“Whar yew frum?” “Ah, wayuh ah ya fram” “Weer ya frem? “Wuryafrom?’
Whether it’s the rapid fire speech heard in “New Yawk”, the distinctive tones in New England and the “Noth-east”, the slow twangs of the “Deeeeeep Sayouth”, Chicago’s “Da Bears”, or other regional distinction, I find the various dialects very entertaining….and sometimes quite challenging to interpret. “California speak” can be very distinctive. I am a native Texan, but there are even different dialects here, depending on the area of the lone star state from which you hail. Louisiana and Cajun? That’s a whole different article, I garonteee!
Some of my family hails from the Appalachian region of the south, well known for their extreme dialects and rural lifestyle. Remember the movie “Nell”? I recently watched a documentary about Appalachia and the majority of it was subtitled because the speech patterns were so different and hard to understand. Terms like “his’n” and “her’n” = “his” and “hers”, “nar” = “narrow”, “better n life (loff)” = “really good”, “Pewt” = “golly”. I heard these from aunts and uncles when we would travel through the Applachians and I also lived in Tennessee for a few years , where I heard even more variations. Here are some examples.
“Wall, youins otter come back soon. This hyar visit was better n loff. Just cain’t stain it. Be carful headin round the nar n curvy road, as youns headn outcha holler. Be watchin for Ole Bud. That truck a his’n aint got but three good tars and kindly tips over when he turns them carners. Emma won’t let him drive at new car of hern. Fraid hill go off n get hisself kilt”.
“Thanks, we will. You be sure and come see us too”
“Pewt! Lawdy boy that’ll be the day. Nope. We ain’t gonna be goin that way, but youins come back to see us up hyar. Bah nayow.”
I think it is interesting how we can be in the same areas and speak so differently. Like Professor Higgins noted in My Fair Lady, dialects can differ in neighborhoods or even from street to street in certain areas.
When I graduated college with a degree in speech pathology, I was concerned that my “Texas accent” would make me sound less professional in my new job, so, I practiced using my best newscaster voice to be as “neutra”l as I could. Think Tom Brokaw. I have a deep voice and I could pull it off pretty well. Well, my fears were relieved after about 10 minutes of listening when I got there, since southeast Tennessee is not known for generating many midwestern dialects. The Tennessee drawl was not far from the Appalachian patterns I knew, and suddenly I was not self conscious about my Texas dialect anymore. I could speak however I wished and would be right at home. I learned that being able to fit in allowed me to make other people more comfortable than they did when speaking to Mr. broadcaster.
However, there was a local professional there (who was from….duh duh duh… “up north”) who was advertising to work with local business people to “improve their speech patterns”. Why, you ask? “Because the southern drawl, after all”…(and this is what sunk her program) “makes you sound less intelligent”.
OUCH! Did you feel the slap of insult or was it just me?
Well, you might expect that a few VERY SUCCESSFUL and VERY INTELLIGENT business people who “growed up rotcheer in east Tinisee” were “holly offended” since they had “done just fon and could ford to buy this here bidniss and close it dayown” just so she wouldn’t offend nobody else. This was in the deep south after all, and peole are polite above all, even when trying to kill you….with kinidness. That program never really got off the ground. Can you believe it?
Of course there were a few other things I had to learn when I got there, like what “HON” was.
“HON? What’s HON?”
Oh, you know what I mean. “Good mornin, HON”, “Thank ye HON”, “HON, can you comeer fer a minit?” “HON” was short for “honey”, which I always liked to be called. Much better than other things I can get called at work, and HON was the traditional nickname for any younger man working among older women. It was so sweet. “Doncha thank so, HON?”
I was watching the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon last night and Fred Armisted was on. He gave great examples of the differences between the Bronx, Queens, and other of New York’s 5 boroughs. He obviously grew up there and it was so easy for him to switch between the tone of voice and pronucniations. Watch “Wiseguys” or “Donnie Brascoe”. Nuff said.
Minnesoooota and Wiscahnsin have their oooon distinctions, as does Vuhginya, waya an ah cayunt be fayund hodly anywayuh. “Oh mussy. I thank I may be gettin the vapuhs.” Ok, it’s not that bad anymore, but I do know some old tranditionalists from Richmond……
“Hand ovuh yo hot when you refuh to mah fayuh city suh”
….where the “r” is delightfully omitted to this day and the more genteel the drawl, the bettuh.
And you wonder why peoople who come to America have trouble understanding English?
Go figure or Go figger or Gah figyah or ……