Would of

Thu Jan 17, 2008

In M. John Harrison’s Nova Swing, a character named Alice says, “We would of iced them, Vic, but what do you do?” (68)

To my ear, “would’ve” and “would of” are homophones, which is why they are confused in writing. Alice, if she’s literate, very possibly would have made this mistake. But this is dialogue reproduced by the narrator. I don’t think you can credit the notion that it is rendered dialect, as there’s no difference in pronunciation. I also don’t think that having characters’ speech rendered as those characters would write it on their own is quite covered by free indirect technique, which is not on display here as far as I can tell.

I’d be interested if anyone has an explanation for this, or if you’ve noted similar examples.

I should also mention that I’m glad to be reading this book, as I’m contemplating a project on transformative spaces, zones, objects, etc. as national metaphors. Nova Swing seems to, in the early going at least, owe a lot to Roadside Picnic (which provides one of the epigraphs and is the finest example of the genre I know, far exceeding the hotel room miniseries you may remember), and I’m always looking for more examples.