The bosses with the antennas on tap.
August 24, 2012 7:05 AM   Subscribe

The Northern Cities Vowel Shift is radically changing the sound of English: Despite fears that the growth of TV and radio would homogenize English dialects in the US, the Great Lakes region (from Syracuse to Milwaukee) has been in fact diverging with respect to how people there pronounce English words. Rob Mifsud writes: Consider the three-letter words that begin with b and end in t: bat, bet, bit, bot, and but. All five of those words contain short vowel sounds. Their long-vowel equivalents—bate, beet, bite, boat, boot, and bout—arrived at their modern pronunciations as a result of the Great Vowel Shift that began around 1400 and established the basic contours of today’s English. But those short vowels have remained pretty much constant since the eighth century—in other words, for more than a thousand years. Until now.

In practice, the Northern Cities Vowel Shift means "block" is pronounced like "black," "but" is pronounced like "bought," and "bet" is pronounced like "but," among other peculiarities.

Examples of the Northern Cities Vowel Shift can be found here, here, and here.
posted by Cash4Lead (123 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite

 
I was under the impression - from a linguistic history of English course I took in undergrad ages ago - that there are vowel shifts going on in various regions of the US, as well as an independent shift spread among African American communities. One example I remember was "bag" being pronounced like "beg" in the South East.

Am I making that up or misremembering something?
posted by kavasa at 7:08 AM on August 24, 2012


Sou, whaat's tha prablum?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:09 AM on August 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


the "Great Vowel Shift"

I can see why they didn't call it "the Big Vowel Movement".
posted by Egg Shen at 7:10 AM on August 24, 2012 [54 favorites]


I can see why they didn't call it "the Big Vowel Movement".

It happens when you're inconsonant or consonated.
posted by inturnaround at 7:12 AM on August 24, 2012 [46 favorites]


Oh yaeh, shoor theng den.
posted by Phyllis Harmonic at 7:17 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


One example I remember was "bag" being pronounced like "beg" in the South East.

I don't know if it's part of the same vowel shift, but some people in Minnesota reverse the vowel sounds in "bag" and "bagel": baig and baggle. Probably other words, too, but I can't think of any off the top of my head.
posted by stopgap at 7:22 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you Americans can't use vowels properly we will simply stop you from having them.
posted by Summer at 7:23 AM on August 24, 2012 [8 favorites]


Well, then, we'd like to buy some vowels...
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:26 AM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Interesting aina?
posted by MikeMc at 7:26 AM on August 24, 2012


Considering how few of us between Syracuse and Milwaukee live in cities, why didn't they call it the Great Lakes Vowel Shift?

The vowels in northern lower Michigan can shift all they want. I just wish the regional dialect in general (mainly among women) would shift its sounds the hell away from the piercing high-frequency naso-palatal resonance that seriously gives me a headache if I have to listen to natives converse for extended periods.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:27 AM on August 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


I cross from southern Ontario into the Niagara/Buffalo region of New York about once a month, and the shift in accent from southern Ontario to NY is dramatic.
posted by smitt at 7:27 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Obligatory
posted by jpdoane at 7:28 AM on August 24, 2012


"but" is pronounced like "bought,"

Is there an example of this in any of the youtube links? The only example I heard was in the second link but he isn't making that vowel shift as far as I can tell.
posted by mullacc at 7:28 AM on August 24, 2012


mullacc: See the title. It's supposed to be "the buses with the antennas on top."
posted by Cash4Lead at 7:30 AM on August 24, 2012


I have to say that as someone born a raised in Milwaukee I see things going the other way. I really don't hear this whole bus/boss type thing. Maybe in some rural areas but not in the city and certainly not among younger people. IDK, maybe there's some holdouts in Cudahy or something.
posted by MikeMc at 7:34 AM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Now northern Minnesota and the Dakotas that's a whole different story...
posted by MikeMc at 7:36 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I live in Rochester, NY which is supposed to be well within the boundaries of NCVS and no one I know talks like that. Perhaps they're overstating the effect and its extent.
posted by tommasz at 7:36 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't know if it's part of the same vowel shift, but some people in Minnesota reverse the vowel sounds in "bag" and "bagel": baig and baggle. Probably other words, too, but I can't think of any off the top of my head.

Oblig Community Bagel Scene
posted by DangerIsMyMiddleName at 7:40 AM on August 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


I grew up in Syracuse, but I left upstate NY 10 years ago for the Pacific Northwest. When I go back there, the accent jumps out at me. It is a very strange feeling, because I never had a perception of the accent as I was growing up. I don't know if it is correct, but it feels as if it was shifting perceptibly even within the time that I have been away. Every time I go back I feel like people there are pulling my leg (leaaag) and they'll start talking like I remember them talking. It is so strange!
posted by montag2k at 7:41 AM on August 24, 2012


Considering how few of us between Syracuse and Milwaukee live in cities, why didn't they call it the Great Lakes Vowel Shift?

As the article says:
When Labov first observed the NCS in the 1970s, it appeared to be a distinctly urban accent, hence its name (the Northern Cities Shift). Dinkin’s research in northern and eastern New York state, however, suggests that the NCS has leaked into smaller communities there.
posted by zamboni at 7:42 AM on August 24, 2012


I cross from southern Ontario into the Niagara/Buffalo region of New York about once a month, and the shift in accent from southern Ontario to NY is dramatic.

Yeah, they mention that in the article.
While dialect boundaries tend to blur at the edges and pay no heed to political borders, “the starkest dialect boundaries in North America are the boundaries between Detroit and Windsor and the boundaries between Buffalo” and Canada, according to Aaron Dinkin, an assistant professor of sociolinguistics at Swarthmore College. George Mason University maintains a database of native English speakers from across the globe reading the same paragraph. It includes samples of a woman from Detroit and a man from Windsor that highlight the stark contrasts in their dialects. Her classic NCS pronunciations of the short a and short o vowels belie the fact that her hometown is separated from his hometown and radically different Canadian dialect pronunciations by nothing more than a 7,500-foot bridge. Geographically, these people might as well live in the same city. Linguistically, they inhabit different worlds.
I live in Rochester, NY which is supposed to be well within the boundaries of NCVS and no one I know talks like that. Perhaps they're overstating the effect and its extent.

