Archive for June, 2013

 “An [American’s] way of speaking absolutely classifies him.
The moment he talks he makes some other [American] despise him.”
—Paraphrase of “Why Can’t the English Learn to Speak?”
from My Fair Lady, based on Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw

If you are a close follower of my blog, especially the posts about the South and Southern culture, you will recognize the above quotation as a paraphrase of a quote from the popular musical My Fair Lady which I used to introduce my earlier post titled “Some Southern Stuff IV: Do You Speak Southern?”

Since I began to  publish this blog some of my closest friends and most devoted readers, like my fellow 1956 McGehee (Arkansas) High School classmate and longtime friend Pat Scavo (known to us affectionately as Patsy Mc), have continued to provide me with many interesting items relating to Southern culture and especially Southern speech.

Pat Scavo (aka Patsy McDermott) at graduation from McGehee High School in 1956

Patsy McDermott (now Pat Scavo) at graduation from McGehee High School in 1956

One of the most recent was the following Web site, the results of a survey of some of the most prominent differences in the way Americans speak—especially in what they call different objects and how they pronounce different words. Of course, being an amateur student of regional dialects, particularly Southern versus Northern, my emphasis in this survey focuses on those differences and especially on the differences between Arkie and Okie speech. (As an example, see my earlier post titled “Keep Arkansas in the Accent”)!

Here then are the twenty-two survey maps revealing in detail some of the most evident linguistic differences in the way Americans speak. I have injected into these topics some of my own observations on these particular differences. (To view the maps and then read my comments on each of them, toggle back and forth between the sites by using the back arrow on your toolbar at the top of the page. You may have to double-click rapidly to make the changes.) I will offer more specific examples of differences in Arkie and Okie dialects in my next post titled “Why Cain’t th’ Okies Teech Thur Childrun Howda Tawk Suthun!”

To access the individual maps, click here for the main Web site and then continue to click on each item consecutively, or simply click on each individual site that interests you in the list below:

“Maps That Show the Deepest Linguistic Conflicts in America”
“22 Maps That Show How Americans Speak English
Totally Differently From Each Other”
Business Insider
Quoted with permission of author Walter Hickey
June 5, 2013

Note: For the sake of the geographically challenged I have inserted a map of the United States with the names of the states. On that map Arkansas is the small purple state located in the south-central part of the country with Oklahoma (the light-blue state in the U.S. map) to its west.

Map of the United States with individual states named for ease of identification and location

United States map with individual states named for ease of identification and location (to magnify, click on the map)

1. caramel—carmel

Mari and I disagree with these findings on the pronunciation of “car-ml” (two-syllables) versus “caramel” (three syllables) in Arkansas. We have lived in almost every part of the state (southeast, southwest, northwest, northeast, central, etc.) and have never heard anything but “car-ml.” In more than seventy years of living and/or traveling in and around the state we have never heard “caramel” pronounced with three syllables. We have also done considerable traveling in the rest of the South and also question that three-syllable pronunciation there.

2. been

We agree with this map for the pronunciation of “been” in Arkansas and Oklahoma and the rest of the South.

3. Bowie knife

This map may be correct in indicating that in parts of Texas the most common pronunciation is “Boo-wie,” but the comment from a Texan on this subject is questionable at best, to wit:

From a Texan: “It’s pronounced Boo-wie because it’s named after Jim Bowie (pronounced Boo-wie), who played a major role in the Texas revolution. That explains why we’re the only ones who pronounce it correctly.”

The fact is that Jim Bowie was not a native Texan but was born in Kentucky and spent most of his life in Louisiana. Neither was his famous knife made in Texas but in Historic Washington, Arkansas, by a well-known blacksmith named James Black. It is reported that the actual making of the knife was not supervised by Jim but by his brother Rezin. Jim Bowie’s major claim to fame in Texas (where he lived only six years) was his death at the Alamo in San Antonio, a city which does not appear to be included in the strong blue-colored “Boo-wie” pronunciation belt.

(By the way, I also claim a distant relative, a young Arkie of nineteen years of age, who died in the Alamo alongside “Bo-wie.”) And then there is the fact that Jim and his brother Rezin Bowie owned land (actually a plantation) in Desha County, Arkansas, our home county bordering the Mississippi River, so that we come from Bowie Township—pronounced of course “Bo-wie” and not “Boo-wie.” Thus, much closer study and examination is needed on this issue. (See my earlier post titled “Who Cares about Texas?”)

4. crayon

The map showing that the word “crayon” is pronounced “cray-awn” (with the second syllable pronounced like “dawn”) in north and western Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas seems totally false since we have lived in all three of these regions and have never heard it so pronounced—only as “cray-ahn.”

