Friday, May 04, 2012

You're putting the emPHASis on the wrong sylLABles.

I lived in Chicago 'til I was nine, before moving to Atlanta. I spent the bulk of my life there before migrating to Knoxville, and thence up to Indy. Therefore, I have limited experience with accents.

Obviously, there is a distinct Chicagoan accent, and then there are the various shades of Southern accent, with which I am familiar, but in Indianapolis, you are exposed to that particular tone of speech, spoken in a swath running from Cleveland through the Circle City and on to Saint Louis, that, thanks to over a half century of national network newscasters, is as close to Received Pronunciation as you can get in American English; a sort of accentless accent.

I can't tell regional New England accents apart worth a damn; my untrained ear can't spot the difference between a Downeast Mainer telling me "You can't get theah from heah, ahyuh," and a denizen of Southie saying "Gimme your $%^&#@ wallet or I'll $%&^* stab you in the #$%@& kidneys," so this week at Castle Frostbite has been a real treat for the ear. You see, Marko and Robin have contractors doing some work on the place and every time I step outside for a smoke break it sounds, to my southern ears, exactly like I'm on the set of This Old House. It's awesome.


TJIC said...

> ; my untrained ear can't spot the difference between a Downeast Mainer telling me "You can't get theah from heah, ahyuh," and a denizen of Southie saying "Gimme your $%^&#@ wallet or I'll $%&^* stab you in the #$%@& kidneys,"


> to my southern ears, exactly like I'm on the set of This Old House.

Living as close to Cambridge as I do I've actually run into This Old House cast members a few times in the last 15 years.

I believe that the current host, Kevin O' Connor, is actually an in-town neighbor [although he, like me, is from NJ and not a local]

Noah D said...

And to somebody native to Indy, there's a distinct and fascinating difference between Indianapolis accents* and the rest of the state. I visited New Albany/Louisville a lot when I was younger, and I find that accent closer to the rest of Indiana than Indy's.

*Okay, in specific, the relative lack of accent, to my ears** of Northside Indy, Carmel, Zionsville, Fishers, and sort of south down to Greenwood...sort of.

**I thought 'ears', and typed 'eyes'. What's up with that?

staghounds said...

I once heard someone ask Bob Vila,
'What do you say when you hit your thumb with a hammer, and what does Norm say?"

"I pretty much stick to "damnit".

And I don't think Norm has hit his thumb with a hammer for a long, long time."

perlhaqr said...

I used to watch that show with my dad when I was a kid.

That and The Woodwright's Shop.

Mike in KY said...

Let's dovetail some drahs.

I remember Steve Thomas telling Norm many years ago, "You're the only guy I know that doesn't change router bits... he changes routers."

Anonymous said...

I still be lost if somebady hadn't translated Pack Ave in Wooster was really Park Ave in Worcester,


staghounds said...

Foreigner, everyone local says Wustah.

BobG said...

Most of Utah is relatively accentless, but we have some rural areas that sound amazingly like west Texas; some are in the far north, the rest are in the southern area. I have no idea where it comes from.

Bubblehead Les. said...

Having grown up in Generic American Speech Land, one of the most interesting parts of my life was being sent all over the U.S.A.for the Navy and dealing with accents. Once, I actually had to help translate when an English Tourist was trying to deal with a Deep Southern Lady at a 7-11 and the line was backing up. Enlightening!

You might want to check out the PBS Documentary "Do You Speak American?"

og said...

I spent a couple months in Dexter, Maine, back when they were the last bastion of crappy US shoe manufacture. The accent is picturesque on men, on women, not nearly so much.

Kevin said...

Back when I was going to college at the University of Arizona, I worked as a security guard at a hotel, one of the major chains. I'd grown up in the South, and my parents are from Appalachian coal country, so I'm used to Southern accents, but I was out of practice.

This particular hotel was located at the distant end of Tucson's Red Light district. It was actually a pretty nice place, but go not more than a mile and you ran into no-tell motels. So one evening I was walking my rounds when a couple of young men (right about my age) stopped me and asked, "Hey man, where can we get some ass?"

