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Mentor-on-the-Lake (pronounced Menner-on-the-Lake), Ohio. Photo credit: Bill Moon. Thanks, Dad!)

“You sound funny,” my son said.

“I know. I’m from Ohio.”

Too many of my conversations with my kids begin this way. But it’s true:

I sound funny here in Maryland. I am a linguistic fish out of water. My Maryland-born kids and I may speak the same language, but regionalisms and accent say a lot.

This time, my recorded voice was one half of a mock interview conducted by my son. I played the author of a book he’d read for a second grade school project. He sounded normal; I sounded every bit of my Cleveland-area upbringing.

Of course, growing up, I thought I sounded normal. Because Clevelanders “do naht hayev ayaccents.” Whether you cop to having an accent or not, they can raise spirited debate; they do in my house, where my Maryland-native husband’s “league” somehow rhymes with “pig.” Huh?

Accents seem to be having something of a heyday. Last month, a Bawlmerese–that’s Baltimore-ese–video went viral; in it, innocent words like “water,” “Tuesday,” and “ambulance” are murdered to become “wooder,” “Toosdee,” and “amblance.”

Back in my native land, Cleveland’s Belt Publishing has just published How to Speak Midwestern by Edward McClelland, who says:

Accents are part of our regional identity. And there is a feeling that these distinct accents aren’t as distinctive as they used to be.

In addition to regionalisms (like “pop” instead of “soda”), accents are a way to represent one’s native place. I do this with not a bit of shame! My “plaza”–hold your nose and you’ll get the a-sound right–is my son’s “plahza”; my “pajamas” is his “pajahmas.”

In this article, McClelland explains that the Cleveland accent is the Inland North accent, “marked by a raised ‘a’ that makes ‘cat’ sound like ‘cayat,’ a fronted ‘o’ that makes ‘box’ sound like ‘bahx.'”

What does all this mean for us writers?

Accent can be portrayed in our writing, and it can work well if done with a deft hand. In my current WIP, I’m writing characters who have an Italian accent, which often drops the “h” sound and rolls or taps the “r” sound–there’s a real musicality there. Not easy to write, but worth it to try.

Veering into dialect can get a little dicey. This Guardian article puts it plainly:

“Do ‘dialect-lite’ or be damned.”

Whether blogging or engaging in other creative writing, accent can provide interesting subtext.

Does your accent shine through? What do you say funny? I’ll start, below.

Comment here or join this Rust Belt Girl on FB.

*Title borrowed from the amazingly funny David Sedaris’s book of essays: Me Talk Pretty One Day

 

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25 thoughts on “Me talk pretty one day*? Probably not.

  1. The word I pronounce most “funny” according to my kids: “crayon.” With my accent, the word has one syllable, so it’s pronounced as “cran.” I’m not the only one. My mom was from Upstate New York, and that’s how she said it. In honor of her and all the other funny-talking people who went before me, “cran” it is!

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  2. Too funny – Accent is definitely a regional thing. I have a close friend who is native Nashville girl and everything is a “coke” or “pop” and every sentence pretty much has a “y’all” in it. πŸ™‚ I cannot say I know how an Ohio person sounds but I bet anyone in the world can spot a Chicagoan in three words or less – jees, those people butcher the English language.

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  3. I never thought I had much of an accent until I moved to North Carolina, where it alerts everyone I speak to that I am a northern outsider. But I have been developing a southern twang for work (customers are more receptive to me when I fake one on the phone). I’m told it’s starting to get pretty good!

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  4. You start to feel like an actress, right? Putting on a southern accent. It didn’t take long for me to adopt “ya’ll”–it’s so handy. I do think accent makes a difference in how you’re perceived–if you’re not native to a place. Have you ever seen the series _Better Call Saul_? We just watched an episode the other night. The lead, a lawyer who helps elderly clients with their wills, tells his secretary to “sound folksy” on the phone. Then, he tells her to talk about Cracker Barrel…it’s pretty hysterical. Thanks for checking in!

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  5. I know this kind of conversation (in German). People can still tell my mother is ‘not from here’ and some even here it when I talk. I’ve heard both, that I talk to pretty and not pretty enough. At this point, I don’t care anymore. If you get the meaning of what I’m saying there’s no need on commenting how I sound like^^

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  6. My eldest brother was born in London and speaks with a Cockney accent, whilst the rest of us do not. He couldn’t have picked it up from living in London as my family moved away soon after he was born. Go figure.

