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Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged

Much that dog and see won't he come along ―Horace Kephart

Does the sentence mean

If he won't come along, much that dog and see

("see" is used here intransitively, "if he won't come along" being an adverbial clause)

or

Much that dog and see if he won't come along

("see" is used here transitively, "if he won't come along" being a nominal clause)

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    I suspect it is archaic. In today's English it would be meaningless gibberish.
    – BillJ
    Mar 27 at 8:25
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    I find both that use of much , and the syntax, strange, but I would understand it to mean "See if he won't come along" (i.e. he probably will). Mar 27 at 8:37
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    @BillJ - archaic in Britain, and regional in the US, I suspect. Horace Kephart (1862-1931) was a noted collector of US Southern Appalachian sayings from around 1900 to his death, and a lexicon has been prepared based on his material. The Oxford English Dictionary gives a similar definition to Webster's for 'much' (verb) trans. To make much of; to pet, fondle, caress, and the only usage examples are dated 1736 and 1848 (not 1948, as I mistyped earlier). . Webster's Third New International was published in 1961. Mar 27 at 9:37
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    There are many sayings and speech forms that were common in English of earlier centuries that are now only found as restricted, regional US usages. There are some people in isolated communities that speak what some have called 'Elizabethan' English. Mar 27 at 9:42
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    @avant-garde No: this site is for learners who want to learn English as it is used today. It's more than peripheral, it's archaic at least it is in BrE.
    – BillJ
    Mar 27 at 12:35

2 Answers 2

1

The verb see is complemented by a clause in this rural dialect construction. Call that clause an object, and see don't I object.

Here's a similar construction from Zora Neale Hurston's 1925 play Spunk which is set in the rural south of the United States:

Mrs. Watson: Howd'd do, brother Bishop?

Bishop: I ain't none of your brother. Your brother is out hunting coconuts. I'm going to have you up in church and see can't they handle you.

And from a posting from The New York Observer, November 25th, 1909:

Odds and Ends

PIGS AND PAIN

A barnyard musing when confronted by a number of little pigs after reading a newspaper account of Mrs Stetson's real troubles:

Dear Mother Eddy says pain is not real--
Just pinch piggy's tail and see won't he squeal!

Moral: Either piggy can't fake, or "error of the mortal mind", "false belief" crept into piggy's tail .

[The reference is to Mary Baker Eddy, who founded the Christian Science religion in 1879].

And from the 1948 novel High John the Conqueror by John Walter Wilson

"Mr John goin' to be headin' back this way before long," Lula said. "Why don't you watch out for him on the road and see won't he stop when he come by ?"

"Howcome?" Joe Coby asked ...

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    "Call that clause an object, and see don't I object" certainly doesn't look like normal English to me. I don't understand what it means anyway. What is a non-native speaker expected to make of it? Mar 27 at 18:38
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    That was tongue-in-cheek. These rural dialect constructions could be paraphrased "and see if ..."
    – TimR
    Mar 27 at 18:44
1

It's distracting that the cited example features an extremely unusual / dialectal use of much as a verb (meaning to make much of, to make a fuss of, to "pet" warmly / enthusiastically1).

But the actual question concerns the verb see. Where I'd say that...

See if he won't come along
is colloquial / dialectal phrasing for...
Let's see if he will come along

...with the strong implication The dog probably will want to come with us if you jolly him along. Here's another example of effectively the same usage (also dialectal / colloquial, also featuring near-meaningless negation)...

I will see this wild man, if it's in the power of bones and muscles to carry me within eyeshot of him. Now, see if I don't.

I'm not sure transitive/intransitive is a useful concept here. I might say the usages are "imperative".


1 The full OED says this use of much is chiefly U.S. regional and Caribbean.

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    I'd have to disagree that "see if he won't come along" is non-standard dialect, though I'd agree it's colloquial, whereas "... see won't he come along" is definitely dialect.
    – TimR
    Mar 27 at 16:19
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    I'd say the negation in such contexts is "dialectal" rather than "colloquial", but there's a huge overlap between those two terms, and there might be a AmE/BrE usage split anyway. The main point is I believe the OP would be unwise to copy virtually anything from the cited text - but in particular, he should be careful regarding the non-standard verb much, and the inversion / negation of see won't he... The "standard" form here would be ...[let's] see if he will come along. Mar 27 at 18:36
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    Ask him, and see if he won't come along may strike your BrE ears as dialectal but it's perfectly idiomatic AmE. I am not advising OP to copy anything and understand that is also your stance, which is a perfectly reasonable stance.
    – TimR
    Mar 27 at 19:17
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    It wouldn't be easy to find supporting evidence, but if you say that negation is "perfectly idiomatic AmE", I'm hardly gonna argue the toss. But I think we Brits are only likely to encounter it in (informal) "regional / dialectal" Irish contexts. Possibly also Welsh and/or West Country mainland dialects, I'm not sure. Mar 27 at 19:43
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    The Philadelphia dialect that I speak (subgroup of US Mid-Atlantic) was much influenced by Irish English.
    – TimR
    Mar 27 at 22:14

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