...The ever-blossoming additional clauses are most often the Narrator's idea of written language stapled awkwardly onto his knowledge of spoken language:
'Well, besides black hair, this doll has a complexion like I do not know what, and little feet and ankles, and a way of walking that is very pleasant to behold. Personally, I always take a gander at a doll’s feet and ankles before I start handicapping her, because the way I look at it, the feet and ankles are the big tell in the matter of class, although I wish to state that I see some dolls in my time who have large feet and big ankles, but who are by no means bad.
But this doll I am speaking of is 100 per cent in every respect, and as she passes, The Humming Bird looks at her, and she looks at The Humming Bird, and it is just the same as if they hold a two hours’ conversation on the telephone, for they are both young, and it is spring, and the way language can pass between young guys and young dolls in the spring without them saying a word is really most surprising, and, in fact, it is practically uncanny.'
The naturally exuberant street language (“I always take a gander at a doll’s feet and ankles before I start handicapping her”) always gets topped off by self-conscious writerly gestures (“although I wish to state”; “by no means bad”; “is really most surprising”). The Narrator’s half-conscious knowledge that there are rules out there that you’ve got to respect leads him to overcompensate by respecting the wrong rules; that is, using formal diction where there ought to be vernacular idioms and vernacular idioms where there ought to be formal diction.
So Runyon’s key insight into American slang is double: first, that street speech tends to be more, not less, complicated grammatically than “standard” speech; but, second, that slang speakers, when they’re cornered to write, write not just fancy but stiff. In prime Runyon, the two sounds—street ornate and fountain-pen formal—run together into a single argot and beautiful endless sentences: “This Meyer Marmalade is really a most superior character, who is called Meyer Marmalade because nobody can ever think of his last name, which is something like Marmalodowski, and he is known far and wide for the way he likes to make bets on any sporting proposition, such as baseball, or horse races, or ice hockey, or contests of skill and science, and especially contests of skill and science.” When Abe Burrows brilliantly recast Runyonese for Guys & Dolls, what he did instinctively was to scrub off the second, writerly patina and keep in the elaborate speech. This approach worked wonderfully onstage, where we easily accept a stylized dialogue, as we do with David Mamet now.