I didn't grow up thinking I talked funny...
November 13, 2001 10:42 AM   Subscribe

I didn't grow up thinking I talked funny... but thanks to the internet, I now know why I was turned down for all those newscaster jobs. Jano yinz talked funny too?
posted by m@ (21 comments total)
I lived in Rhode Island until I was about 13. One day in fifth grade they gave us a census-like survey to take home, and one of the questions on the survey was "Primary language spoken at home". My mom checked "English", and then added: "Without a New England accent".
posted by starvingartist at 11:12 AM on November 13, 2001

And here's a couple links on Baltimorese, my second language.
posted by starvingartist at 11:14 AM on November 13, 2001

I've lived in Pittsburgh for three years, and I REFUSE to say "yinz." Or "dahntahn."

I'm originally from West Virginia, but I lost whatever accent I had by moving around that state so much (the accent really does vary from county to county). However, I remember my high school girlfriend making fun of me for saying "collar" instead of "color" (pronounced with more of a "kuh" sound); one of the few times I can remember that I was self conscious of any accent I had (and I--perhaps regrettably--forcibly changed the way I say it, though I still have to think about it sometimes).

Fun little article about Michigan accents here.
posted by arco at 11:32 AM on November 13, 2001

I moved around so much when I was a kid that I became a sort of vocal chameleon... My natural accent is about as neutral as can be, but I pick up the accents of other people.
Thanks to that "talent", I'm fairly fluent in several dialects, including East Tennessee and Boston (several sub-dialects).
Fun stuff.
posted by Jako at 12:25 PM on November 13, 2001

The chunk of Pennsylvania where I grew up has its own language too. Most of Coal Speak survives only with older folk and the residents-for-life, but you still catch a bit here and there.
posted by Mrmuhnrmuh at 12:45 PM on November 13, 2001

I come from Cleveland where we speak an English dialect so impeccible and correct, that the BBC often sends announcers to Cleveland's public square with orders to simply stand, listen and absorb. We try not to laugh at the thick-tongued, troglodytic elocution of Pittsburgers, but sometimes it gets to be too much, and we forget to be gracious. If you are a native-speaking Pittsburger, and you are subject to gentle correction by a Clevelander, please do not take it ill. We are very sensitive to the nuances of spoken English, and some sounds simply grate.
posted by Faze at 12:45 PM on November 13, 2001

I come from Cleveland where we speak an English dialect so impeccible and correct, that the BBC often sends announcers to Cleveland's public square

LOL! Good one!
posted by spnx at 1:02 PM on November 13, 2001

Faze: shut yer hole, jagov.

Steelers 15, Browns 12.
posted by arco at 1:05 PM on November 13, 2001

sorry: Stillers 15, Brahns 12.

(just typing the "ahn" instead of "own" get on my nerves)
posted by arco at 1:10 PM on November 13, 2001

I moved to Connecticut when I was seven, and somehow I managed to avoid the New England accent trap (Y'have any idear what's in that draw?) but my, um, "formative" accent years were spent in way, way upstate New York, practically in Canada. So I let loose an oot and aboot once in awhile, which has on occasion drawn snickers from my peers. I blame South Park.
posted by kittyloop at 2:40 PM on November 13, 2001

My accent is mostly neutral-American. I grew up in Denver, my mom is from Dallas, my dad from Rochester, NY. I do say some words (such as 'four') with a slight NY accent, but despite having lived in Dallas for the past 14 years I've managed to avoid developing a Texan accent. I did finally give in to peer pressure and use the word y'all for the plural of you.

My biggest problem lies in the area of irregular verbs and certain spellings. I tend toward the British version of irregular verbs (leapt vs leaped) and British spellings of some words (pyjamas). Direct result of Tolkein, Lewis and MacDonald being my formative reading material.

Being on the internet has further 'corrupted' my American-English spellings and vocabulary. I have gotten to the point where torch, jumper, bloody, chips, bonnet, etc are more associated with the British definition than the American.

I think it's kind of groovy though. :)
posted by calyirose at 2:44 PM on November 13, 2001

My mother was a speech therapist so I grew up speaking in the most loathed and reviled accent in the British Isles: Posh.

I had to teach myself to speak Not Posh (which I've successfully done in West Oxfordshire, East Oxfordshire/Buckinghamshire and London, progressively becoming less yokel-y and more urban), because speaking Posh could get abuse, violence and social ostracism piled upon your head.

Not that I wasn't obnoxious enough to get abuse, violence and social ostracism by my own efforts.