And now you know why Canadians bristle when we get the "aboat" for "about" jokes. There is a shift towards a different vowel or dipthong that people speaking the dialect recognize as a subtle change from similar dialects, but outsiders tend to label the change by assigning it to a different vowel.

For example, when I listen to this woman, I walked away with the sound memory that she said "Esk" for "Ask" and "beg" for "bag", but when I listened again, it really was a more subtle shift away from the A sounds rather than a full-on transformation to E sounds.
posted by maudlin at 7:43 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


montag2k: From the article:

If news of this radical linguistic shift hasn’t made it to you yet, you are not alone. Even people who speak this way remain mostly unaware of it. Dennis Preston, a professor of perceptual linguistics at Oklahoma State University—he doesn’t merely study how people speak, he studies how people perceive both their own speech and the speech of others—discovered something peculiar about NCS speakers when he was teaching at Michigan State University. “They don’t perceive their dialect at all,” he says. “The awareness of the NCS in NCS territory is zero.”
posted by Cash4Lead at 7:44 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


(I was in Rochester this spring, and I definitely heard the shift.)
posted by maudlin at 7:44 AM on August 24, 2012


I periodically talk to people in Milwaukee and I love the accent. "Cyathy's in the haaspital." I have to repeat the conversations in my head over and over after I get off the phone just to wring all the goodness out of them.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:45 AM on August 24, 2012 [8 favorites]


All this denial... the first step to recovery is for these people near the Great Lakes to admit that they've got a vowel control problem.

But what's the solution?! Depends.
posted by markkraft at 7:45 AM on August 24, 2012 [11 favorites]


Yeah, ThatCanadianGirl, I'm charmed by it, too. I have a friend in Chicago with a great accent that I love replaying in my head.
posted by maudlin at 7:46 AM on August 24, 2012


(I was in Rochester this spring, and I definitely heard the shift.)

There's definitely a difference between Ontario and NY. But I think it's actually less of a difference than between here and Chicago, for instance. Or even NYC and here. I just think the NCS folks are overstating both the areas affected and the extent of the vowel shift, at least in Rochester.
posted by tommasz at 7:53 AM on August 24, 2012


I go regularly between Rochester and Maryland, and I have to concur with tommasz. I have a little bit of phonology training and I do listen for this stuff, but it's not very apparent.

Then again, I haven't heard much "warsh" around Baltimore either. Maybe once or twice.
posted by Nomyte at 7:57 AM on August 24, 2012


"piercing high-frequency naso-palatal resonance that seriously gives me a headache"

This. Oh God, this. Kill it with fire.
posted by Xoebe at 7:59 AM on August 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


“They don’t perceive their dialect at all,” he says. “The awareness of the NCS in NCS territory is zero.”

Trust me, when it's there it's very noticeable. I used to have dealings with a vendor rep from Two Rivers, WI (or as she called it "Trivers") and the Wiscahnsin was strong with her. It's out there I just don't think it's as prevalent as you might be led to believe.
posted by MikeMc at 8:00 AM on August 24, 2012


I grew up in Syracuse, but I left upstate NY 10 years ago for the Pacific Northwest. When I go back there, the accent jumps out at me. It is a very strange feeling, because I never had a perception of the accent as I was growing up. I don't know if it is correct, but it feels as if it was shifting perceptibly even within the time that I have been away.

It might be shifting perceptibly. On the other hand, I grew up in California and didn't even realize I had any sort of accent until I moved to Texas. A few years ago, I heard some people from San Francisco being interviewed on the radio, and they talked so strange. It took me a little bit to realize that I still talk they same way they do. I can hear their accent, but I still can't hear my own unless I really think about it.

Basically, the perception of our own accent, and the accents we're surrounded with, aren't very reflective of reality. If you asked me when I was 22 and living in California, I would swear up and down that I talk with the same accent as the Midwestern Newscaster Standard english, but that isn't true. I wonder if that's why homogenized television hasn't homogenized local accents.
posted by muddgirl at 8:03 AM on August 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


I live in Rochester, NY which is supposed to be well within the boundaries of NCVS and no one I know talks like that. Perhaps they're overstating the effect and its extent.

tommasz seems accurate to me. I'm there too (waves) and I've never even heard it, much less as something widespread.
posted by tyllwin at 8:08 AM on August 24, 2012


This reminds me of those maps that supposedly chart what people call soda/pop/coke/etc. never actually matching my experiences in the places I've lived.
posted by Foosnark at 8:10 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is why we can't have nice vowels.
posted by DaddyNewt at 8:10 AM on August 24, 2012


I moved from Kentucky to Detroit to work in the advertising industry and on my first day a woman at the firm I started with told me "Yew peeple from dan* South have a strahng AK-sint."

* - I am not sure how to do the "ow" sound phonetically with a strong Michigan accent.

Not everyone in the office talked like she did, though. I also married a Michigander (part of what took me to Detroit) and her family has the accent to varying degrees. Overall, I think the NCVS helped to flatten out my soft Kentucky accent.

What's really funny is to try to imitate different US accents for people who speak English in other countries, such as Ireland, where I lived after Michigan. I would imitate different accents and be met with blank stares. Then my host might say "Now see a Cork man might talk like this, while a Kerry man might talk like this." And so, I would return the blank stare. I could only tell the difference between a Dublin accent and a not-Dublin accent.
posted by Slothrop at 8:12 AM on August 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


The shift is extremely pronounced in certain areas of Michigan. I'm from Chicago, so I've had plenty of experience with ridiculous accents, but up there it's a different language.
posted by graphnerd at 8:12 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Then again, I haven't heard much "warsh" around Baltimore either. Maybe once or twice.

The Baltimore accent, sadly, is dying out. You're more likely to hear it in unpopular, industrial areas like Dundalk. Or just go to a diner staffed by old waitresses.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:15 AM on August 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Called it.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:26 AM on August 24, 2012


My family is (in part) from Upstate NY, and a point of argument over the years has always been the pronunciation of the word "milk." There are those who accuse others -- from certain parts of the state -- of pronouncing it as "melk."
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:26 AM on August 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


Cash4Lead:

Yes, I guess the surprise whenever I go back is due to:
- Living elsewhere for an extended period of time (becoming an "accent expat")
- Higher education (and I don't think it is the education itself - I think it is getting mixed in with people from all over the place during formative late teen years - military does the same thing)
- Consciously hearing your own accent and trying to drop it.

