I Beg Your Pardon? (by The Giggly Sisters)

Summary:  Examining Hoss’ dialect.

Category:  Bonanza
Genre:  Humor
Rating:  T
Word Count:  1700


“It was awful,” said the redhead in tones of great distress. “It was as though they were speaking a foreign language!” She shook her vibrant tresses. “Not only did they disapprove of the tattoo and my hair, I felt as though they were looking down on me because I speak the Queen’s English.”

“Queen’s English?” Hoss repeated, having listened to the redhead’s story without understanding much of it. “What’s that?”

“It’s the way English should be spoken,” the blonde explained, which didn’t leave Hoss any the wiser.

Seeing this, Joe kindly explained. “It’s the way the sisters speak,” he pointed out gently. “No slang, and using grammar correctly.”

“And you were in Scotland where they spoke – Doric?” Adam queried. “What is that?”

“It’s the North-east Scottish dialect,” the redhead explained. “It’s quite guttural and is spoken very quickly and they add a ‘y’ sound to words that don’t need it – like road becomes ‘roadie’.” She shuddered. She and her cousins seemed to be a totally different breed.

“You’d think, since they are your relatives, that you would speak the same way,” Adam said.

“Like you and your family all speak in the same way?” the blonde asked. “I really didn’t notice you and Hoss using the same words, or even the same accent. Tell me, Adam, why does Hoss speak differently to you, Ben and Joe?”

“Does he?” Adam asked, frowning. He was so used to Hoss’ appalling diction that he no longer noticed it.

“It ain’t true,” Hoss protested. “Ma English is right good, ain’t it, Adam?”

Adam sighed. He’d often wondered about this peculiar family phenomenon: each and every one of the Cartwrights spoke with a completely different accent! In fact, he could distinctly remember Joe having a New Orleans lilt to his boyish treble in A Rose for Lotta. “It is a little peculiar,” he admitted. “After all, we grew up together, first of all in the wagon and then right here on the Ponderosa. You would think we’d have some similarities in speech or accent. Why, we don’t even use the same phrases!”

“Dadburnit, if you ain’t right!” Hoss chortled. “Course, my Maw was Swedish. Do ya think I inherited her accent?”

The sisters exchanged dubious looks.

“No!” Adam said shortly. He had always been immeasurably grateful to have attended college back east. Not only did he come back home to the Ponderosa with a degree, a full set of drawing instruments and a great book collection, but he’d also managed to totally transform his accent in the process. Not for the world would he ever confess to Hoss that the years on the wagon train had been disastrous for both boys in terms of diction and semantics.

“Well, look on the bright side of things,” the blonde enunciated clearly. She’d been to an exclusive private school, where they specialized in impeccable accents and beautiful handwriting. “At least none of you inherited the sheer volume and range of Ben’s voice.”

This was indeed a blessing. In his youth, Ben had been a sea-faring chap, in great demand on the Bostonian schooners. There was no need to have an expensive foghorn on board if you employed Ben Cartwright – you simply stood him for’ard and let him bellow.

“It’s like a bugle call saying ‘charge’!” Joe quoted fondly, remembering how relieved he had been to hear the familiar, moose-like tones of his parent after Ben had been shanghaied in San Francisco.

Although this was very interesting, the redhead was not to be diverted. “Ben speaks good English,” she said, “so why doesn’t Hoss? Surely he corrected your speech, Hoss?”

Hoss looked at her blankly. “I dunno,” he mumbled.

“He must have done,” the redhead persisted. “I correct my children all the time, and they speak fairly good English, considering where we live.” At this, Adam glanced all round the room, expecting the redhead’s children to suddenly pop up out of nowhere. After all, the Giggly Sisters seemed to live on the ranch all the time, so it wasn’t unreasonable, he thought, to expect to see the redhead’s children. Once more, he couldn’t spot them.

At this juncture, Ben came into the room. “Of course I did what I could to correct his speech,” he announced. “But I didn’t seem to be very successful.”

“What about Miss Abigail Jones?” the blonde asked. “She was the teacher wasn’t she? Didn’t she try and correct Hoss’ speech?”

By this point, Hoss was looking embarrassed. In The Wooing of Abigail Jones, the said teacher had never admitted to having Hoss in her class. She had mentioned teaching Joe, and everyone knew of her yen for Adam, but she never mentioned Hoss even in passing.