Ironically, those of us considered speaking Posh were only Posh relative to the Non Posh children we were amongst. In later school years and then when I moved to Oxford, I discovered what a yob I really was.
posted by Grangousier at 2:51 PM on November 13, 2001

Thanks for the link, arco. Most interesting. I was born and raised in metro Detroit, but I don't have an accent. My Georgia-born husband arched his eyebrows as I said that last sentence out loud.
posted by Oriole Adams at 4:08 PM on November 13, 2001

My father had a book called "Lern yerself Scouse", and I'm delighted to find that most of it is available on the web here.
I was born and raised near Birmingham, but thankfully I don't have a Brummie accent (reckoned to be the worst in Britain.).
posted by salmacis at 4:33 PM on November 13, 2001

Brummie the worse? I think Geordies give them a run for the money. The first I visited the family just outside Newcastle I asked what language they were speaking and if there were any translation dictionaries.
posted by m@ at 5:51 PM on November 13, 2001

American dialects, from Appalachia to Philly, really fascinate me. But, apart from quickie amateur efforts, it seems there's a surprising dearth of fun audio resources. Can anyone help me out here? Let me explain what I mean. Linguists have given us printed reference works like DARE. But where is a webpage with sound clips (preferably many of now-deceased oldtimers) of culturally and linguistically interesting American speech? The one great example I ever saw of this is was in Swedish (and is now a dead link). For each Swedish dialect, you had an old recording of an aged speaker talking about something of regional cultural significance. In one region, it was crazy witch stories, in another it was about Norwegians who had made transborder raids. There are a few good story tracks on Appalachian music CD's here and there, and there are pages like the American dialect homepage, but most of the links lead to nerdy linguistics essays or submit-your-own-outrageous-slang forums.

Has anyone seen this documentary on American dialects?
posted by Zurishaddai at 7:54 PM on November 13, 2001

I grew up in Dorchester -- excuse me, Dawchestah -- but you'd never know it, listening to me speak. (That's right outside of Boston, for those who don't know.)

Oddly enough, despite living there for the first ten years of my life and not picking up the accent, I pick up any other accent -- whether I want to or not -- after a very short time of being exposed to it.

I took a week long trip to West Virginia once. Halfway through, I was talking in a rather thick southern accent. At least, when I wasn't focusing on my speech.
posted by CrayDrygu at 9:43 PM on November 13, 2001

The question of where to find samples of dialects is a common one; I receive it at least once a month at the web site of the American Dialect Society. One place to find samples of American dialects is at American Front Porch. There are also samples of North Carolina speech at the North Caroline Language and Life Project. Click through to the individual locations.

Sadly, the ethical boundaries of research done in dialects requires that most material of this nature not be made generally available (that is, on the Internet or at the record store) without tacit and implicit approval of the subjects. This approval usually is not asked for, mainly because it reduces the number of people who will willingly volunteer. Outside of that, any effort to get new samples of language that *can* be made generally available, *must* be done with attention to the Heisenberg prinicipal. You shouldn't, for example, tell them you're doing dialect research, but perhaps that you're collecting stories. Otherwise they "clean up" they're speech.
posted by Mo Nickels at 9:35 AM on November 14, 2001

Their speech. Aargh. Homophonia.
posted by Mo Nickels at 9:36 AM on November 14, 2001

I'm from the Chicago (that's Chi-CAW-go, not Chi-CAH-go) area. I never thought I had any sort of accent until I came to college in Indiana and the other girls on my dorm floor told me that my accent was so thick they could barely understand what I said sometimes!

I do pick up accents very easily, especially southern and New York accents. I spent the summer of 1994 in NYC and picked up the accent like you wouldn't believe...I came home sounding like I'd been born and raised there. When I go back there, or even talk to someone from there, it comes back.
posted by SisterHavana at 1:02 PM on November 14, 2001

Mo Nickels—
Thanks for the links! They're a lot closer to the real thing than anything else I've ever found. I only wish there were more sites like those, covering more of the country's rural and urban dialects...

I appreciate the ethical concerns, but, especially for older recordings, which I'm sure folklorists have made in great numbers (collecting songs and stories), isn't there a point at which the value as historical evidence kicks in? To me, this kind of material is as important documentation of human history as the photos and stories daily published of "newsworthy" people and events. Of course, I don't know what I'm talking about. Is the idea that a tape can sit in a collection for scholars to listen to but that broadcasting it to the public crosses a line? Is it more permissible to share recordings made of persons and communities distant enough in time to have entered into the realm of history?

I get the feeling that one element is sensitivity about non-prestigious ways of talking. I mean that everyone agrees you can and should disseminate a man's spoken eyewitness account of the 1898 Wilmington, N.C., race riot, but calling attention to the way the man talked instead of the content of his speech is a touchy issue that starts to seem personal, poking into his personality. Of course, I can see that any unsuspecting person could be publicly ridiculed as a typical specimen of a historical phenomenon such as Wall Street yuppiedom—and for that the TV comedian needs to be held in check...
posted by Zurishaddai at 2:55 PM on November 14, 2001

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