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How to read aloud a sentence like 'In the year 18.. they decided to move to Bricktown'? Such sentences are common especially in Victorian literature.

My only option is 'eighteen and something' but I feel that it will not do when reading aloud formal texts, e.g. citations from legal documents included into some fiction books.

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I've seen it a lot in Victorian literature: things like "They had retired to the quiet town of N------." –  ptomato Nov 20 '10 at 12:49
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This is highly context-dependent, I think: what's the occasion for reading this aloud? If it's suitably informal (reading a story to children, for example), I'd say "in the year 18 mumble". –  Marthaª Nov 20 '10 at 16:24
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In a more formal context I might read it as "In the year eighteen hundred and something" –  psmears Jan 16 '11 at 17:09
    
Well yes, obviously - it's a universal feature in Victorian writing. 90% of books and stories from say early 1800s? onwards have this. –  Joe Blow May 22 at 7:23

5 Answers 5

It's a FANTASTIC question.

How to read Victorian-era "anonymity underscore."

One solution - in certain situations - is to explicitly read-out the punctuation.

"In the year one eight dot dot, we ..."

"We then met a mister underscore, who said ..."

"We arrived in the village of P-underscore-farthing as the sun dimmed ..."

(Note another difficult issue is how to read-out numbers, anyway. "In the year nineteen sixty four" or "in the year nineteen hundred and sixty four" etc.)


Footnote - the only relevant answer here is Joel's. Thinking about it made me realise "blank" is a good choice. (It has a kind of Victorian sound, too.)

So, "We met mister Mac-blank..." or "In the year eighteen-blank" or "the village of p-blank-wich".

That's the best I can think of.

Spoken audio books are a huge industry, does anyone know the industry standard?

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You would not say "In the year eighteen and something", since that would not conform to the standard way of reading years. We don't put an "and" except after "hundred". In standard English we normally would say either:

In the year eighteen something

or

In the year eighteen hundred and something.

You could use "something", "thus and such", "and such", "some", or any similar phrase. The choice really depends on the register of the work and the interpretation you wish to give it (which might be out of scope for this board). Just consider that "mumble mumble" is extremely informal and perhaps comic, and "thus and such" is more formal and perhaps stilted.

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@librik yes indeed, although (as in much folk music) dialectal. –  Mark Beadles Aug 7 '12 at 11:50

I suspect that, at the time that this device was commonplace, no one really anticipated that their work would be read aloud (much less the explosion of the audiobook format may decades later!)

When I read this kind of thing out loud to my family, I usually say "In the year eighteen[mumble mumble mumble]" but that's a humorous decision, not an informed one...

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How about "Eighteen blippety blip?"

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By far the best answer here to reading out Victorian literature "anonymity underscore." Joel, I'd say rather than go with a "modern" blippity blip, it's probably better to use something archaic, like underscore --- perhaps "blank" is best. –  Joe Blow May 22 at 7:24

Usually that kind of approximation is referenced as:

"In the eighteen hundreds, they decided to..."

It could be refined, if there is any addition clue about that period, into:

"In the early eighteen hundreds, they decided to..."

or

"In the late eighteen hundreds, they decided to..."

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"Usually": Do you have any examples you can cite? –  Nate Eldredge Aug 6 '12 at 22:12
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But that would be paraphrasing, not reading. –  Mark Beadles Aug 6 '12 at 22:18

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