I love different accents. I’ve never lived in Boston, but I’ve heard that Bostonian accent a few times, and I think it’s cool. It’s my favorite American English accent, although I do have to listen super hard in order to understand certain words. I was on the phone once with a customer service rep from Boston, and she had to repeat a sentence three times. Finally she just gave up and said, “I’m sorry, I don’t pronounce my Rs.” We had a good laugh.
I like different pronunciations and the fact that what sounds standard to some people may not sound standard to others. I love seeing re-runs of America’s Next Top Model on You Tube. My favorite season is cycle 6. One of the models has a Southern accent that Tyra Banks constantly ridicules. The model doesn’t sound that substandard, at least not to me. I was amused when Twiggy (a British lady) said that she sometimes couldn’t understand the model. But now that I think about it, there are some British accents that I have trouble understanding. So that goes back to my point: Just because it sounds standard or normal to me, that doesn’t mean that it’s standard to other people.
Here are a few words that I say (and yes, I’ve been corrected on these a million times):
Aks instead of Ask–I didn’t realize I was saying it wrong until a white lady from the Midwest corrected me. I guess it’s because I’m a black Southerner and most of the black Southerners I know sound like me and pronounce it ‘aks.’ I’m perfectly capable of saying ‘ask,’ it’s just that I’m used to saying it the ‘wrong’ way.
Prolly instead of Probably–I know I’m not alone on this one. We are all capable of pronouncing our Bs, it’s just that our tongues get lazy, and so we leave them out. Also, I think the spelling is becoming standard text language, and so it’s faster to just leave off a few letters when you’re texting someone.
Own instead of Don’t–This is one of the funniest ones to me. I can understand why someone would pronounce ‘pen’ and ‘pin’ the same and ‘marry’ and ‘Mary,’ but ‘don’t’ and ‘own’ do not look or sound alike, so why do I pronounce them the same? I think this mix-up is characteristic of black speech. The phrase “I own no” instead of “I don’t know,” is standard English among a lot of the black people I know. I don’t always use ‘own’ for ‘don’t.’ I generally only do it when I’m in a hurry and when the word ‘don’t’ comes after certain other words.
Mispronounce the ‘th’ sound at the beginning of certain words— I am quite capable of saying ‘that’ and ‘this,’ but sometimes I remove the ‘th’ and slap a ‘d’ in its place, so I end up saying ‘dis’ and ‘dat.’ I’ve noticed that I don’t do it so much when I’m talking to strangers or with people I’m not familiar with. I mostly do it around my family and close friends. I wonder where the ‘d’ comes from, and why we use it opposed to say, a ‘p’ or something.
N’em instead of And Them–When I was little, I’d say things like, “I’m not going with Momma n’em.” Translation: “I’m not going out with Momma and them.”
I’ve noticed that here in the South, we shorten phrases that others in the country don’t often shorten. For example, ‘yousta could’ means that I used to be able to do something, but I cannot anymore. ‘Fixin’ to’ means I’m about to do something. (Example, “I’m fixin’ to go to the post office.”) I’ve also noticed that people like me delete the ‘x’ from ‘fixin’ to’ and pronounce it ‘f’in’ to.’
I lived in NYC for a year, and I was fascinated by the use of the word ‘youse,’ probably because I grew up in Georgia where we all say ‘y’all.’ The word ‘y’all’ is of course a contraction for ‘you all,’ and so it makes sense to me. However, I’m still trying to figure out where ‘youse’ comes from.
Sometimes I use the word ‘y’allses’ when I’m referring to things owned by a group of people. So, instead of saying to my group of friends, “I like your new shoes,” I would say, “I like y’allses new shoes.” I know for a fact that people laugh at me about this. You know what? It doesn’t even bug me that much anymore.
I was in Tennessee one summer, and I noticed that some people said ‘you’ns’ instead of ‘y’all.’ I’m thinking that ‘you’ns’ stands for ‘you ones.’ Pretty cool, huh? I’m still unclear on how it’s spelled though.
I also love different words for things. My momma is from Northeast Georgia, and she says:
Polecat instead of Skunk
Branch instead of Stream
Hit instead of It
I’m fascinated by my momma’s use of ‘hit’ for ‘it.’ She doesn’t do it all of the time, only sometimes. I’ve listened to her and tried to understand the rule behind this. I can’t. I think it’s sad that so many regional accents are dwindling. I’m from the same region as my momma, and no one my age says ‘hit’ instead of ‘it.’
Everyone speaks differently. If you’ve recently moved to another part of the country and can’t understand what the hell people are saying, then comment below. Comment with alternate words for things or any type of story about language differences. I’d also like to know which American accent is your favorite.