5. lawyer

Again, the pronunciation of the word “lawyer” as “loyer” (with the first syllable as in “boy”) in Arkansas and Oklahoma and several states to the east of them is totally inaccurate based on the opinion of two people (Mari and I) who have lived in both Arkansas and Oklahoma for almost seventy years!

6. slaw—coleslaw

This one seems reasonable.

7. you guys—y’all

This one is somewhat accurate except that in northwest Arkansas and almost all of Oklahoma the color should be red since long years of painful personal experience have shown that in these areas most people of all ages seem to prefer what I have called the “Yankee-yuppie-uni-sex” term: “you guys.” (For more on this subject and others like it, see my earlier post titled: “Some Southern Stuff IV: Do You Speak Southern?”)

8. mayonnaise

As far as Arkansas and Oklahoma and the South in general, this pronunciation of “mayonnaise” seems to be accurate.

9. pajamas

Again, this pronunciation of the word “pajamas” in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and the rest of the South seems accurate.

10. pecan pie

This pronunciation of “pecan” as both “pee-KAHN” and “pick-AHN” in Arkansas, Oklahoma,  Texas, Louisiana, and the much of the rest of the South seems totally inaccurate since in the first four states it is virtually universally pronounced “p’KAHN” (almost one syllable with no long “pee” sound). In parts of Georgia and South Carolina it is “PEE-kahn,” but with the emphasis on the first syllable, not the last, as I have presented it here.

When Mari and I lived in South Carolina our older son Sean Peacock was called by his fellow pupils “Sean PEE-kahn tree”—which would not have happened in the Mid-South (Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas) where the most common pronunciation is “p’KAHN.”

When we lived in Jonesboro, Arkansas, before moving to South Carolina, I came home from teaching at Arkansas State one day and Mari asked me in which post-season football game ASU was going to be playing. My reply was “The ‘p’KAHN Bowl’” (in Texas) to which she replied, “Oh, Karen (a Yankee friend from Chicago) kept saying they were going to the ‘Pink ANNE Bowl’!” (For use of the Arkansas term “Karo-nut pie” for “pecan pie,” see my earlier post titled “Country Come to Town.”)

11. carbonated beverages

This common term for carbonated drinks as predominantly “Coke” in Arkansas is correct, but in Oklahoma it is almost universally called “pop.” This is just one of the several differences in Arkie and Okie dialects highlighted in my earlier post titled “Some Southern Stuff IV: Do You Speak Southern?” (See my next post for more on this subject of the differences in Arkie-Okie dialects.)

12. crayfish—crawfish—crawdad

Mari and I disagree with the term “crayfish” in South and East Arkansas since in our seven decades of personal experience “crawdad” has always been more common there.

13. traffic circles

We have no strong opinion on this term in either Arkansas or Oklahoma.

14. syrup

We agree that in Arkansas and Oklahoma as in the rest of the South it is usually pronounced “SIR-rup.”

15. footlong sandwich

We agree that generally in Oklahoma and Arkansas that sandwich is called a “sub.” But in our youth before the development of the popular and ubiquitous Subway sandwich shops, in southeast Arkansas at least the Louisiana term “Po’ boy sandwich” was more common.

16. water fountain—drinking fountain

We agree that in Arkansas and Oklahoma, as in most of the rest of the South, it is called a “water fountain.”

17. tennis shoes—gym shoes—sneakers

We agree that in Arkansas and Oklahoma and most of the rest of the South these items are called “tennis shoes.”

18. highway—freeway

We agree that in Arkansas this term “freeway” is generally most common. However, since Oklahoma is reputed to have the nation’s largest number of toll “freeways” (which includes many interstate highways) the most common term for this type of highway there is “turnpike.”

19. raining while the sun is shining

Although not shown on the maps, growing up in rural Arkansas Mari and I always heard this phenomenon called “the devil is beating his wife.”

20. The City

Mari and I are not sure that this term “The City” is even used in Arkansas since we have never heard it there, but in Oklahoma it always refers to Oklahoma City.

21. drive-thru liquor store

As native Southern Baptists and tee-totallers, Mari and I have no knowledge of or strong feelings about any of these terms.

22. Mary—merry—marry

This one is questionable since in Arkansas and Oklahoma they all tend to be pronounced the same way (as “merry” or perhaps a shortened “meri” as when I call Marion “Mari,” pronounced “Meri”; see my earlier post titled “Mari: Anniversary Remembrances”).

However, in parts of the South, such as when we were living in South Carolina, the word “Mary” was pronounced “MAY-ree” and “Sarah” was pronounced “SAY-rah.” In Arkansas in our youth it seemed that “MAY-ree” and “SAY-rah” were used only by rural whites and blacks.

