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Here is a short paragraph from the novel Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden:

“Annie, she help her mamma make the turk’,” Annie’s grandmother said. It was a second or two before I realized that “turk” was ‘turkey,” but the wonderful smell that struck me as soon as I was inside told me my guess was right. “We make him the day-before”--it was one word, beautiful: “day-before”; when she said it, it sounded like a song. “So on Thanksgiving we can have a good time.”

Very confused about the "day-before" and "him". Annie's grandmother is an Italian, I am wondering if the author wants to present Annie's grandmother as an Italian with bad English or if there is anything special about the “day -before"?

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The day-before is explained in the text—the grandmother says it as a single word.

“Him” means “it”. The grandmother is declining this pronoun for gender, so apparently a turkey is masculine in Italian (at least this turkey).

These are both attempts by the author at dialect—an attempt to show that the grandmother speaks English as a second language, which might be called “broken” rather than bad; she knows some English but does not speak idiomatically.

Often attempts to convey dialect are not very accurate or are partial, just enough for the reader to get the idea that the person is a non-native, non-fluent speaker of English, perhaps someone who immigrated in middle age.

I would not attribute anything beyond that to the dialect. The brief paragraph is not enough to tell whether the grandmother is an adroit or sophisticated speaker of Italian.

The book overall is an LGBT young adult love story about two young girls with what is reported to be a happy ending.

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  • Thank you so much for your helpful answer!! I don't know any Italian at all, so I was stuck at "him". But still is "the day-before" being used the same way as "yesterday"? Mar 10, 2021 at 9:42
  • Presumably 'the day before Thanksgiving' (that is, they are cooking the turkey in advance). Grandmother probably says it with a different stress pattern from the way a native speaker would, making it sound like a single word. Mar 10, 2021 at 9:48

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