Notes on Language Use in
Waiting to Waltz: A Childhood

Poems by Cynthia Rylant, drawings by Stephen Gammell
Scarsdale, New York: Bradbury Press, 1984

Analysis by Stephanie Humphries and Tina L. Hanlon

Dialect Main Page

See also AppLit's Lesson Plan on Waiting to Waltz: A Childhood - by Brenda Muse

Dialect Features in Waiting to Waltz:

I.  Phonetic Features of Appalachian dialects employed:


II.  Lexical Features of Appalachian dialects employed:

The word pop for soft drinks is a feature of Appalachian vocabulary, but also occurs outside Appalachia. 

III.  Syntactic Features of Appalachian dialects employed:


Questions to Consider:

1. How do you feel about the absence of dialect features in this book of poems about childhood?

2. Does the absence of regional or local dialect contribute to the impression that an adult is speaking to us in the poem, looking back on childhood memories?

3. Are there other features of language that give an informal or conversational feel to the poems?

For example, fragments and sentences with the subject understood but not stated:

"Ran over Little Short Legs
Never knew a grown-up could/make such a mistake.
Never knew one could make it and say it was so" ("Little Short Legs")

"Dirty and needed a shave, but handsome." ("The Brain Surgeon")

Other examples in "Beaver," "Spelling Bee," "Mad Dog," and many other poems

4.  What other images and details convey the flavor of ordinary life and popular culture in Beaver, West Virginia in the 1960s?

5.  Discuss the conflicting attitudes about language depicted in "Swearing" and "Saved."

6.  Compare this book with Granny Will Your Dog Bite by Gerald Milnes (1990) or An Appalachian Mother Goose by James Still (1998).  Why are we more likely to find features of regional dialect in these traditional rhymes collected from the oral tradition? 

Based on analysis by Stephanie Humphries in July 2001

Dialect pages created May 2001. This page's last update: 4/29/19
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