Incidentally, in the 1950s movie version of Tennessee Williams Baby Doll filmed in Benoit, Mississippi, across the Mississippi River from our hometown of McGehee, Arkansas, a white man says to a black woman, “Sang us a song Aint MAY-ree.” This Southern custom of pronouncing “aunt” as “aint” in front of the first name was and is still quite common—even old-time TV Sheriff Andy Taylor, son Opie Taylor, Deputy Barney Fife, and other characters like Gomer Pyle called Andy’s aunt “Aint Bea.” That custom gradually changed to the more conventional “Aunt Bea” in later seasons. Also note that many Southern blacks pronounced (and still pronounce) the word “aunt “as “ahnt.”

23. All 122 linguistic maps on site

Although greatly interesting, these links are too numerous to respond to on this blog post.

Instead, in my next post I will discuss some additional differences in Arkie and Okie dialect that Mari and I have noticed during our thirty-six years of “Oklahomian Exile from the Holy Land”—especially those we have come to hear in more recent years.

Source of Map

United States map with names of states: http://i.infopls.com/images/states_imgmap.gif


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“The past is all around us. We live our lives against a rich backdrop formed by historic buildings. . . . Historic buildings and artifacts can define a region’s localities and communities.”

—Alice Rogers-Johnson, the Lakeport Cemetery Committee,
quoted in “Lakeport Plantation to host reunion celebration,”
McGehee [Arkansas] Times, July 1, 2009 

This second essay on Oklahoma was part of my unsuccessful proposal to the Oklahoma newspapers for a column I planned to write titled “Sooner Living.” I wrote it sometime after my family and I moved into our neighborhood in Sapulpa in the fall of 1977 from Tulsa where we had lived for several months before Mari got the job teaching here.

I have to give credit for most of the factual and historical information in it to the now unknown author of a similar piece on the Rock Creek Indian Church that was published before mine was written and from which I “borrowed” freely. I would give more formal and specific credit except that it has been so many years since I wrote the piece that I could not locate the original piece or discover its author.

If you recognize any portion of this post as being from that original article, please let me know so I can give proper credit to its author and publisher. Except for the three color snapshots from my personal collection, all of the photos in this post are courtesy of the Sapulpa Historical Society. To magnify them for better viewing, simply click on each photo.

Indian Church III

The Rock Creek Indian Church as it looked in 1977-1981 before it burned to the ground (personal snapshot)

Here is my version of that piece as I originally wrote it back in 1981 and revised it in 2012: 

“Think of your forefathers! Think of your posterity!”
—John Quincy Adams 

A few years after my family and I moved to Sapulpa in 1977, we watched the demise of the old Indian church in our neighborhood. After having withstood for almost seventy-five years the ravages of wind and weather and the abuse of vandals, the gaunt old relic, sagging and decayed, finally fell prey to a fire of unknown origin, probably arson.

Like a venerable old patriarch, the ancient structure succumbed to what would have been described, had it been a person, as “old age.” But in a larger sense perhaps the common enemy of all human life and monuments—that destroyer of all that is fine and noble and good in life—is not so much time alone as it is human apathy and unconcern. The old church burned more than three decades ago, but it had died long before, and the cause of death was neglect.

Indian Church

Another view of the Rock Creek Indian Church as it looked in 1977-1981 before it burned to the ground (personal snapshot)

Built soon after the turn of the twentieth century, the Rock Creek Indian Chapel came into existence because somebody cared. That somebody was Mrs. Elizabeth Sapulpa. Born Elizabeth Barnett, this dedicated lady was the widow of James Sapulpa, son of “Chief” Sapulpa, for whom the city was named. A full-blood Creek Indian whose descendants have been active in the religious, civic, and tribal affairs of the area, Mrs. Sapulpa devoted her life to the home mission work of her denomination.

"Chief" Sapulpa (photo taken from a history of Sapulpa, Oklahoma, published by the Sapulpa Daily Herald in 1997)

“Chief” Sapulpa

In 1894 she opened the doors of her log cabin for worship. Burdened by the spiritual need of her fellow Native Americans, she labored tirelessly to achieve her dream of a suitable place of worship for her people.

Sapulpa First House

The first house built in Sapulpa, Oklahoma

In a period when money was scarce for everyone, especially Indians, she sold part of her own Indian land allotment to raise money for the building. After months of effort and sacrifice her dream was realized with the erection of this sturdy Gothic-style frame structure.

Sapulpa Rock Creek Church

The Rock Creek Indian Church as it looked when it was built in the early 1900s

Although affiliated with the Methodist Episcopal Church South as a mission, the church was actually staffed by Indians since it was on Indian lands. It is said that the door of the church was always open to people and that it enjoyed a reputation of being warm and caring.