“I didn’ allus go ta school,” Hoss admitted, glancing fearfully at Ben.

The Patriarch of the Ponderosa sighed wearily and wandered over to his desk. Ben always felt happiest when safely behind the solid oak table, which formed a bulwark against the slings and arrows of daily life with his family.

“They didn’t have a desk big enough for Hoss, once he topped 6 foot at the age of thirteen,” Ben confessed. “So I just let him stay at home.”

The blonde looked astounded. “You own mountains full of trees!” she pointed out. “Did it never occur to you to chop down a couple and make the school a larger desk?”

Ben shook his head sadly, while Joe regarded his parent mournfully. He’d never had any problem fitting into the school desks. In fact, he’d been obliged to use several volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica too boost him up, so that he could see over the edge of the desk. Ben had insisted that his youngest son should stay on at school until he was sixteen. Yet another reason to rue his lack of inches!

Hoss cast an anxious look at the sisters and drew them aside. “Actually,” he confided in a low voice. “I’ve got a slight secret.”

The girls noticed at once that his voice had changed remarkably: it was deep and melodious. The cadences and inflexions were completely different and each letter in every word was crisply spoken.

“I’m really a classically educated chap. In fact, I thought teaching might be my career. You see, once my scholastic career was tragically cut short, I enrolled in a correspondence course, where I studied Latin, Greek, Literature and Philosophy. Pa never suspected a thing!”

The sisters were taken aback. “Why did you never mention this?” enquired the redhead, once she had time to digest the information.

Hoss looked bashful. “Modesty, I suppose. And I didn’t want to confuse the viewers with a sudden change of character.”

“You really shouldn’t worry about that!” the blonde informed him. “The viewers cope perfectly well with the many heads of Doc Martin, don’t they?”

Hoss nodded. “Still, everyone seems to think that I’m completely stupid, and I hate to disillusion them. Plus, it allows me to show off my acting skills.” He glanced round once more. “You won’t tell Adam, will you? He likes to think he’s the act-or of the family.”

“Oh, why not?” cried the redhead, who spent many hours baiting Adam into a temper. It was surprisingly easy, actually. All she had to do was walk into a room, and he saw red!

“I don’t want to give him a complex,” Hoss replied. He was a very kind-hearted person.

“All right,” the blonde promised, “we won’t tell Adam.” She was a bit disappointed about this, but since Hoss had asked so nicely, she couldn’t turn him down. “So why haven’t you told Ben this?”

Hoss shrugged. “I just haven’t got around to it,” he admitted, with disarming honesty.

Naturally, Ben had a shrewd suspicion that something was afoot. After all, how many times had he walked into the barn to discover Hoss standing on an upturned crate imperiously declaiming “Friends, Romans, Countrymen”? Hoss was blithely impervious to this and also to the fact that he spoke in his sleep, which was another slight giveaway.

Hoss decided to impart one final confidence. “Do you know, I can parse a sentence at ten paces?” The redhead wondered if they could combine this incredible competency with her horse-sexing skills, but ruefully decided there was only a limited market.

“Singing is very good practice for vocal dexterity,” Adam said as they rejoined the rest of the family.

Ben was aware that his eldest son had a knack of inserting musical interludes into episodes and was determined to stamp out this habit. The songs generally featured Adam singing, with the rest of the family providing background vocals (or assorted noises, in the case of Joe and Hoss). However, Ben had a rather fine basso profundo and a recording career of his own that was developing rather nicely, thank you very much. Consequently, he trod heavily on attempts Adam made to burst into song.

Before Ben could begin to speak, the clock chimed the hour. Ben blushed slightly. He’d been toying with the idea of inventing a stopwatch that went backwards, as a little gift to the boys in the editing suite and the grandfather clock had just been lurking in its corner, cunningly positioned so that no-one could actually see it without dislocating their neck. Ben was simply not able to resist the opportunity to use it as an oversized prototype. Sadly, it had never been the same since and didn’t actually work at all. Not that anyone had ever seemed to notice.

“How weird!” Joe said. “I thought that clock had stopped working completely! I haven’t heard it chime since Matter of Circumstance!”

Ben put his head in his hands and groaned loudly.

“I beg your pardon?” the redhead said politely.


The End

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