I definitely don't feel like I have it, and I have asked people if I do. My wife, from the NYC area, can hear it in my parents but not me. Good enough for me.
posted by montag2k at 8:28 AM on August 24, 2012


My husband and I grew up in Rochester, NY and live in NYC exurbs now. When I visit Rochester, I spend most of my time with other people who also grew up there...and I definitely hear it from them. There are a fair number of regional expats in the area, maybe that's a factor?

My daughter has lived outside of NCVS her entire life, and she has a different accent from us. We like to make each other say "jog" and "dawn."
posted by gnomeloaf at 8:29 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


What a great Slate article, thanks!

But so many questions. This shift is really not in Canada at all? The article is quite clear about that. But when I was first listening to the samples I was like "oh so that's the Canadian midwestern accent".

Also is this part of the accent that's so strong in the movie Fargo? Or is that something else as well?

It's weird how naturally vowel shifts can be accommodated. I speak some very limited High German. When I spent three months in Zürich I adapted to the shifted vowels of Swiss German pretty quickly. I couldn't manage the rest of the language, but my ear and even my tongue accepted the shifted vowel pronunciation within a few weeks. And could go back and forth between the two without thinking about it.
posted by Nelson at 8:29 AM on August 24, 2012


As the article says:

When Labov first observed the NCS in the 1970s, it appeared to be a distinctly urban accent, hence its name (the Northern Cities Shift). Dinkin’s research in northern and eastern New York state, however, suggests that the NCS has leaked into smaller communities there.


I get this, but in Michigan, at least some of the "shifted" vowel sounds that are ostensibly part of the "urban" NCS are definitely heard in the rural northern lower peninsula dialect, and this is not from some sort of Detroit-originating osmosis. Chicagoland is sprawling outward, so "leakage" into the I55 corridor makes sense, but Detroit and even Grand Rapids are not sprawling toward Traverse City. I wonder if the direction is actually reversed here: if rural Michiganders fleeing rural ghost towns for more urban/suburban settings are taking their accents with them.

But the rural regional dialect here is such a weird mixture of Canadian, UP, Midwestern farmer drawl, and other influences, god knows where these vowel sounds may have originated. The gendered and social class elements are interesting: once you get about an hour north of Grand Rapids, most men and working-class women start sounding like Yoopers-meet-Bearsfans while white-collar men and middle-to-upper-class women sound more like Minnesotans-meet-Sarah Palin, only more piercing.
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:32 AM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


That does not sound even a little like a Canadian prairies accent (what "midwestern" means? Western Ontario?) to me.

I really hate when people pronounce bagel as baggle. I might be a descriptivist about a lot of things, but not that. Or the pronunciation of mefi.
posted by jeather at 8:35 AM on August 24, 2012


The only time anyone ever comments on my accent (I'm travelling now so I meet a bunch of Americans from all over the country) is when I say "water", because I think I do the Baltimore thing of saying "wuhrter". I say warsh, too, i think. Im not even from baltimore, i'm from southern maryland, so i don't know where i picked it up I always thought I had a slightly southern accent, because I say y'all and ain't a lot, but apparently no one else thinks so.
posted by empath at 8:36 AM on August 24, 2012


Also is this part of the accent that's so strong in the movie Fargo? Or is that something else as well?

That is something else. This Wikipedia article distinguishes between the Inland North accents which experience this vowel shift and the North Central accent prevalent in Minnesota and the Dakotas.

As a Minnesotan, I find the accent used in parts of Eastern Wisconsin, Illinois, and the lower portions of Michigan quite different from what is spoken here. They sound so nasely and odd to me.

(The "baggle" for bagel thing is far from universal. The one person I know who says that grew up in Winona, Minnesota).
posted by Area Man at 8:42 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


stopgap: "One example I remember was "bag" being pronounced like "beg" in the South East.

I don't know if it's part of the same vowel shift, but some people in Minnesota reverse the vowel sounds in "bag" and "bagel": baig and baggle. Probably other words, too, but I can't think of any off the top of my head.
"

One of my friends got on my case about saying "bagg", he insisted it was "Baig" and "Flaig" (instead of "Flag"). I still say it the right way. Seriously, I never understood that. Though I did pronounce Plague wrong, I admit.
posted by symbioid at 8:43 AM on August 24, 2012


This shift is really not in Canada at all? The article is quite clear about that. But when I was first listening to the samples I was like "oh so that's the Canadian midwestern accent".

You're hearing some dipthongs that are tighter/shifted and less open/sprawly than, say, US Broadcaster English, but they're different ones.

The Canadian "about" is tighter than the American "abowwwt" (and may Americans hear ours as "aboat"), and I think NCVS version is more like the Canadian version. But the shift of "bag" to something closer to "beg" is not a Canadian sound at all.
posted by maudlin at 8:45 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


montag2k: " Every time I go back I feel like people there are pulling my leg (leaaag) and they'll start talking like I remember them talking. It is so strange!"

I dated a girl from Cleveland a few years ago, and when we first started talking on the phone alot, I noticed she diphthongized "a" when saying "I have to go to the be-athroom." And I thought it was just a weird thing she did, then found out it was considered "the Cleveland accent" but I wonder if it's part of the vowel shift... (in fact, I first came upon the vowel shift, to try to learn about her accent).
posted by symbioid at 8:46 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I live in Rochester, NY which is supposed to be well within the boundaries of NCVS and no one I know talks like that.

I have to agree with others that either your circle of acquaintances is predominantly from somewhere else, or that you just don't notice it.

We moved to Buffalo in 07, and found the vowel shift intense. Like, "Can't understand the locals sometimes" intense.

A day or two after we moved in, we went to Wegmans. Which is awesome. But when we were checking out, the cashier turned to us and said "Zyagdamyoun?" and biscotti and I looked at each other blankly until one of us said "Excuse me?" and she said "ZYAGDAMYMOUN?" and we just looked at her like she had nine heads, until she finally sighed and said "Cyash byack?"

