I'm having trouble deciphering what appears to be a string of colloquialisms in H. G. Wells' novel Kipps. The passage in question describes a business owner Mr. Shalford, and it goes as follows:

He was the sort of man who is not only ignorant, but absolutely incapable of English. When he wanted to say he had a sixpenny- ha'penny longcloth to sell, he put it thus to startled customers: "Can DO you one, six half if y' like."He always omitted pronouns and articles and so forth; it seemed to him the very essence of the efficiently businesslike.

I recognize that these expressions are idiosyncratic to Shalford, and are supposed to give him character. But being a non-native speaker of English I'm having a hard time understanding their meanings. What does Shalford mean by "Can DO you one, six half if y'like", and is the "ha' penny" supposed to be an abbreviation of "had a sixpenny"? There have been quite a few such colloquial shortenings of sounds in this book up until this point but this is the first one that's giving me any real trouble. Can anyone help? Thanks!

  • 1
    "ha'penny" = "halfpenny".
    – Rand al'Thor
    Oct 1, 2019 at 17:05

1 Answer 1


Not a native either but I'll hazard a guess.

he wanted to say he had a sixpenny- ha'penny longcloth to sell, he put it thus to startled customers: "Can DO you one, six half if y' like."

So, he had some item that cost 6.5 pence (sixpenny-halfpenny). He used "DO" (capitals probably imply some specific intonation, stress) instead of "sell" and "six half" = six and a half. "If y'like" is just "if you like" with reduced "you".


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