Thursday, June 14, 2007


Just a short post tonight because I was busy until 11 AM learning to breathe underwater.

Just now, I was thinking about regional differences in the way we Americans speak English. Personally I have a bad ear for identifying accents: I know some people can listen to someone speak and recognize that they are from Arkansas or Texas or Tennessee, but not me. My ear just doesn't register those subtleties.

When I was a young boy, I spoke with a horrible Bronx accent, but then when my family moved to the suburbs I slowly, unconsciously dropped it because the kids in school would make fun of the way I talked... and I am glad they did! Whoo, I could not imagine going through life like that.

Anyway, after that I felt like I had a generic, standard American accent, but when I went off to college at Tulane the students hailing from other parts of the country informed me that I definitely had a New York accent. One girl went so far as to suggest I sounded just like Woody Allen, but she was clearly kind of trippin'.

As I said I am a terrible gauge, but I was told a few times that, after living in New Orleans for so long, my accent had mellowed alot. Once someone told me that what with the slow way I was talking I was almost more like a Georgian without the accent. I'm not sure if that's changed at all since I've moved up to DC. I think I kind of pick up all kinds of things from people I'm around (usually bad linguistic habits like saying "like" all the time or starting sentences with "I feel")

One regional difference in pronunciation which my friend Kiki and I (pictured above) worked out, and which you dont often hear remarked on, is the fact that some people from the South or wherever pronounce the names Erin and Aaron basically identically whereas people (like us) from New York/New Jersey made a big distinction between Eh-rin and Aaagh-rin. How do you pronounce these names?

There's also odd differences in vocabulary that I've notice between New Yorkers and people from other parts of the country like how we usually refer to our sporty footwear as "sneakers" whereas other Americans might prefer to say "tennis shoes" or "running shoes". And how my Mom refers to "handbags" as "pocketbooks" (pronounced like "pock-a-book" moreover. It's fun to say).

Anyway that's my observation for the evening.

SONG I'M CURRENTLY LISTENING TO: Dynamite Hack - Boyz N The Hood


Lee said...

"Fellas out there try to make that dollar, I pulled up in my 6-fo impala..."

coincidentally, about 30 seconds before reading your blog I opened a link sent to me for an online accent quiz.
Not sure how accurate it is as it says I have a northern accent (Kate's influence I guess). Prior to that people used to tell me that I have either a California (tons of family out there) accent or a Canadian (inexplicable) accent. so I guess mine can best be described as a Cali-Canadian Kenner accent with a twist of God's Country?

I pronounce Erin and Aaron differently.

"knowin' nuthin' in life but to be legit, don't quote me boy, I ain't said shiiiiit"

mennu said...

Another regional dialect thing:
the pronunciation of the word "insurance." For most of my life I pronounced it inSUREance, emphasis on the sure. Then I encountered people from the south who pronounced it INsurance, emphasis on the in.

Sometimes I prounounce it in the southern style, but that's because I like to speak with pizzazz.

Meeg said...

Thanks, for the comment, Lee.

I can see people thinking you sound Californian (but then like I said, I don't really know from accents). But when you were rocking the long hair you kind of looked like you could be from California.

RE INsurance... same thing holds true for THANKSgiving and UMbrella. And TUlane

Nicole said...

hey! i took that amazing picture! what about a little shout out for the photographic genius here? i ask you...could there be a better picture of the two of you? i don't think so. and, how much better does it make it that you're shirtless? so much better!
oh, and if you want to talk dialects...i'm a mess. everyone says that i don't sound like i'm from new orleans but i use so many things that are so very southern (y'all, for example). then i have stuff that i've picked up from kiki and you (yes, you meeg. you gave me, 'i feel') and god only knows where else so don't be surprised if i say saomething totally bizarre like, 'i feel like y'all are kvetching over nothin'.'. just weird. then, i married a brit and i've had to modify a lot of the things i say when i talk to him and it's carried over. so now i say stuff like, 'rubbish bins' and 'cling film' and 'chips' instead of fries and 'crisps' instead of chips. oh yeah, i even tell him to put things in 'the boot of the car'.
i wonder if when we move to the uk i'll be able to get away with a (hopefully better) madonna-esque tranformation of my accent into a british one...that would be awesome. and kind of sad.

Meeg said...

If I heard you saying "I feel like y'all are kvetching over nothing" I would not even flinch. I think you can get away with pretty much saying anything. Also you totally pronounce Erin and Aaron the same (or at least it sounds like that to me) I remember getting confused between your bubble tea coworkers.

I feel like Gweneth kind of pulls that Britishy accent stuff too.

Josie said...

one of my biggest annoyances regarding dialect is when people around here (the south) say 'ink pIN' instead of ink pen. i also second nicoles sentiment- when my aussie pal visits he leaves me saying thinks like 'put it in the boot', 'pooftah' 'rubbish bin' and the like. language is meant to convey thoughts and feelings so i think its a natural extension that we assimilate our dialects to those we live around. word, y'all.