But people here are oblivious to the existence of this accent.

when I listen to this woman, I walked away with the sound memory that she said "Esk" for "Ask" and "beg" for "bag"

She is absolutely unequivocally saying "a sneck for her brother Bab."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:51 AM on August 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


Canadian raising -- what makes the vowels of "writing" and "riding" distinct -- is essentially when diphthongs that start with a low front vowel ("aye" and "ow") come before voiceless consonants (p/t/k/s) change to start with a mid front vowel -- usually but not always the sound in words like "tub". So it's a bit closer to the vowel in "boat" than it used to be, but it's a different initial vowel sound.

You can compare the way the vowels change in the images available for CR and NCVS. There's really little similarity in what is happening to the vowels.
posted by jeather at 8:57 AM on August 24, 2012


As a Michigander, I had to live in Northern CA for 5 years before being able to hear it. When a Michigander classic rock DJ says, "More Rock, Less Talk," it rhymes perfectly.
posted by selfmedicating at 8:58 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


My family lives in Niagara Falls Canada, and my dad's sister's family lives in Rochester NY. Originally they all started in St. Catharines, Ontario. The difference in pronunciation across the border is astounding. I've also noticed that my sisters, who still live in Niagara Region of Ontario have accents that have drifted quite a bit towards a Buffalo accent, while my parents have not. I haven't lived in that area in over 20 years, so even though I'm still in Ontario my accent is now quite a bit different from my two sisters.
posted by fimbulvetr at 9:00 AM on August 24, 2012


"Zyagdamyoun?"

So, um, what does this mean?
posted by madcaptenor at 9:01 AM on August 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


MetaFilter: Zyagdamyoun?
posted by Cash4Lead at 9:03 AM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Exact amount?"

For whatever reason a lot of the stores here ask if you want to ring through the exact amount instead of asking whether you want cash back.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:04 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Zyagdamyoun?"

So, um, what does this mean?


"If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends"
posted by maudlin at 9:05 AM on August 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


"Exact amount?"

I see. I was trying to interpret it as "You want help out?", which wasn't quite making sense. But that's what gave me trouble when I moved to Oakland (and later San Francisco), because here they actually offer to take your bags to your car! But I don't have a car and when I ask them if they'll walk my bags home for me they refuse.
posted by madcaptenor at 9:12 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I live in the Detroit area, have all my life. I don't say "jab" for "job" and don't know anyone born and raised in this area that does. Maybe in Milwaukee or Chicago they do, but not in the D. I/we do pronounce "cot" as "caht" and "caught" as "cawt", but I don't think that's limited to the Great Lakes region; my in-laws in Georgia distinguish between those two words as well.
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:34 AM on August 24, 2012


I love you Michiganders, but your accents drove me nuts for the three years we were living there, much more than the five years we were exposed to Californian accents (with occasional nearly terminal uptalk overlaid on it) in Fresno. One day in Kalamazoo, el_lupino and I (suburban Baltimore and suburban D.C., respectively) shuddered to ourselves after our landlady said to us, "Yeew dohn heave ean eaccent! Yeew seaund eaxactly leuike uaus!"
posted by jocelmeow at 9:41 AM on August 24, 2012


I'm mildly surprised to learn this is a big thing; speaking as a Californian who went to school in Chicago a quarter of a century ago, this accent has been around for a while now. And I definitely notice it in my friends from Michigan and northern Ohio.

In the part of Ohio where I live (rural western central), the primary accent is what I would label Midwest Rural, a drawl that's not southern but is definitely not like the Northern Cities accent.

I've also noted that the change in accent when you go from Ohio into Kentucky is immediate and definitely noticeable. Accentwise, you are definitely in the south when you cross into Kentucky.

Due to my time in Chicago, there are some words I pronounce in a Northern Cities sort of way (most notably "Chicago") but I think after all this time it's still pretty clear I'm a California boy. But then no one is the best judge of their own accent.
posted by jscalzi at 9:44 AM on August 24, 2012


I'm fairly certain this is a double. I specifically remember the "busses" sounding like "bosses" thing.

it's still fascinating.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 9:51 AM on August 24, 2012


“They don’t perceive their dialect at all,” he says. “The awareness of the NCS in NCS territory is zero.” (Well, almost zero. The high point for NCS awareness may have come 20 years ago, when “Bill Swerski’s Super Fans” was a popular recurring sketch on Saturday Night Live.)

Are they kidding? I'm very curious as to who participated Niedzielski's study. Chicagoans have been poking fun of their own dialect for generations. Did the Blues Brothers never happen? I know many people from the Western NY cities, and they're all conscious of the way they talk in relation to people from other places.
posted by snottydick at 9:52 AM on August 24, 2012


filmulvetr, I have cousins from St Catherines and my brothers and I always thought they had really weird accents. It wasn't until we were adults that we realized it was because they lived so near the border.

One more point: I was once with a group of people from across Canada and Australia. The Austalians all agreed that certain Canadians in the group had really strong accents, and others not so much. The Canadians all thought we sounded alike. We couldn't hear what they were hearing at all.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 10:00 AM on August 24, 2012


I live in mid-Michigan and hear this happening. There is a Michigan Public Radio reporter, for instnace, who pronounces Ann Arbor (which, to me, rhymes with Ban Harbor) as On Arbor.

I have no idea how affected I am by it.

Fellini Blank, for some reason I can't copy and paste at the moment, but it is called the Northern Cities Vowel Shift because it first seemed to be limited to urban areas.

Also, I agree with you about the pitch and intonation issue. I *think* I notice a big difference between my generaion (40s and 50s) and younger folks.

I was amused by the bit about people not recognizing their own accents. I think of myself as still having what the video linked above calls "NBC Standard," but talking on the phone with a friend from Philadelphia recently, she said, "Wow! I had forgotten what a really strong Michigan accent you have!" I was like, "Michigan accent? NBC standard, baby." Apparently not.
posted by not that girl at 10:10 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I live in the Detroit area, have all my life. I don't say "jab" for "job" and don't know anyone born and raised in this area that does.

