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Definition and Examples of Solecism

Mary Anthony
One can echo the sentiments of famous American novelist Toni Morrison when she quotes - "Love is or it ain't. Thin love ain't love at all." The colloquial word ''ain't'' emphasizes the meaning of love. In literature, it's known as Solecism.
Gross social behavior that violates social etiquette is also known as social solecism e.g. burping at the dinner table or talking with your mouth full.
A person's first impression is made by his conversation skills, and the usage of incorrect grammar will make him an object of ridicule. But there are instances when a wrong grammatical error is used in literature to make sense of the character's portrayal. A solecism is a misapplication of linguistic rules and are usually committed out of cognitive content.
For example, American schoolchildren are smartly instructed not to say ''Me and Mark went to the store,'' because ''me'' is an object pronoun, not a subject pronoun. They're instructed that the proper grammatical construction is Mark and I went to the store.'
In contrast, what they actually ascertain is that Me and Mark is incorrect under any context. And in a classic example of hyper-correction, they may think they're avoiding the 'Mark and me solecism' by saying something like Julian was talking to Mark and I.


Solecism: means an ungrammatical combination of words in a sentence or a minor blunder in words. Though sometimes in literature, it is not an error but a deliberate grammatical construction used in order to create a rhetorical effect.


The ancient Greeks were excellent orators and connoisseurs of their language which made them pretentious grammar snobs. Around the 8th century B.C., a few of the learned Athenians visited the Greek colony of Soloi in Cilicia and discovered that the colonists spoke in a dialect that made them construct their sentences in an absurd way.
Hence the learned Athenians naturally resolved that the colonists used wrong grammar, and termed their dialect as a profane and barbaric version of Attic Greek. From thereon, the Greek term ''soloikismos or soloikos'' which means to speak Greek incorrectly like the people of Soloi stuck through the ages.

Characteristics & Functions

★ In literary terms, the use of Solecism is regarded to be done on purpose to enhance the content or to highlight double negative meaning of a sentence. William Shakespeare spiced up his works with thousands of solecisms with the intent to highlight his characters.
★ The most common types of solecism are double negatives: e.g. I ain't got no time for supper and illogical solecism: e.g. I could care less.

★ It is used to heighten a sentence figuratively with frequent usage of words such as 'literally': e.g. The political leader of the new party gave such an electrically charged speech that the crowd literally exploded.
★ People normally use the incorrect version of actual words to emphasize their point: e.g. regardless : irregardless, preventive : preventative, orient : orientate.
★There exists a law known as the Artistic license which allows artists in the entertainment industry to use solecism in order to make their work appealing. e.g. Chaka Khan has belted the number 'Ain't No Mountain High Enough' and Rolling Stones produced 'I Can't Get No Satisfaction'.

★ However, in poetry this term is used to compose only formal prose.

Examples in Literature

''By innocence I swear,
And by my youth I have one heart,
One bosom and one truth,
And that no woman has;
nor never none Shall mistress be of it, save I alone....''
― Twelfth Night - William Shakespeare
''This was the most unkindest cut of all.''
― Julius Caesar - William Shakespeare

''Do you consent we shall acquaint him with it,
As needful in our loves, fitting our duty?''
MARCELLUS : '' Let's do't, I pray; and I this morning know
Where we shall find him most conveniently.''
― Hamlet - William Shakespeare

Examples in Poetry

You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock)....
― Wasteland - T.S. Eliot
children guessed (but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew....
when by now and tree by leaf....
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone's any was all to her
someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
said their nevers they slept their dream...... cut of all.''
― Anyone Lived in a Pretty How Town - E.E. Cummings

Examples in Sentences

1.Who me? I ain't done no wrong?
2. He ain't going by the first flight.
3. Whom shall I say is calling?
4. She can't hardly study.
5. The reason being her lazy lifestyle.
Such unexpected arrangements of phrases and words leads to complex structures, which provoke the readers to think and understand the significance of the text better. Solecism is, is the striking use of words adopted to convey the sentiment rather unconventionally.
Please note: Any disputed usage of words here should be treated as a deliberate attempt at solecism.