In the early days it was surrounded by camp houses built by members as temporary lodging while attending the old-fashioned camp meetings, which might last a week at a time. At a time when distances were great and transportation slow, such week-long gatherings for worship, singing, praying, and visiting served both the spiritual and social needs of the members.

Church worship differed from modern practice. True to the customs and beliefs of the day, no piano or other musical instrument was ever used in the services. The congregation was divided, with the women sitting on one side of the room and the men on the other. The pastor, elders, and deacons sat on the stage and led the singing and prayers. Individual seating was also established by tradition, and no one would dare think of occupying a seat reserved by custom for another.

The Rock Creek Church was one of four served by a circuit rider, who drew no fixed salary other than the collection. Early records show that one such collection netted 54 cents and 9 mills. The preacher kept the 50 cents. Four cents and the nine mills went into the church’s funeral fund.

Located on the southwestern outskirts of the city of Sapulpa, the church served its people well for many years. At least once several of the camp houses were destroyed by fire, and the church itself was damaged.

Through time the Indian population became reduced in number and scattered. The congregation fell on hard times. Finally, only a handful remained—too few to continue the maintenance of the church—and it was disbanded.

Sapulpa Indians

Sapulpa Indians in their traditional regalia

Sapulpa Inidan children

Sapulpa Indian mission children from years past

Sapulpa Indian couple

A Sapulpa Indian couple in native dress c. 1880

In the 1960s the Sapulpa Historical Society, in an effort to preserve the historic old building, managed to lease it from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the heirs of Mrs. Sapulpa (since it was built on land that had belonged to her).

A new cedar-shake shingle roof was put on it, but the lease and provisions were too expensive for the Society with its limited funds to maintain, so the edifice again fell into disrepair.

The Society was able to acquire two paintings (one a 1912 work of Christ on the Cross), the pulpit, and several of the worn pews for preservation. Plans were underway to expand the Sapulpa Historical Museum to include a room-sized facsimile of the interior of the old church.

Unfortunately, despite several later attempts by the Society to raise funds for the restoration and preservation of the church building, sufficient support could never be generated.

Then, litigation over the disputed Indian land was settled, the land was sold at public auction, and the combined efforts of the city and the Society were outbid by a land developer.

So, when our family moved into the neighborhood in 1977, there it sat—grown up with weeds, surrounded by its own decayed timbers and shingles, widows broken, doors askew, unpainted and untended, abandoned and forlorn.

Indian Church II

A final view of the Rock Creek Indian Church as it looked in 1977-81 before it burned to the ground (personal snapshot)

Then one night soon afterward, it burned. Since it was only a few blocks down the hill from our home, we walked down to join the neighbors who stood watching the tottering ruins crumble in a shower of sparks and smoke.

Standing there watching the smoldering embers gradually dying out, my wife seemed to voice the sentiment of the scattered crowd: “Well,” she remarked sadly, “I hate to see the old thing burn down, but it’s just as well, I guess. They were going to tear it down anyway to put in a housing development.”

Yes, I suppose it was better to go out in a blaze of glory than to suffer the indignity of being shoved aside by a bulldozer to make way for a housing development.

Still, it does seem to be a shame. Housing developments “ye have with ye always,” but seventy-five-year-old Indian churches, like two-hundred-year-old trees, are rather hard to come by these days.

Note: If this historic old church had been preserved and restored as the Selma Methodist Church of my childhood has been, it would now be about a hundred and ten years old.

Incidentally, as noted, the land on which the old church stood was owned by Mrs. Elizabeth Sapulpa, a Creek Indian. According to the abstract of title, she sold it to a rancher. It was later sold to a developer who built the house in which we live. So the land we now own passed through only two hands from its original Creek Indian owners.

Sapulpa home

The home of James and Elizabeth Sapulpa c. 1910

After the Revolutionary War, my Peacock ancestors in North Carolina were allotted land in Middle Georgia for their service in the North Carolina Militia. That land was taken from Creek Indians who were forcibly moved by the U.S. government to Indian Territory, which became the state of Oklahoma in 1907.

So my Peacock family has benefited from land in both Georgia and Oklahoma that originally belonged to the Creek Indians. I wonder sometimes whether that land is blessed or cursed. There is evidence for both possibilities.

I do know that I would be perfectly happy to take my little piece of land in Oklahoma and “give it back to the Indians,” its original and rightful owners, if I could be provided a similar piece of land in my native and beloved state of Arkansas—back home where I belong. (See my earlier posts on the Southern sense of place and love of the land.)

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