Depending on your age, I'd be seriously willing to bet that you do, in fact, do this at least a little bit, unless you've had linguistic influences outside south-east Michigan (i.e. an immigrant family, or serious time spent abroad, etc.)

My girlfriend is from the same area and speaks exactly like this: "jaaab", "byasket", "snyack", etc. But what's interesting is that her parents' accent isn't even remotely as strong. It's definitely there, and apparent, but it fits in with the evidence that the NCS is a fairly recent phenomenon.
posted by downing street memo at 10:11 AM on August 24, 2012


I live in mid-Michigan and hear this happening. There is a Michigan Public Radio reporter, for instnace, who pronounces Ann Arbor (which, to me, rhymes with Ban Harbor) as On Arbor.

I think the NCS version of "Ann Arbor" would be "Eean Aarbor".
posted by downing street memo at 10:14 AM on August 24, 2012


Nice post. Reading more about Labov, I found his essay How I got into linguistics, and what I got out of it, which is very much worth reading: his account of growing up, discovering the differences between New Jersey and New York accents and the social relevance of those linguistic differences, and especially the part at the end about his expert testimony being used in court to establish the innocence of a man accused of making bomb threats. The accusee was from New York, and the recordings of the bomb threat were recognizable by Labov (but not law enforcement, apparently) as an accent from Boston / Eastern New England. "All of the work and all of the theory that I had developed since Martha's Vineyard flowed into the testimony that I gave in court to establish the fact that Paul Prinzivalli did not and could not have made those telephone calls. It was almost as if my entire career had been shaped to make the most effective testimony on this one case."
posted by crazy_yeti at 10:19 AM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I live in the Detroit area, have all my life. I don't say "jab" for "job" and don't know anyone born and raised in this area that does.
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:34 PM on August 24 [+] [!]


I really, really, really, really want to hear some audio of Oriole Adams talking! I grew up in Farmington, MI and everyone I know in the 'burbs outside of Detroit has this accent very strongly. It's just really hard to hear... until you can hear it.... then you can't stop hearing it.
posted by selfmedicating at 10:24 AM on August 24, 2012


When a Michigander classic rock DJ says, "More Rock, Less Talk," it rhymes perfectly.

As it does when any right-thinking American says it.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:25 AM on August 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


NPR recently had a piece about Crop Insurance, reported by some nice lady with a serious Minnesota/Wisconsin accent. She pronounced "crop" as "crap", to my ears. She said "crap insurance" about 20 times in the piece, and every time I had to force my brain to not take what my ears heard literally (and snicker like a nine year old).

Crap insurance. aheh heh ahoo

Ah here it is. I'll bet a lot of you just hear "crop insurance". Not me. Can't help it.
posted by sidereal at 10:26 AM on August 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


To answer kavasa's question from the very beginning of the thread: yes, there are other similar vowel shifts going on in North American English. The Southern Shift and the Canadian Shift are two of the other big ones.

Also, for those saying things like that they don't say "job" as "jab" -- first of all, this is basically just an attempt to write a vowel sound that doesn't have a corresponding letter in our alphabet, because it's sort of part way between "job" and "jab" as other accents might say them. It's not intended as a claim that "job" in one place is exactly equal to "jab" in another (although sometimes they are!). The differences are measured in Hz, not in recognizable vowel increments -- in other words, the vowel space is continuous and vowels can fall anywhere inside it, there aren't set slots forcing you to say either an "o" or an "a". Secondly, don't forget that if you say "job" shifted towards "jab", your "jab" will also be shifted part way to "jyeab", so of course you'll think that your "job" doesn't sound like your "jab". They've both moved; that's the point.

I remember that Rick Aschmann's site was discussed on the blue a while ago, that might be what ArgentCorvid is thinking of. As I recall a lot of the NCS examples from his selection of YouTube clips aren't that great though. If you're looking for a classic example, try listening to Dennis Franz as Sipowicz on NYPD Blue (amusing, of course, because he's supposed to be a New Yorker but has dramatically non-NY vowels).

To add to what crazy_yeti said, another extremely worthwhile Labov piece is A Life of Learning: Six People I Have Learned From. I recommend listening to the streaming audio if you have the time.
posted by ootandaboot at 10:33 AM on August 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Milwaukee suburbanite here, currently sitting at a desk on the north side. Can someone help me with this bagel thing? I'm on a computer without sound right now so I can't check the links, but I have seen the Community episode and other videos/sound clips without it clicking for me.

I pronounce it bay-gle. My "bag" is close to "beg", but bagel is definitely a "bay" sound, with the long vowel A. Is this correct? If not, how does everyone else say it? If it is, what's the "wrong" way?

Is the other way more of a short vowel A sound? Bahhgel?
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 10:40 AM on August 24, 2012


Oh, and to address Nelson's questions: the NCS is definitely not present in Canada, and in fact Canada is currently in the throes of a shift going mostly in the opposite direction. The most salient aspect of the NCS is that short-a as in "cat" is moving towards the upper front of the mouth, like "kyeaht", while the most salient aspect of the Canadian Shift is that short-a is moving towards the lower back of the mouth, like "kahht" (this is not as advanced and is much harder to hear).

However, the Inland North and Canada do share other features that could make you mistake one for the other. Most notably, they both say "o" as in "go" quite far back in the mouth, somewhat like in stereotyped pronunciations of Minnesota or the accent from Fargo. They also don't rhyme "writer" and "rider", a phenomenon called Canadian Raising. "Writer" is a little more like "royter" while "rider" is more like "rahyder" (trying to stay away from the IPA here to keep this accessible!).

On preview: I can't remember the facts about the pronunciation of "bagel", but I wanted to note that it's distinct from the Northern Cities Shift. Vowels get weird sometimes before "g" (and "r". and "l". and "n". oh who am I kidding vowels are always crazy).
posted by ootandaboot at 10:44 AM on August 24, 2012


Ooh, in the clip sidereal posted, the woman says "job" at about 0:25 and it's a beautiful example of how it's fronted towards "jab" but isn't quite all the way there. A few seconds later she says "hobby" with a similar quality vowel. And then "Don".

