Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Speaking Southern

I realized after taking yesterday's quiz on speaking Southern or Northern that I have become bilingual, and as such, have lost my ability to know what I would "normally" say.

It's not the case for all words: I do not say nor have I ever said aunt so that it rhymes with ain't although I have relatives who do. Seriously. But I do have an issue with pajamas--I always pronounced in so it rhymes with "job" until we bought one of the Sandra Boynton books Pajama Time, which riffs on dancing in one's pajamas to a musical jam. It's the first time I've made myself mispronounce that word and I've been confused ever since. Do I normally say pa-JAAAAH-ma or pa-JAAAM-a.

I like to think that I can pass for Northern on occassion, as long as that occassion does not involve pronouncing umbrella or cement or talking about driving straight or wearing a tobggan on my head because all of those words have outed me as Southern at one time or another.

I like being Southern and I like my Southern roots, but I don't like that when people listening to me speak get whiplash when they turn to gape at me with slack jaws when I say some odd word or another.

And pronouncing words weird always make me wonder whether my weirdness comes from being Southern or from my family: was my particular mispronunciation a Southern one (pa-JAAAH-ma) or a family one (like jergle--a great word for when you shiver unexplainably). When I first moved away, I spent a lot of my family trips back in the south asking people "If I said to you that I had a straight drive, what would you think I meant?"

Fortunately, it reassured me that my family is not (unusually) nutty; it was a Southern thing.

10 comments:

T. Carter said...

You should have seen (New England Yankee but no discernable accent) Evelin's face the first time (Deep South but no discernable accent) I said the word cement (SEE-mint) around her ...

Carroll said...

OK. Anita, you are absolutely going to have to explain that "straight drive" thing now. Or am I the only one who has no clue and am considerably curious?

T. Carter said...

Googling around, "straight drive" is either the equivalent of a "fastball" in cricket, or it's California talk for an easy commute or maybe just one without stoplights (as in all highway) ...

Actually, the weird West Coast driving talk that trips me up every time I go out that way is the use of a definite article with road numbers: "the 5" or "the 805" instead of "I-95" or "I-10" like we'd say around here or back home ...

The Humanity Critic said...

Being from virginia, but having one parent raised up north and one raise in the deep south, my manner of speaking is all over the place.

OneTiredEma said...

You know, I took that quiz and came out 41% Dixie, so I have my doubts as to its accuracy!

Strictly New England/Mid-Atlantic roots here.

Piratewench said...

They're called jammies!!!!!

Cary said...

73% Dixie. I grew up an army brat, living mostly in NY, VA and KY but have spent the last 17 years in TN and married a true southerner. We have actually gotten in "discussions" on the correct way to pronounce the road we live on: Route 1. (He rhymes it with rout or grout while I say it like root.) Thankfully they finally put in a 911 system for our area which had them change all the road names. We now live on Highland Springs. Who knew 911 could save a marriage. :)

carol said...

46% Dixie. Not possible for this Yankee girl. Must be son-in-law Scott's fault.

Anonymous said...

Spent about twenty years living in Ohio (born in Dayton, Ohio and grew up in Columbus, Dayton, and ended up in a small rural town just outside of Dayton (i think its north of Dayton). My father is black and my mother is white. I knew I never sounded like most black people but I also didn't assume that I sounded southern at all. To southerns, I sound like a yankee because I'm always asked where am I from - never got an explanation for that. I scored 68% Dixie. I wasn't too surprised since the black side of my family sounds more like southern kentucky if anything at all. I came back up on a college summer break to Ohio and my friends had that whiplash when I started talking. That's when I knew, I was losing my northern accent.

Linda McDonough said...

Is straight drive a southern thing? I was admiring my daughter's boyfriend's ability to drive a straight drive and he'd never heard the term before.

My facebook friends got in a long and funny argument about whether one pronounces the w in sword. I'd never heard it, but apparently there were those in the north who did.