. But do not despair for you are doing better that poor old lord North and his tyrannical master did at Yorktown when our great Virginian "Traitor" caught Cornwallis between the James and the York.
William A. Percy
Department of History
University of Massachusetts at Boston
Boston, Massachusetts 02125