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Open mouth, reveal origin. March 1, 2013

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Our friend Ben is from Nashville, but for whatever reason, I don’t have, or have ever had, a Southern accent, unlike my parents. But living as I do in scenic Pennsylvania, I’m very aware that, even if the general population couldn’t, a linguist could easily pinpoint my place of origin. That’s because I don’t pronounce certain words the way everyone up here pronounces them. And I suspect that, taken together, these key words would scream “Nashville” to someone trained in regional pronunciations. Here are some of the words that immediately spring to mind:

* Nashville. “Foreigners” tend to say “NASH-VILLE;” natives say “NASH-vull.”

* Zinnia. Up here in PA, folks say “ZINN-ee-ah;” back home, we say “ZEEN-yah.”

* Caramel. We say “CARE-uh-mel,” while up here, folks say “CAR-mel.”

* Interesting. We native Nashvillians say “IN-tresting.” Up here, it’s “In-TER-es-ting.”

* Adult. I grew up with “uh-DULT.” Now it’s “addled.” I’m not going there.

* Route. I say “root,” folks here say “rout.”

And so it goes. Those few key words provide the tipoff to those linguists who, like Henry Higgins in “My Fair Lady,” can easily pinpoint one’s place of origin, at least if you don’t change the way you pronounce your words.

What words would give your origins away?

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Comments»

1. Huma - March 1, 2013

Yes you are quite right—how funny!

Well, you’re the one who pointed out how I say “rat” and “now.” I’d assumed my pronunciation of those vowels was standard American, but guess not. When I say “rat,” I hear “rat,” not “ray-ut,” and when I say “now,” I hear “now,” not “nee-uh-ow.” I can only conclude that my accent is more Southern than either my Southern contemporaries or my Northern neighbors think it is!

2. William - March 1, 2013

Dialect indeed gives us away. Being from the Pittsburgh area and no I do not utilize “yunz” or “yinz”, people can pick identify my background through the use of the letter ‘r’. As you move eastward in PA and closer to Gettysburg, the use of ‘r’ in words is very prevalent and different than Pittsburgh. As you move further East, you now have Baltimore and Philadelphia influence not to mention the Pennsylvania Dutch.
Pittsburghers are easily identified with the use of words such as “gumband”, “pop”, “crick” and “chipped ham”. We apparently pronounce “downtown” differently, too. I can not leave out the grocery chain of “Giant ‘Iggle'” in place of Giant Eagle.

Er, so how do people in Pittsburgh use their ‘r’s? And what on earth is a gumband?! Is it a rubber band?

3. William - March 2, 2013

A gumband is a rubber band. How to do the ‘r’. I never did it, and I haven’t been in the burgh in years. The sound is similar to Worshington. There is a slight difference between other r’s with the inflection. It is difficult for me to explain.

Well, thanks for trying, William!


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