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A new Victorian-set British novel begins sentences containing h-dropping with lower-case e's, as in " 'e took my money, 'e did." This seems incorrect but I'm at a loss to find the rule.

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4 Answers 4

I don't think anybody would ever write

'twas the night before Christmas,

with a small 't' (although sometimes the apostrophe is dropped here). I've checked some websites, and they all use a capital 'T'. And the title of John Ford's play is usually written

'Tis a pity she's a whore,

with a capital 'T'. So I would say the rule is to capitalize the initial letter even if the sentence starts with an apostrophe.

And here is an example from the year 1897 which not only capitalizes the E in 'E, but also capitalizes the A in 'Allelujahs:

‘'E was a clever un, 'e was, if you like. Fancy workin' the Vanguard into a pome, like they work 'Allelulah's into 'ymns.’

The punctuation at the beginning looks a little awkward, with a left quote followed by an apostrophe, but that's the way they did it.

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+1 for good evidence, but I'm not sure if those examples alone can justify the formulation of a rule. There may also be a difference between what is done in a title and what is done in representing dialogue. –  Barrie England Nov 11 '11 at 17:18
    
'Twas the night before Christmas, besides being a title, is the first line of the book/poem, and 'T' always seems to be capitalized as the first line, as well. Looking at other examples, I can confidently say that the standard practice is to capitalize 'tis, 'twas, 'tisn't when they begin a sentence. I don't know about 'e in dialog, though. –  Peter Shor Nov 11 '11 at 17:25
    
There is also, of course, 'Twas brillig.... It really does look as if OP's new Victorian-set British novel is the only example of its kind. Perhaps the typesetter was distracted by the slightly unusual circumstance of the sentence starting with "' (double+single-quote, because it's reported speech). –  FumbleFingers Nov 11 '11 at 23:51
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I would follow the style where capitalisation is done as if the apostrophe is absent and the word begins with the first of the remaining letters.

'Fraid so. 'Nother drink?

I s'pose so. 'S not funny.

(examples taken from Larry Trask's Guide to Punctuation)

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If Trask says it's right, then it must be right. –  Barrie England Nov 11 '11 at 17:25
    
Nor I, now I've had a look. 'Hart's Rules' may have something to say on the matter, but I don't have a copy. –  Barrie England Nov 11 '11 at 17:31
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When it appears in the speech of a character, it just tries to show the accent of the particular character which deviates from the standard British one. There is no rule involved in the language spoken at that time. As to whether this is correct in terms of printing, I think there's nothing wrong with the lower case of the "e" here once the initial letter is dropped; the apostrophe marks the absence of "h".

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@JasperLoy: I mean there is no rule that in Victorian English the letter h is dropped. I'll edit my answer accordingly. –  Irene Nov 11 '11 at 16:59
    
@JasperLoy: My edit includes capitalisation as well. Thanks for pointing it out, I'd missed it. –  Irene Nov 11 '11 at 17:05
    
@Irene: +1. On the capitalisation, much the same as I said in my own answer. –  Barrie England Nov 11 '11 at 17:10
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Welcome to EL&U. Since the sentence wouldn't begin with a small 'e' in normal prose, there's no reason why it should do so when it replicates speech. The ' stands in place of the missing 'H' at the beginning of the sentence and in place of 'h' before did. Some publishers may choose to print it as 'E took my money, 'e did, but I think there is a stronger argument for the version which you report.

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Because, at the beginning of the sentence, 'H' is missing and the next letter is 'e'. If it begins with apostrophe'E', what is the apostrophe representing? 'H'. But no sentence normally begins 'HE . . . '. But I don't really feel that strongly one way or the other. –  Barrie England Nov 11 '11 at 17:01
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I went fishing in NGrams for e stole, and didn't find a single instance of lower-case starting a sentence before I got bored. But here's one with upper case, which would be my preference. –  FumbleFingers Nov 11 '11 at 17:16
    
Then it must be a matter of editorial preference. Dickens might give us some examples, but I really don't think it's important enough or interesting enough to spend much time finding out. –  Barrie England Nov 11 '11 at 17:20
    
I think you should be cautious about expressing such sentiments on ELU at all, let alone in a comment against your own answer! :) –  FumbleFingers Nov 11 '11 at 23:33
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