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Sydney

Hi Happy,

I think perhaps the accents that Gwynnie and Ivanka sport are cultivated rather than picked up. I attended Ivanka's school for 7 years and don't come close to sounding like her By contrast there was this girl who came from Scarsdale I knew who liked to talk about how inappropriate everyone else was who could have BEEN Gwynnie to listen to her. My grandmother could turn hers on and off depending on who she was talking to.

TheGodfather

My linguistic profile:

45% Yankee

35% General American English

15% Dixie

0% Midwestern

0% Upper Midwestern

a bit strange, isn't it?

Jess

That quiz is a bit fascinating, but my Yankee husband complains about the lack of "bubbler" for "water/drinking fountain." The first time I hear "bubbler" was in Wisconsin, though, in Milwaukee.

Language is fascinating. I've lived pretty much everywhere except the deep South, and I remember when we moved from upstate New York to Iowa consciously trying to keep the MidWest out of my speech patterns - particularly the phantom "r" in words like wash and Washington, and the short "uh" in root or roof rather than a good, pursed, "oo."

As far as class issues, I work with a girl from Iowa who very consciously has an "academic" accent, though she still slips phrases into her speech like "noon-thirty." It's puzzling. I find a lot of academics in particular try to bring in a European flavor to their speech and writing, using British/Canadian spellings and formatting dates as 12 July instead of July 12th, and lengthening their "ah" sounds.

Personally, I find that absolutely pretentious and annoying, though I'm necessarily fluent in the phenomenon.

The real class divide in American language, I think, is correct versus "idiomatic" grammar. That's a whole 'nother kettle of fish.

HL

In the interests of sharing ;-) I've lived in the Northeast, the Midatlantic, Ohio (which is not the Midwest to people farther west), and various places in the Midwest and Upper Midwest. Not to mention a stint in the South. I speak:

65% General American English
20% Yankee
10% Upper Midwestern
0% Dixie
0% Midwestern

Any idea why it doesn't add up to 100%? A lot of it was at one point a conscious choice, however. When my family lived in the South, I worked to not pick up an accent. Unless I say something "typical" like soda, people don't place my accent. Go me.

I agree with Jess about the real divide - though I think that for some groups, certain accents also influence class perceptions. No matter how hard I try to break the prejudice, when I hear a strong Southern accent I have a certain reaction.

Emily

I'm Puerto Rican, and it's amusing when people hear me talk and say "You have an accent. Are you from Spain?", because aparently I don't look latina enough (what with being pale as snow and all).

A few years ago I had a very thick latino accent. You know, enunciating the T's in words like "Jupiter" and "Atlanta", and very spanish-sounding vowels. Living in the States for a few years has resulted in me losing most of my accent, but I still get bouts of puertorrican-ness in my accent, which I enjoy -- I think it makes me special :-) I've heard recently that my accent sounds "hispanic" but that it's hard to tell where from because it's very "americanized". I guess sometimes I sound American and sometimes I sound more latina.

In the quiz, I came out with the same percentages as HL: 65% general, 20% yankee, 10% upper midwestern. I guess that's related to the fact that I've only lived in the northeast US, learned most of my english from watching cable back in PR, and had a roomate from Michigan a couple of years ago. It's interesting how the way one speaks is influenced by the surroundings.

Oh, but I will never write the date as "July 16". In PR we write day first then month, and it's pretty much impossible to shake off 20+ years of writing the date like that. "16 july 2006" all the way for me :-)

tgr

My family's from the DEEP south - rural Georgia. When my dad left (before I was born) to go to Philadelphia for grad school, he systematically trained himself out of his Southern accent, in response to the stereotypes associated with it. So I've never heard him speak with it, and I have many memories of being told, as a kid, not to say "tinnis" or "pin" when I meant "tennis" and "pen." If I had a friend named Laura, he would say it "Lah-ra", no matter how she herself pronounced it. Later, when I was in high school, I had a good friend named Lori and it always looked like it pained him to say her name the way that it was, indeed, spelled. The fact that his change was deliberate and not picked up somewhere resulted in some strange pronunciations that I'm not sure are in use anywhere else - "forehead" sounds like "fahr'd" and "horror" is "hahrr" (so that it doesn't sound like "whore," he claims). No one can ever tell where he came from by his speech.

One of his favorite stories from his New England days comes from when he was first working in Connecticuit after finishing school. He had run out of lead for his pencil, and asked a co-worker "Where can I get lead around here?" The co-worker's shock surprised him, and eventually he figured out that he had thought my dad had asked him where he could get laid.

My mother still sports a gentle southern accent that I never noticed until a friend pointed it out. And mine re-emerges when I go to visit, or even talk with my family on the phone. My college roommate could tell in an instant when I was talking with people back home.

What's most interesting to me about accents, though, is how they shift in people who've lived many different places. It's not only my accent that changes when I'm back home, but the words I use shift, too. "I expect that'll be alright" is something that I never say at home in California, but slips out constantly when I'm in Georgia.

wolfa

Oh, there's lots of dialect discrimination. Sure, heavy New England accent is considered sort of nice. But people from New England often have a lot of power. Texan? Ozark? Various African American dialects?

People who've lived in many places are interesting. They also tend to slip back into old dialects when they're talking about that place, or things that happened while they lived there.

Bert Vaux has lots of interesting maps of dialect surveys.

MissPrism

Aw, boo. The test was only for American English.

I have a fairly generic British accent with only the occasional Scots R to show for growing up in Scotland, which annoys me as I would much prefer to have either a real Scottish accent, or the Geordie accent of my birthplace. I was accused of having picked up a hint of American accent last time I went home - I think I said "water" without the hard T - but what's really changed about my speech is, like, all those, like, discourse markers.

norbizness

60% General American English
25% Dixie
5% Upper Midwestern
5% Yankee
0% Midwestern.

I have no accent, incidentally, even growing up in Houston. It's either the suburban upbringing, or my father's Upper Midwest and mother's East Texas cancelling each other out. My cousins, who grew up about 5 miles away, all have East Texas semi-drawls because both their parents did.

The Happy Feminist

Oh rats, norbizness. I was imagining you with a real twang.

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