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  7. I loved your piece. It’s funny cause being born and raised in Maryland I’ve realized that we have are own little accents that we never notice until outside of the state lol. For example, pronouncing “Maryland” like “Murr-land”.

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    1. I would love to just be a fly on the wall and hear all the accents there! I think I have a pretty good ear for accents but Scottish ones, in particular, can be pretty tough for me. Def need the subtitles. I think it’s amazing when a person can tell what part of town someone lives on by the slightest subtleties. Thanks for chiming in here. Now, are you brave enough to write in accents?

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      1. I have tried… Glaswegian is difficult while Edinburgh ese is rather dainty. The most difficult are the varieties from the North East England which we lump together as Geordie (but really they are from Newcastle) and don’t include Mackem (from Sunderland). Scouse (Liverpool) competes with Mancunian (Manchester) but that ignores the Woolybacks (those who come from around Liverpool). Further south there are Brummies (Birmingham) speaking Brum, south Londoners speaking Estuary English … the list seems endless.

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  8. Oh man I’m a Pittsburgh girl and I definitely have those moments when my “yinzer” accent comes out! I drink pop, eat chipped ham, and hang out on the sou-side. LMAO
    I do also use the word “yinz” quite often.
    I do, however, avoid the horrendous “Mount Worsh-ingtahn” (shudder)

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    1. I always found it so interesting that the Cleveland and the Pittsburgh accents are so very different-sounding. We both drink pop, but that’s about it. There’s no “yinz” in Cleveland. “You guys” is the standard, I think. Of course, living in the south now I always swore I’d never utter “ya’ll”–but I do. It’s a horrible mish-mash of nasal Midwestern with a dash of Southern. Def weird. Oh well–it’s fun!

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  9. My Rob has picked up some of his mother’s London accent. He says words like tomato as “toe-m-ah-toe” and he adds an er to name endings. It’s a bot posh. He makes fun of my rez accent when I have been staying with family for a bit and come home talking to fast and using “Eh” after every sentence.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Love it! I wonder if your girls sound more like you or their dad? Accents are such fun; I think it’s a shame many accents are going the way of how people think they should sound– based on the accents of those on TV. God help us if we all start talking like the Kardashians!

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    1. Occasionally, I reblog some of my older stuff from back when I had, like, 7 followers! Funny story: my kids turned down a “pop” when we were visiting my dad in OH, thinking “Popsicle.” They only know “soda.” Of course, to order a soda in OH, would mean soda water. Confounding refreshment choices: first world problems, indeed. But really, I think regionalisms are fascinating!

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  10. Fun post! πŸ™‚ The USA is such an enormous country, no doubt the dialects will vary. I live in small Finland (Northern Europe) and we have dialects here too. Mine (of course!) is what I consider the proper one, since I live in the capital, but people from other towns will say we sound snobbish! Anyway, I also wanted to say hi since I read a comment of your on another blog where you mentioned you had twins! Me too! Mine are just a bit over 1 year old, identical boys. How old are yours? πŸ™‚

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    1. Thank you for checking out my site! Just looked at yours (and followed)–wow, really lovely photography; you’ve been everywhere, it seems! And I can totally relate to your blog title. I’m originally from Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. (which is known for its snow). But not like the snow in Finland, of course! Here’s the funny thing: I just started a work-in-progress (maybe one day a novel; we’ll see) that takes place partly in Ohio in the 80s and partly in Finland (right now I’m thinking outside Mikkeli, but that could change) in the 40s (around WWII). What’s the connection (besides snow)? A Finnish settlement in Fairport Harbor, Ohio, near where I grew up. I don’t have any Finnish ancestry and have never even visited, so I have a ton of research to do. Anyway, I’m so pleased to meet you here–blogging is a wonder!–and I can’t wait to explore more of your site. On the twins front: congratulations! Having twins is a wonderful journey! (Mine are almost 9-year-old fraternal twin boys. The early years were tough but it’s totally worth it, because they will be the best of friends. OK, my boys do fight on occasion, but mostly they are at each others’ side through it all. Wonderful meeting you here!

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      1. What a coincidence that you are writing about Finland! Let me know if I can help you with any questions you might have about the language or other details for your story. I must confess I’ve never been to Mikkeli though, and I’m probably not the most typical Finn! Thanks for following and I followed right back, very fun to stumble upon your site and have this little chat! I’m looking forward to seeing my boys interact and become best buddies, right now they are still pretty much in their own little bubbles. It’s been a tough baby year but I’m thrilled to have had twins! πŸ™‚ Happy to hear it’ll get easier, hahah!

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