I'll stop now.
posted by ootandaboot at 10:52 AM on August 24, 2012


I'm a lifelong Michigander, and I first heard of the NCVS a few years ago in one of my linguistic anthropology classes. Ever since, I have been sort of informally paying attention to the speech of friends, family, and strangers. Despite people in Michigan being intensely resistant to the idea of having any accent at all, I have definitely heard the new vowels throughout the state. While NCVS absolutely is part of Michigan speech, there are some nuances that I've noticed.

The city of Detroit seems to be a bit more immune to the vowel shift, given that the vast majority of Detroiters are non-white, and the NCVS appears predominantly confined to white folks. The white folks I know who grew up in the city of Detroit or in some of the inner ring suburbs have much weaker versions of this accent than the people I know who grew up in the more distant suburbs - places like Monroe, Holly or Fenton. As one example, I lived in majority non-white communities until I was 14. My friends that share that type of early life experience have weaker versions of the NCVS when compared to people who grew up in the predominantly white, more distant suburb where I attended high school.

In addition to the more distant suburbs/exurbs of Detroit, the western side of the state and the Thumb seem to be more affected by NCVS. I do a fair amount of traveling, camping, and hiking throughout the state, and it is extremely noticeable in some of the small towns around the Great Lakes. My friends who grew up in rural areas around Port Huron are more likely to say 'Eeyan Arbor' (Ann Arbor), 'melk' (milk) and so on.

One other point about Michiganders: there is an intense belief in the state that 'we' speak in the standard (if not ideal!) mid-American accent that TV news people use. At least when I was growing up, I was told numerous times by multiple sources that the Michigan accent is the 'normal' or 'pure' American accent. Despite the fact that for many Michiganders this is demonstrably untrue, it is still a myth that is actively propagated by parents, teachers, and other wizened folks.
posted by palindromic at 10:53 AM on August 24, 2012


Metafilter: vowels be crazy.

Here's something for Projects: get a bunch of MeFites (pronounced "Mee-Fights") to record the sample text shown here. Maybe add in "I sat around the house" or something similar. Then post those samples some place and we can all mock each other endlessly.
posted by maudlin at 10:55 AM on August 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Northern Michigan native here and I had no idea. I found a link a couple days ago from an earlier mefi post, but can't find it now. The first time I took it i was "Midland Rural". I thought that can't be right So I took it again, but said the words out loud. The second time around I was "Northern Inland" I've been trying to hear it other peoples voices, but I haven't heard it, yet....or I continue to miss it.
posted by Mojojojo at 10:58 AM on August 24, 2012


Zyagdamyoun = Zee-ag-da-MY-oon? That's how it looks to me. Thanks for posting the translation. I don't think I would have gotten there on my own.
posted by evilDoug at 11:09 AM on August 24, 2012


This would all work much better if everyone here would look at, ideally memorize, the IPA vowel chart (conveniently set up to look sort of a little bit like your mouth) and then just write everything in IPA.

A major distinction between Canada and the US (though it's porous over borders) is the pronunciation of foreign a (drama/pasta/nacho/llama). Canadians (tend to) use a front a, like the one in cat, while Americans tend to use the one in father.

And then there's the pronunciation of o before r, like in sorry (sore-y, also not all Canadians do this).
posted by jeather at 11:09 AM on August 24, 2012


...somewhat like in stereotyped pronunciations of Minnesota or the accent from Fargo.

Just to be clear: the movie, not the city.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 11:15 AM on August 24, 2012


I pronounce it bay-gle. My "bag" is close to "beg", but bagel is definitely a "bay" sound, with the long vowel A. Is this correct?

As a fellow Milwaukeean, yes, you are correct, no matter what anyone else in here says.

But seriously... what other option is there?
posted by desjardins at 11:17 AM on August 24, 2012


Okay, I watched the Community clip, and the blonde chick is wrong, and everyone else is right.

Right? Because I'm confused.
posted by desjardins at 11:19 AM on August 24, 2012


Desjardins, yes. The blonde is wrong in that clip, and there are real life people who pronounce bagel that way, and they too are wrong.
posted by jeather at 11:31 AM on August 24, 2012


Please call Stella. Ask her to bring these things with her from the store: Six spoons of fresh snow peas, five thick slabs of blue cheese, and maybe a snack for her brother Bob. We also need a small plastic snake and a big toy frog for the kids. She can scoop these things into three red bags, and we will go meet her Wednesday at the train station.
posted by crazy_yeti at 11:34 AM on August 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


I lived in Michigan most of my life and I don't talk like that.

I do pronounce antenna (feelers on an insect) and antenna (radio/TV aerial) differently though. But I attribute that to living in Montana for a while.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:43 AM on August 24, 2012


I can recall a conversation I had with a Michigander (?), which revolved around someone having lost the cap to the gas tank on their car. My interlocutor suggested the fix would be to buy a 'lacking gas cap'. Couldn't figure out why they wouldn't want a fully featured gas cap instead.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 11:53 AM on August 24, 2012


Crazy_yeti, that one is a little too subtle. Try this one.
posted by yellowcandy at 12:04 PM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


not_that_ephiphanius:

The official Michigan demonym is 'Michiganian,' but no true Michigander would call themselves that.
posted by palindromic at 12:05 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Crazy_yeti, that one is a little too subtle. Try this one.

Wow, I immediately knew she was from Milwaukee.
posted by desjardins at 12:09 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


WXRT, Chicago's finest rock radio station has featured a weekly movie review called "Going to the show with a Regular Guy." for as long as I can remember. DJ Marty Lennertz voices the character of the Regular Guy, and while it's a caricature, most Chicagoans I know speak with at least one of the affects. It may be the pronouncing the short a in "background" like the a in "bagel" or turning the "aw" in Chicago into a nasal "aah" or turning the "o" in rock to a nasal "ah." I don't really notice it unless I'm listening to the Regular Guy character.
posted by onehalfjunco at 12:15 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Desjardins, yes. The blonde is wrong in that clip, and there are real life people who pronounce bagel that way, and they too are wrong.

(On computer without sound again) So she basically says "boggle", right? And people think we say that in Milwaukee?



...who's in charge of PR around here?
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 12:19 PM on August 24, 2012


I have no idea what you all are going on aboot.
posted by srboisvert at 12:26 PM on August 24, 2012


Crazy_yeti, that one is a little too subtle. Try this one.

