I would like to know what ahn in "Maggie: A Girl of the Streets" by Stephen Crane means. It can be read from this link: https://english.hku.hk/courses/engl1039/Crane.pdf

Here are some lines with it:

  • "Ah, go ahn," replied the other argumentatively.

  • The little girl cried out: "Ah, Tommie, come ahn. Dere's Jimmie and fader. Don't be apullin' me back."

  • "Come out in deh hall, Mary Murphy, damn yeh, if yehs want a row. Come ahn, yeh overgrown terrier, come ahn."


It seems clear from context that "ahn" is the author's way of showing a dialect pronunciation of "on". Rewriting your quotes in standard English spelling:

  • "Ah, go on," replied the other argumentatively.

  • The little girl cried out: "Ah, Tommie, come on. There's Jimmie and father. Don't be pulling me back."

  • "Come out in the hall, Mary Murphy, damn you, if you want a row. Come on, you overgrown terrier, come on."

And indeed, Wiktionary lists "ahn" as an eye dialect spelling of "on".

In general, "on" is pronounced more like "ahn" in American English accents. You can learn more about the American "o" vowel in this Youtube video, and there's a Q&A about it on the English Stack Exchange. Pronuncian has a short page on the American "short O", and you can verify that it sounds like "ah". (Specifically, in the book Maggie: a Girl of the Streets, the characters would mostly be speaking in a New York accent.)

  • 2
    @user14111 I don't think these particular characters are supposed to have New York accents so much as Irish ones. The name 'Mary Murphy' would tend to support that, but it was what I had assumed just from reading the dialogue. 'Dere' for 'there' is common in dialect representation of Irish accents.
    – Spagirl
    May 7 '19 at 16:46
  • @Randal'Thor: Accents were different back then; you can't judge what dialect Stephen Crane intended to depict from the way people speak today. Stephen Crane was born in Newark, New Jersey (right across the Hudson from New York City), and lived near New York City most of his life. I think if ahn were the typical pronunciation of on in New York then, the way it is today, he wouldn't have considered it worth pointing out.
    – Peter Shor
    May 9 '19 at 8:54

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