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Further to the question I posted today about the meaning of the expression, “treat somebody pretty ugly,” which appeared in New York Times’ article (September 17) titled “Rick Perry, Uber Texan,” I wonder about implications of the term, g-dropping, a question I earlier put aside.

The term g-dropping appears at the beginning of the article:

YOU think of Rick Perry, you think of Texas. And more Texas. Perry the cowboy coyote-killer, the lord of the Texas job-creation machine, the g-dropping glad-hander with a “howdy” for every stranger in the room. He barely exists in the national mind outside of the Texas connection.

I understand g-dropping means the habit of dropping g in pronouncing –ing. However, what does this trait represent? That is, what sort of people habitually drop g's? I've heard Texans drawl. Does g-dropping represent a particular talking style, character of speakers, educational background, regionality, or something else? If not, why did the author insert the term, g-dropping, in describing the character of a Presidential candidate?

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Wikipedia says It is currently a feature of colloquial and non-standard speech of all regions, and stereotypically of Cockney, Southern American English and African American Vernacular English. To which I would add that it is also stereotypical of the Appalachian Mountain region. –  Peter Shor Sep 19 '11 at 12:48
    
I'm Southern UK, and I actually find it quite difficult to imagine people enunciating the "g" in, for example, "I'm going out tonight" without sounding quite starchy and formal. Although I personally would normally use a glottal stop for the last "t" there, I wouldn't particularly notice whether others did this or not. But I really think the "g" would be quite noticeable to me in casual speech. –  FumbleFingers Sep 19 '11 at 13:44
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I'll be pedantic and point out that there is no /g/ to drop, except in a few areas such as NW England. The 'g' that is dropped is elsewhere purely orthographic, and the phenomenon is a substitution, not an omission. –  Colin Fine Sep 20 '11 at 12:03
    
I'm from Southern England and pronounce a final -n and -ng quite differently. Somewhat baffled by @Colin Fine saying there's no /g/ to drop. Are you really saying pin and ping are pronounced the same? –  user24964 Jan 9 '13 at 15:20
    
@TheMathemagician: no I'm not saying they are pronounced the same. I'm saying they are different in exactly the same way that /n/ and /m/ are different. Except in a few areas the sound of "ng" in "going" doesn't actually including the sound /g/. Think of "finger", which has a /g/ sound and "singer", which hasn't. –  Colin Fine Jan 9 '13 at 16:12

3 Answers 3

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'g-dropping' is associated in American culture with rural or Southern speech, which Texas exemplifies both for most Americans.

But most Americans 'drop' their g's (or really convert ng-final to -n-final in present participles) whether Southern, New England, California or anywhere in between, in informal contexts. Newscasters and anyone speaking deliberately will attempt to pronounce it as '-ng'. (I don't think this is restricted to the areas so far mentioned

The g-dropping of people in the news is often remarked upon because it is an easily verifiable marker. I claim that most of the Texan 'feel' comes in the prosody (the 'drawl'), it's just that the g-dropping is something easily verifiable.

Because ng-final is part of the standard dialect/accent, careful speech will attempt to use ng-final. I suspect that Rick Perry/Sarah Palin/Barack Obama/etc are attempting to artificially g-drop for affect (as @ghoppe remarked). g- dropping is part of (most) everyone's daily pronunciation (except possibly newscasters) so it is in fact an effort to not g-drop.

(My data for this is unreferenced, but can be confirmed or denied by listening to the difference between formal (ng-final) and informal (n-final) AmE speech).

As to human character trait, often differences (of any kind) in register or dialect are explained informally by things like provinciality, laziness, stupidity, vulgarity, criminality, deficiencies of formal education in the target dialect, or ... attempting to pander to such audiences. Those reasons are very tendentious and considered scientifically unsupportable, except for possibly the formal education and pandering. Only the latter (pandering) is really considered a negative character trait (and then only sometimes).

The concept of 'g-dropping' was first made more noticeable by reporters covering Sarah Palin when she was running for vice-president.

