The diction in the 2010 production of True Grit is much different than that of the 1969 True Grit.

Why did the Coen brothers decide to follow the diction of the original novel so closely? Did folks in this time period really speak this way?


1 Answer 1


Two answers from Newsweek and Language Log

When asked why they chose to follow the diction of the book and lack of contractions Ethan Coen said

We’ve been told that the language and all that formality is faithful to how people talked in the period.

As to whether or not people actually talked like that Mark Liberman of the University of Pennsylvania Dept. of Linguistics writes:

I know that that informal American speech in the 1870s was far from contractionless, and in fact I suspect that it had roughly the same proportion of contractions as it does today. Therefore, what Portis (and the Coens?) did was either false archaism or poetic truth — or both.

  • Hailee Steinfeld (as Mattie Ross) does an incredibly good job of convincing us that she's "for real" - doubtless with a lot of guidance from the Coens, who presumably selected her for the role anyway. I think we can safely ignore anything Ethan Coen says about whether it's "historically accurate" or not - these guys are in the business of making movies, not teaching historical linguistics. I will admit that aspect in particular of the remake was one of the reasons I thought it was a brilliant film and well worth revisiting. Although for my money Jeff Bridges didn't really cut it here. Feb 19, 2012 at 2:06

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