Wow, I immediately knew she was from Milwaukee.


It was "Bob" and "bags" that put her over the top.

or turning the "aw" in Chicago into a nasal "aah"

There's an "aw" in Chicago? Egads! Maybe I do talk like that...
posted by MikeMc at 12:30 PM on August 24, 2012


Exactly. When I went downstate to school, I'd say I was from near Chicago. People would repeat the word back to me: "Chicaaaaaaaago" with a nasal A and a smile.
posted by onehalfjunco at 12:34 PM on August 24, 2012


Ugh, IPA would be helpful with all of this.

Also, the accents in Michigan are a great big swirl, so there are often differing amounts and pronunciations among different people even in the same area. Just thinking about the Ann Arbor/Ypsi area, there's a lot of Southern influence (auto workers) as well as Chicago and Minnesota — which are really different.

I'm very aware of my Midwest accent, especially living in LA now, but, I dunno, it really seems like there are a lot more micro-dialects going on in the Upper Midwest and this article kind of lumps them all together.
posted by klangklangston at 12:37 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I went to college with a bunch of Chicagoans. First week of school, we all head down to the cafeteria to find out they are serving Mexican food that day. There was a cry of "Oh my gad, they are serving chimichayngas!" Everybody approved.
posted by Foam Pants at 12:50 PM on August 24, 2012


(She said "crap insurance" about 20 times several times)

sorry, got carried away
posted by sidereal at 1:27 PM on August 24, 2012


To those of you from Rochester who think it's not there, all I have to say to you is "You can't stack cars". (To the rest of you: It's a local car dealer commercial that perfectly exemplifies NCS as it presents itself in the area.)

I say this, not as somebody with anything gainst Mr. Ide & his genius marketing gurus, but as someone who lived in Rochester for 6 years out of the past 10, grew up more or less in the area, and have worked for the past 8 years on vowels & dialects.
posted by knile at 1:28 PM on August 24, 2012


This is FASCINATING. Thanks for posting it! I was a Bostonian and moved to northern VT at 13. Nobody understood a word I was saying. I could not hear my accent and thought they were all crazy, repeating back to me what I sounded like. Obviously, I completely disagreed. Interestingly, I no longer have a Boston accent.
posted by fryingpan at 1:30 PM on August 24, 2012


Re: people not recognizing their own accents, I'm reminded of the weekend a friend took a bunch of us to her small town freshman year of college.

I went to college in St. Paul, MN but the friend was from Alexandria, in the heart of MN. Anyway, a friend of hers who I believe was still in high school and had never really left his town, asked me point blank why I talked the way I did. Of course, he asked me this in one of the thickest, Fargo(the movie, not the city)-esque Minnesota accents I've ever heard. He literally did not believe me when I told him he had an accent. Of course, I was equally convinced I didn't have one.

During my time in Minnesota, I was also asked why I pronounced my own name wrong, which still tickles me to this day.
posted by lunasol at 1:33 PM on August 24, 2012


I could not hear my accent and thought they were all crazy

Similarly, a child who mispronounces a word hears themself pronouncing it correctly, and will fight if you try to copy their cute pronunciation.
posted by jeather at 1:33 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


at jeather - i recently read something about toddler speech. children were unable to hear how they sounded. and it probably (I would almost say obviously, after reading this article) is true of everybody!
posted by fryingpan at 1:44 PM on August 24, 2012


I live in the Detroit area, have all my life. I don't say "jab" for "job" and don't know anyone born and raised in this area that does.

A better transliteration would be "jahb", but even then, it's a problematical transliteration. It's almost impossible to use the English alphabet to describe English pronunciation -- because almost all of the letters (I'm tempted to say all, but I haven't proven that) have multiple pronunciations, and those pronunciations are affected by what other letters are around them.

This is why transliteration systems like the International Phonetic Alphabet were created -- basically, expanded alphabets that attempt to limit each character to one sound.

So, what we commonly call the "short a" -- bat, cat, rat -- is /æ/. In the Northern cities of the US, /æ/ has become longer, is raised (that is, the tongue is higher in the mouth) and even has become a diphthong. The /ɔ/, which is the "a" you hear in saw, has lowered, becoming very close to the /a/, which is why to some people, "cot" and "caught" have the exact same sound.

In particular -

/æ/ becomes a dipthong, with the first part being closer to /α/ and the second closer to /e/, so "laughs at" becomes "lafes at" or "lafes ate" in extreme cases.

/o/ (top, bottle) shifts towards /æ/, which makes "on" sound more like "ann"

/oh/ (caught, dog) shifts towards /o/, so "all" sounds more like "doll" without the d.

/uh/ (lunch, tough) shifts towards /oh/ making "fun" into "fawn"

/ay/ (pipe, wight) also shifts towards /oh/, making "tie" closer to "toy"

Finally, /e/ (mesh,ten) shifts towards /uh/, so "flesh" becomes "flush"
posted by eriko at 2:34 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's true, a lot of people don't know that they say things strangely - it bugs me to no end the number of people who say "fustrated" and can't hear that they are missing the initial R.

I for one know for CERTAIN that I pronounce some words in a non-standard manner.

For example: I say "cyoo-pon" because "coo-pon" sounds wrong to me. I refuse to change.

And when I try to say "soda" I inevitably pronounce it "pop".

One time my wife and I met a couple of women in Jamaica; after visiting a bit I casually asked what part of Canada they were from. They freaked. "How did you know we were Canadian?", they asked. I replied, "Uh... you told us you went out to sea on a 'boot'."
posted by caution live frogs at 2:39 PM on August 24, 2012


As northern English guy, living in New York - I'm constantly corrected by Americans on my pronunciation. And its constantly frustrating being corrected with such terrible pronunciations.

Though it has given me an interest in it, that I previously didn't have. I actually kind of like, what I affectionately call "lazy pronunciations".

Like saying butter, requires really emphasising those t's. Budder, as they say here, doesn't.
Or tuna, being pronounced as "tooner". Its just easier and I honestly don't think its a bad thing.

There are some that just anger me. Route, for example. Its cringe worthy the way locals pronounce it.