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Although I will concede to you that most Americans drop the g in the sense that we pronounce -ing as -iŋ, there is no way that the majority of us convert ŋ to n. Whenever I heard this kind of speech, it reminds me of someone who's never been off their ranch. –  Cayetano Gonçalves Jul 15 '13 at 14:07

Wikipedia defines "g-dropping" as:

G dropping is a popular name for the substitution of /ɪn/ or /ən/ (spelt -in’, -en) for /ɪŋ/ or /iŋ/ (spelt -ing) in the English present participle and gerund due to the orthographic changes

...It is currently a feature of colloquial and non-standard speech of all regions, and stereotypically of Cockney, Southern American English and African American Vernacular English.

Someone who drops the "g" is tend to be thought of as colloquial, or country. We think of people who come from the country, and people who come from the country tend to have a different accent from those in the city. In the case of this article, it is the cowboys and country folk, as the author writes of "Texas", which is in Southern America. Yes, as you say, the Texan drawl. This is in keeping with the rest of the rest of the paragraph, in which the author writes that when we hear of Rick Perry, we think about cowboys and country people. And "g-dropping" is a feature of these people's speech. It is colloquial, non-standard, and is used commonly by people who come from the rural and suburban areas.

The "g-dropping" effect conveys an impression of being of the common people, and talking as they do. The educational background is not being implied in "g-dropping", because educated people may still drop the g. The region implied is the rural and suburban areas, especially the rural areas.

The reason the author included "g-dropping", was because he was trying to convey the message that when we think of Rick Perry, we think of him as the common folk's man, someone who talks like the common people, and even acts like the common people (glad-hander), with no formalities ("howdy" for every stranger), and friendly all round.

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A "glad-hander" is not someone who "acts like the common people." And I think educational background is implied, since well-educated people tend to have more practiced elocution. –  KitFox Sep 19 '11 at 10:47
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It should be noted that the current President, Obama, is quite prone to drop Gs as well. It's a typical folksy talking style currently quite favoured by politicians. –  ghoppe Sep 19 '11 at 11:03
    
What I'm trying to say is that this type of talking style originated from the country and rural people, and has since been adopted by other people in order to sound like them, either to be as Rick Perry wants to be, a gladhander, of as ghoppe states, just to make the politician look like he was at the people's level –  Thursagen Sep 19 '11 at 11:05
    
@ghoppe - Yes, all USA presidential candidates like to try to drop their G's. It is clearly part of Presidental Consulting 101 to make them. It usually sounds pretty awkward though. The last one we had that could do it and really sound natural was Bill Clinton. –  T.E.D. Sep 19 '11 at 13:40

Thursagen's answer is not global. In the UK, the phenomenon is particularly associated with Cockneys, who are definitely not rural; though as others have said it is widespread.

In the first half of the twentieth century the phenomenon was also strongly associated with upper class people in England, at least in some contexts. Specifically, the verbal noun in '-ing': thus, the archetypal "huntin', shootin' and fishin'".

Which tends to suggest that the answer to the "human character" part of the question is "none".

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Per Thursagen's answer and ghoppe's comment thereto, I think this is very much a cynical folksy device used by US politicians in particular. So it does tell you something about the speaker's character. It tells you they are the kind of person who's willing to distort their natural speech pattern subversively in order to influence your opinion of them. Except if it's me we're talking about, since I normally drop my g's anyway, so I'd just be speaking naturally! :) –  FumbleFingers Sep 19 '11 at 13:35
    
Yar, and pirates also be the kind of folks what drop their Gs. –  KitFox Sep 19 '11 at 13:43
    
I would African-Americans are generally not rural, as well, and g-dropping is definitely a feature of AAVE. –  Peter Shor Sep 19 '11 at 18:04
    
Lord Peter Whimsey always dropped his gs. –  TRiG Aug 6 '12 at 16:17
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That's Wimsey, I think. –  Colin Fine Aug 12 '12 at 22:17

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