That stopped me. Here I was, in rent-a-cop uniform, and I'm being asked if I'm a pimp?

Then I noticed that one of them was carrying an ice bucket, and it clicked. They were speaking SOUTHERN. Where could they get some ICE.

But it took me a second or two to process the signal.

Stretch said...

While at FLETC in south coastal GA I had to translate for a Brookline, MA classmate. He and local sales staff were mutually incomprehensible. I made sure to wear my CS belt buckle to let the locals know I was one of them.

On a Wing and a Whim said...

When in Pennsylvania for training, my coworkers and I were on a hunt for beer. I was the only (extremely recent) transplant; the rest were from a bit east of Nashville.

One went into a Walgreens to look for beer (which they don't sell in drug stores in PA), and came out trying to hold in a belly laugh.

Seems he'd asked the clerk for beer, and she'd taken him straight to the Bayer aspirin. Only after staring at painkillers with a little puzzlement did the mistranslation click.

Robert said...

"I lived in Chicago 'til I was nine"

Oh, you poor thing. Don't worry, we won't hold it against you.

Anonymous said...

Isn't "Chicago" the mid-west equivilent of " New York CITY?!?"? B-). JohninMd(help!)

BobG said...

Years ago I worked as an electrician, and for a while had a guy from Alabama work with me; it was interesting.
I remember him once saying to me: "W'neesmo bubz'n'wa".
It took me a minute to realize he said "We need some more bulbs and wire."

Buzz said...

Indiana's easy, Tam, once you consider everything south of Greenwood to be northern Kentucky.
(plus the NW pocket known as "the region" to be a Chicago 'burb)

Mikael said...

I was in a computer course with a 3 brits, only one of which I could understand, he was from glasgow(scotland), the other two were from liverpool(england), I've met a bunch of others on vacation and they've mostly been easy to understand. I've never met an american I couldn't understand, but then again most of the ones I have met were from california. Seems like americans from other states don't travel abroad nearly as much as californians.

I'm well aware there are some really unintelligible accents out there. An english chap demonstrated to me with something that sounded like "Gouahuae".

Regards from a fairly well-traveled Swede.

Anonymous said...

It's fading with the older generation, but up to the 1980's Pittsburgh had a distinctive accent. You still run across it sometimes and locals hold it dear


Anonymous said...

You can usually understand anyone, anywhere, until you cross into Louisiana.

Paul, Dammit! said...

We do talk wicked good in MA. I've got the southie accent, though someone from southie would know that I grew up on Boston's south shore (which is different- it's wicked pissa). I taught my wife English, for the most part, which means that she learned English with a Boston accent, which is hilarious when combined with her Brazilian accent. They don't say the "R" at the beginning of words. We don't say it at the end.

kishnevi said...

I was born in Boston, moved to Florida when I was nine, and sort of lost the accent, although it still comes out from time to time. Living in South Florida, I seem to have picked up a trace of a New York accent from all the New Yorkers around here, and a little Southern from going to school in Atlanta and Tallahassee. So my accent is probably a total mess.
My grandfather, who was born in Russia, picked up a Boston accent deep enough that by the end of his life he spoke Yiddish with a Boston accent, so f.i. I was always wondering why he called my grandmother "Razor" (her name being Raizeh in Yiddish, Rose in English).
My father served at Camp Gordon (now Fort Gordon), Augusta Ga. for his two year stint in the Army during the Korean War, and for the last year my mother lived with him there. She told me that to communicate with the butcher, she had to point to the cuts of meat she wanted; otherwise she couldn't understand him and he couldn't understand her. And even after forty years living in Florida, she never lost a bit of her accent.

Mikael said...

Re: Paul, Dammit!

I'm almost positive that wicked pissa is inherited/borrowed from old england. But the meaning there refers to a person, and is "chav" slang. As in "Jason Stratham is a wicked pisser".

Anonymous said...

having been born and raised in the south, i feel i speak "the king's english". assuming elvis is still the king