59. How to Sound Southern: Accent the First Syllable

19 Jan

Photo by Tom Hynds, Flickr Creative Commons

I’ve never been particularly drawly, even less so having lived outside the South for lo these last 16 years. However, my Dixie tends to slip out around midnight, when I’m too tired (tarred) to add a “g” to the end of every word. You’ll also hear a drawl if I’ve had one drink too many (or maybe that’s just a slur). And if you hear me chatting with my Mississippi peeps on the phone, you might think you’ve happened upon an extremely low budget remake of Steel Magnolias. (I’ll be the one playing Ouiser.)

Considering my non-drawliness, I was surprised when Geoff called me on my pronunciation of ordinary, everyday words. He said, “Say I-N-S-U-R-A-N-C-E.” It took me a few moments to figure out what on earth he wanted me to say. (I can hardly ever spell things aloud, which is why I have a hard time around small children.) When I figure it out, I say, “INsurance.” He says, “It’s pronounced inSURance.” We argue about this for as long as it takes him to pull up some bogus pronunciation tutorial on the Internet that agrees with him.

Once he’s on a roll, he gets me to say words like HALLoween, THANKSgiving, TEEvee, UMbrella, and JUly (which sounds like JEWly).

I had never before noticed that folks in Seattle had such freakish pronunciation. teeVEE? thanksGIVING? Seriously?

Of course, I immediately consulted my Southern friends to assess their pronunciation. Sure enough, we tend shift the emphasis to the first syllables of certain words, Merriam Webster be damned!

I can’t tell you why we do it anymore than I can tell you how folks manage to stretch my name into three syllables: KEE-EE-UM.

190 Responses to “59. How to Sound Southern: Accent the First Syllable”

  1. Mikalee Byerman January 26, 2011 at 9:13 am #

    Well, thank you so much for the lesson: I just had fun trying all the new words I know in “Southern Speak” by just accenting the first syllables!


    • girloutofdixie January 26, 2011 at 4:15 pm #

      Thanks! Here’s another one: We say EEE-ther and y’all say EYE-ther. We say NEE-ther and y’all say NI-ther.

  2. auntbethany January 26, 2011 at 9:13 am #

    Not gonna lie…I had to look up your name on the “About” page to see the three-syllabled origin. Kee-ee-um! I love it! Great post…I’m from Western NY, but as a Pennsylvanian resident, I get made fun of all the time. Some people ask if I’m Canadian. *facepalm*

    Kudos on being FP!

    • girloutofdixie January 26, 2011 at 4:21 pm #

      Yeah, first thing Geoff said after reading the post was, “You should have mentioned what Kee-Ee-Um stood for.”

      I once worked with a Canadian who worked hard to pass for American. He’d ask: “Is it PRO-duce or PRA-duce?” Of course, his cover was blown when he used the phrase “Bob’s your uncle.”

  3. The Simple Life of a Country Man's Wife January 26, 2011 at 9:15 am #


    • girloutofdixie January 26, 2011 at 4:21 pm #


  4. runtobefit January 26, 2011 at 9:18 am #

    I always look at it like this…at least it makes it exciting when you speak. Everyone speaks differently, which makes us all unique. I don’t care that in Texas we say “Ya’ll” instead of You All…it’s a lot easier and a lot more fun! 🙂

    • girloutofdixie January 26, 2011 at 4:26 pm #

      I agree. I love having such a diversity of pronunciations. Even better are the different expressions folks use.

  5. eastlakecounty January 26, 2011 at 9:21 am #

    With the exception of HALLoween, I pronounce every word on your list with the emphasis on the first syllable…even though I know it’s “wrong.” I think it must have something to do with being comfortable on one’s own skin. 😉

    • girloutofdixie January 26, 2011 at 4:28 pm #

      Yep. If saying TEE-vee is wrong, I don’t want to be right!

  6. littlecackles January 26, 2011 at 9:25 am #

    This is fantastic! I’ve lived in Louisiana my entire life and have, of course, noticed how lazy our tongues tend to be. Seven years ago we moved to a much smaller town here and the difference is insane! My name is Sarah — to them, I’m SAY-ruh. I chuckled through the whole post!

    • girloutofdixie January 26, 2011 at 4:31 pm #

      Thanks. I think the smaller the town, the bigger the drawl. Don’t know why this is, but I’m sure I’ve met a few SAY-ruhs in my time.

  7. Carmen January 26, 2011 at 9:26 am #

    My dad, who’s from Baton Rouge and educated, I might add, says things like “MERlot” and “ITaly”. It really drives me batty.

