“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.
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”
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.
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.
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?”)
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.”
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!
This one seems reasonable.
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?”)
As far as Arkansas and Oklahoma and the South in general, this pronunciation of “mayonnaise” seems to be accurate.
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.”)
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.)
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.
We agree that in Arkansas and Oklahoma as in the rest of the South it is usually pronounced “SIR-rup.”
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.
We agree that in Arkansas and Oklahoma, as in most of the rest of the South, it is called a “water fountain.”
We agree that in Arkansas and Oklahoma and most of the rest of the South these items are called “tennis shoes.”
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.”
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.
As native Southern Baptists and tee-totallers, Mari and I have no knowledge of or strong feelings about any of these terms.
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.”
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