Wicked Wednesday-Accents

Jessie-In New Hampshire, wondering if it is too early to cheer for crocuses

This week we are celebrating Sheila’s latest book release in her County Cork series, A TurnCover A Turn for the Bad for the Bad. One of the things I love most about Ireland is the delightful accent of the Irish people. Which got me to thinking about accents in general and which ones we admire. And even if we think we have one ourselves?

So Wickeds, what are your favorite accents? Irish? Russian? New York?

Liz: I’m a Bostonian, so I love Boston accents first and foremost. But I’m a sucker for a good English or Irish accent!

Julie: It depends on who is using the accent. 😉 English, Irish, Scottish, Italian, French. Canadian accents charm me. I suspect I have a Boston accent, but high school in Maryland may have rounded out my tones. I also love the Wicked Cozy accent. (See what I did there?)

Barb: English spoken with almost any accent will charm me, especially the accents of the far flung empire–Indian, South African, West Indian, Australian. Sometimes it’s hard, though, to believe we speak a common language. In my prior life, I had customers in Northern Ireland. When we’d adjourn to the pub after conferences or meetings, they’d talk and talk. To me it sounded like “mmff-mumph-mff-mmff-mff.” I’d grin and nod my head like an overeager beagle, terrified I was agreeing to some untenable business term. I have to admit that when I watch certain shows on BBC America or PBS, I always have the captions turned on.

Sherry: When we moved to Boston I fell in love with the accent and the way they pronounce things. I’m not too proud to admit I’d follow people around in stores to listen to their voices and ask service people to pronounce random things (like our refrigerator or refrigeratah) by pointing at them. And I’m a sucker for the British/Irish/Scottish accents. There’s a Scottish play-by-play announcer who does the Real Madrid soccer games. Not only do I love his voice but his expression — he was like a salmon swimming upstream — when a guy took in a goal.

Jessie: My husband has one so I adore Brazilian accents. I actually love it when he puts on a fake British accent.The combination is charming and very silly! The older I get the more I miss a strong Maine accent, especially from Downeast. My great-grandparents both had them and they were charming in their way. It wasn’t, of course, just the sound of the words, it was also the choice. My grandfather never said he began or started anything. Rather he said he commenced it. As in  “I commenced to fish”.  I still miss hearing him.

Edith: Oh, accents! So much to say. As a once-and-always linguist, I’ve studied this stuff. We all have national languages, regional dialects, family dialects, and our own idiolect. Your native language can shape the next language you learn, depending on how old you are. And your regional dialect can shape how you understand people from another region. I’m a southern Californian with a Hoosier father (why I say “warsh” for wash) and a native Californian mother who said “goff” for golf, and from whom I picked up that the members of the pairs cod and cawed, cot and caught, Ott and ought were pronounced the same.

In my Country Store Mysteries, police lieutenant Buck Bird speaks the classic southern Indiana way, which is really more Kentucky than Indiana. I modeled him on a fellow linguistics grad student in the late seventies named Buck. He was a local in his forties, recently retired from a twenty-year career in the army, and he was working on his BA, at last. We grad students from “away” scratched our heads trying to figure out how he pronounced his slow, relaxed speech. One of us finally came up with this: “He keeps his tongue in the bottom of his mouth.” Try it and see how it sounds! Vocabulary of the region is also delightful: “I can’t do that every whipstitch.” And, “That drawer’s all whopper-jawed.” Anybody want to guess what those mean?

Readers, is there and accent that when you hear it, it stops you in your tracks? Do you have one of your own?

25 Thoughts

  1. Jesse,
    People I meet for the first time often ask me what part of New York I come from. When I say I’m from Massachusetts, they tell me I don’t sound like it. Some offer the evidence that I don’t sound like a Kennedy. That’s because I’m not a Kennedy, I say.

  2. Edith,
    Very funny, this! “… I picked up that the members of the pairs cod and cawed, cot and caught, Ott and ought were pronounced the same.” But do you imply it isn’t true?

  3. I am told by some that I have a Baltimore accent. I don’t hear it, but my kids and my New England friends sometimes have me repeat certain words because they enjoy the way I pronounce them. Here in Bawlmer, the word bull can be used in two ways. “There was a bull at the rodeo” or “I am waiting for the water to bull.” The same goes for crown; you can wear one on your head or color with one. Actually here we say keller.
    My sister-in-law was born in Ohio, but has spent most of her life in North Carolina. She has a thick Southern accent. My other sister-in-law is from Michigan. The Southern one thinks the Michigan one has a strong accent. I don’t hear it, but I think it’s funny because I can barely understand what the Southern one is saying.
    The accent I enjoy hearing the most is a Scottish one. I like the way the words roll in their mouth and everything sounds so dramatic.

  4. I love accents–especially British and Irish. When we were about 10 or 11, my cousin Debbi and I spent weeks one summer talking with British accents. We thought we were so cool, lol!

    I’m a native Pittsburgher. We not only have accents here, we have a whole ‘nother language. We use words like “yinz” (kind of like y’all but better), end sentences with “n’at” (short for and all that), call people “jagoffs” (an idiot or a thorn in your side), and refer to thorny shrubs as “jagger bushes.” We shop at “Jint Iggle” (Giant Eagle), cheer for the “Stillers” (Steelers)–well, except me–I hate football. We give directions by what used to be there: “Go dahn and turn where the Isaly’s used to be…” I could go on and on. We also brag about the fact it’s been called the ugliest accent in the country.

  5. When I was young, we moved around a lot, but always within the mid-Atlantic states. Still, at each new school somebody was sure to say that I talked funny. When I spoke French in France, people thought I was Canadian. My sister has lived in Kentucky since she was in high school, and when she arrives for a visit with me she’s got a definite Kentucky accent–which disappears after a couple of days in Massachusetts.

    In my temping days I occasionally ended up answering phones. In North Carolina I had trouble understanding the callers. In London (where I worked in a department store barber shop), the callers couldn’t understand me unless I faked a British accent.

  6. Scottish. I believe I used to stare and drools bit when my neighbor Roy and his visiting friends would talk within my earshot. It was mesmerizing and a bit creepy on my end.

  7. Scots, Aussie, Irish, in that order, please 🙂 Although I do love to hear a Maine or Boston accent. I’ve worked pretty hard to get rid of my accent, though I know it comes out when I’m tired or angry. New York State has at least three distinct accents. (Edith, you’ll know more about this, I’m just speaking from my own observation). There’s the City/Long Island (and yes, there are variations even there), then there’s the Central to Western New York, which sounds very like the midwest to me, then there’s Northern New York. Albany and Catskills sound more like Western Massachusetts people, pretty neutral. Where I’m from in Northern New York (Adirondacks and St. Lawrence River region), the long i sound comes out “oy.” “Ice” becomes “oyce.” There’s also an odd cadence, which sometimes sounds Irish or Scottish, sometimes more like the French Canadians. Which is all understandable given our proximity to both French and English-speaking Canada (Northern New York borders on both Ontario and Quebec), which is where many of our ancestors came from). And the farther east you go into the Adirondacks, the Frencher people sound. There are many crossover words. For instance, we call a winter hat a “toque”(pronounced “took”, like “spook”). I find languages and dialects endlessly fascinating!

  8. Over a decade ago, a friend from the East Coast stopped me cold when she told me I had a Southern CA accent. What accent? I don’t have an accent. She does!

    Seriously, I would never have said I had one, but apparently I do.

    Accents I enjoy? British, Irish, and Australian.

    And congrats to Julie and Edith!!!

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