I’ve been on a binge of detective fiction lately, catching up on Michael Connelly’s back catalogue. His L.A.-based crime novels are a good source of police jargon, slang, and abbreviations, but it was a different type of linguistic item that caught my eye this time.
In The Concrete Blonde, a news reporter tells the protagonist, Harry Bosch, that he ‘kind’ve liked’ someone. Bosch himself, in Trunk Music, describes an occurrence as ‘Kind’ve a freaky thing.’ The contraction ’ve is short for have, commonly seen in words like I’ve and you’ve. But kind’ve obviously doesn’t mean kind have. So what’s that ’ve doing there?
You can kind of see why Connelly might have used the spelling kind’ve, even if you don’t approve of it. It’s pronounced identically to the standard phrase kind of, at least when the vowel sound in of is unstressed – that is, a schwa. Macmillan Dictionary defines kind of as a phrase ‘used when you are talking about someone or something in a general way without being very exact or definite’. It labels it as ‘spoken’, indicating its informality: you wouldn’t include it in a scholarly essay, for example. Register aside, though, it’s the standard spelling.
I’ve seen non-standard kind’ve in published prose before, albeit only in detective fiction so far: Connelly again, and also Robert Crais. It seems unlikely these capable authors (and their editors) are unaware of the issue and assume kind’ve is formally correct. Rather, I imagine they know the spelling is improper but are using it in dialogue for effect – something writers have always done. The phrase kind of is already colloquial, and spelling it unconventionally may mark the casual speech patterns of a character or place.
If I were editing such material, I would tend to change it to kind of, or kinda, or at least recommend such a change. I think whatever slight phonetic difference might exist between kind of and kind’ve is not worth the distraction and annoyance it will cause a significant number of readers.
When I wrote about kind’ve on my own blog, a couple of commenters defended it, with one going so far as to say he loved it (at least in the particular context of hard-boiled detective fiction). So I know that not everyone shares my misgivings – though going by the other comments, a greater number do. That said, in the intervening months I’ve kind’ve gotten used to it. How about you?Email this Post