And I hate the word "realty".
posted by 13twelve at 3:24 PM on August 24, 2012


Eriko, once we're using IPA we might as well go all out, ditch the confusing descriptions and get accurate! TRAP will likely fall somewhere between [æ̝] and [e̝ə], LOT will be around [a] or [a̟], THOUGHT edges towards [ɑ] (or is it [ɒ]? can't remember if it unrounds or not), STRUT lowers through [ʌ̞̠] towards [ɔ], DRESS becomes [ɛ̞] or [ɛ̠], and if you're really in it for the whole set, KIT starts to lower to [ɪ̞].

Note that the raising of PRICE to [ʌɪ] is not part of the same set of changes, though. Also, the fronting of "saw" (=THOUGHT) is not the reason some people have the same sound in "cot" and "caught". Quite the opposite actually: the Inland North is a stronghold of the cot-caught distinction, and this shift is involved in its maintenance. Yes, "caught" moves towards the earlier position of the vowel in "cot"...but only because the vowel in "cot" has already moved out of that position! If "cot" and "caught" merged, the rest of the shift (everything except TRAP-raising) would likely not take place.
posted by ootandaboot at 3:25 PM on August 24, 2012


"And when I try to say "soda" I inevitably pronounce it "pop"."

I've been out of Michigan long enough to say "soda" now, but it's one of the words my Midwest accent comes out hardest on: soh-dah.
posted by klangklangston at 3:26 PM on August 24, 2012


I'm from Michigan, but I moved out to Nebraska a few years ago. I did get comments on my accent when we got here. I can barely hear it myself, except in one word: hockey. I feel like (a) saying the word hockey and (b) talking about hockey at all can really betray your Midwestern origins.
posted by that's how you get ants at 4:15 PM on August 24, 2012


Like saying butter, requires really emphasising those t's. Budder, as they say here, doesn't.

Also: Less spitting at each other around the dinner table.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:33 PM on August 24, 2012


so "all" sounds more like "doll" without the d.

Is this some kind of cot-caught thing? Because 'all' and 'doll' rhyme for me (native Ohioan, but far far south of Cleveland).
posted by Gordafarin at 4:34 PM on August 24, 2012


I can't even imagine what 'all' would sound like if it isn't the same as 'doll'
posted by empath at 4:44 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


so "all" sounds more like "doll" without the d

Is this some kind of cot-caught thing? Because 'all' and 'doll' rhyme for me (native Ohioan, but far far south of Cleveland).


It's exactly that, yeah. I'm Canadian, and they rhyme for me too, but there are indeed places in the US where "all" is "o-wul" and doll is "dal."

Those places might want to consider amending their alphabet.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:46 PM on August 24, 2012


13twelve: Like saying butter, requires really emphasising those t's. Budder, as they say here, doesn't.

This is a classic example in linguistics: allophones of the same phoneme. People here don't say "budder" with a "d". They say it with a so-called "flap". There's a difference. Also, Americans don't perceive this as a "d" sound… they perceive it as another 't' sound.

As for appending an 'r' to words that don't have them, well, I can't help you there. :)
posted by readyfreddy at 5:07 PM on August 24, 2012


Wait, wait, someone from England, where place names lose all but one syllable, calls Standard American English lazy?

(In general, speaker laziness means extra work for listeners [and vice versa] so usually a dialect will be lazier in some aspects and correspondingly less lazy in others.)
posted by jeather at 5:16 PM on August 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


In re the baggles vs. bagels pronunciation, I have been told by friends living in Tucson, Ariz., that it is pronounced as the former. Maybe due to the influx of northern midwest snowbirds?
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 6:41 PM on August 24, 2012


I auditioned for a voice-over part in Tokyo once in which the boss specifically asked for a "Mid-Atlantic" accent: meaning, in his obviously surface linguistic knowledge, the language in which news anchors speak. Pennsylvania has often been cited as an example of the locus of this "neutral" American accent.

I'm not going to argue about the details above, not only because it's late here and I'm of a mind to retire for the evening, but because Denver is home to a lot of emigrants and does not have many very specific phonetic weirdisms. (Some people think we Coloradoans have an accent, but accents are not so dominant in cities.)

I will say two things, though: when I lived and worked in a hick town in Indiana for years, I started talking like them, much as when I lived and worked in the jazz world, my language got a little blacker. And, 2: one word I consciously changed (which I picked up in St. Louis, my hometown) was the word "wash," which we pronounced "warsh." Too much derision: I thought about it every time I said it for decades. Old habits are hard to break.
posted by kozad at 8:07 PM on August 24, 2012


Hey linguists - what is it called when ... crap, I can't explain it at all. It's like the word has a hard break at the end instead of flowing into the next word? Here's a great example from a British rapper. The line in question in this song is "Everybody says I've got to get a grip" and I'm specifically referring to the "got to get a" part.
posted by desjardins at 9:13 PM on August 24, 2012


Glottal stop?
posted by twisted mister at 9:32 PM on August 24, 2012


From Rochacha, left over 10 years ago, love returning places and realizing the accents as an ex-pat. Like others upthread, I friggin' bask in it when I get to hear it now. Ditto NYC and Boston, god...this summer on Sesuit Harbor in Cape Cod, stayed extra long lingering at lunch just to keep listening to the accents. Made me so homesick. Pittsburghese does it to me too. Love regional accents and dialect so much.
posted by ifjuly at 8:04 AM on August 25, 2012


They say it with a so-called "flap". There's a difference. Also, Americans don't perceive this as a "d" sound… they perceive it as another 't' sound.

The only reason they perceive it this way is because they know what the word is. "Butter" and "rudder" are identical except for the first sound in the word.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 10:13 PM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


You need to refine who are the "they" you're talking about. The Americans around me definitely do not say "budder."
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:44 AM on August 26, 2012


The Americans around me definitely do not say "budder."

They probably do. The /t/ and /d/ sounds in "butter" and "rudder" are both expressed as [ɾ] in most varieties of American English. The only difference in intervocalic /t/ and /d/ might be vowel length, but most people don't even do that. Actually expressing the /t/ sound as [t] is very unusual for American English.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 9:41 PM on August 27, 2012


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