    • girloutofdixie January 26, 2011 at 4:35 pm #

      Oh, yes! My mom always pronounced Chardonnay CHAR-donnay.

  8. Charity January 26, 2011 at 9:28 am #

    A girl after my own heart!! I can ‘t tell you how MANY times I’ve had that same exact conversation!! I’m from VA, lived in LA for 10 years and then 3 years ago moved to NYC, so beileve me when I say…I FEEL YOUR PAIN ha! My BFF just emailed me your link to read and in the body of the email she wrote this “LOVE that she uses examples that are the EXACT words I’ve teased you for!!!!”

    • misseytwisted January 26, 2011 at 2:20 pm #

      Thank you for this post. I am originally from LA and have moved around the country. Am currently trying to re-embrace my southern accent, which consists of leaving off “r” sounds or really accentuating them. I love my accent and am proud of it! Don’t care if others think I sound “stupid” or unprofessional. Nice chatting with Y’ALL.

    • girloutofdixie January 26, 2011 at 5:00 pm #

      Thanks, Charity

      Love it! Glad I could prove to your BFF that you’re not the only one. And thanks to her for sending you the link.

      Thanks, misseytwisted

      I love your accent and am proud of it, too! I, myself, would hate to be accused of sounding “professional.”

  9. J Roycroft January 26, 2011 at 9:30 am #

    Being a Georgia boy I can definitely relate to your post. Conrgrats on FP

    • girloutofdixie January 26, 2011 at 5:02 pm #

      Thanks! Glad you liked it!

    • Caryn July 31, 2019 at 10:35 am #

      GA girl here. Was just having a discussion with my Wisconsin-born coworker and found this post. haha He was making fun of me for saying “IN-surance” and “SEE-meant” (cement)

  10. 4myskin January 26, 2011 at 9:39 am #

    hehe, that’s funny! And most people like Southern Accents…at least I do! 😀 Congrats on being Freshly Pressed and keep it up!

    • girloutofdixie January 26, 2011 at 5:04 pm #

      Thanks! I was back home in MS for christmas, so I’ve got lots of material to work with!

  11. harkheindzel January 26, 2011 at 9:48 am #

    Nice being FP. Nice post

    • girloutofdixie January 26, 2011 at 5:05 pm #

      Thank you!

  12. humanitarikim January 26, 2011 at 10:02 am #

    I live in TEXas. When I talk to cutomers from the north, often they comment on my southern accent. I think it wins them over! 🙂

    • girloutofdixie January 26, 2011 at 5:07 pm #

      A Southern accent does come in handy sometimes!

  13. de.construct.ion January 26, 2011 at 10:14 am #

    Here in Michigan we’re raised to think we don’t have an accent, which is silly to begin with. Yet once on a trip out west, a Seattle-ite felt compelled to ask me where I was from because I said I’d always wanted to visit Or-eh-gone, which is apparently pronounced Organ. We’ll just chalk it up to West sider superiority and forget it 🙂 Great post!

    • girloutofdixie January 26, 2011 at 5:12 pm #

      Thanks! For me, Oregon definitely has three syllables. But mine are more like ORR-EGG-UN.

  14. Southern Elle January 26, 2011 at 10:16 am #

    Sounds like the Seattle pronunciation is closer to British English, which I suppose makes sense!

    • girloutofdixie January 26, 2011 at 5:16 pm #

      I’m not sure, but I had a lot of fun playing pirate with my nephew when I was home for Christmas. Apparently, pirates speak with a British accent. You ought to hear a 6-year-old, very Southern boy speaking with a British accent!!

  15. J January 26, 2011 at 10:33 am #

    I live inMS for a while and I totally understand southern speak. I love to hear southern seniors speak it is hilarious. You learn to just say yes ma’am, no sir:) http://www.copperetiquette.wordpress.com

    • girloutofdixie January 26, 2011 at 5:21 pm #

      I agree. I grew up in MS, but even I sometimes have trouble figuring out what folks are saying. Yes ma’am and no sir are usually safe responses.

  16. lukeaolson January 26, 2011 at 10:34 am #

    As a Linguist, that’s interesting. I don’t spend a whole lot of time analyzing dialects within the US (mostly eastern languages), but that kind of makes sense. Southern vowels have more phonemes, basically, more sounds are added to the vowels, which add to the drawl…which is what makes British English different to Midwest American English, which tends to be more crisp and clean. I’ll have to “process” this a bit more…interesting. Thanks for writing this post….brilliant!

    • girloutofdixie January 26, 2011 at 5:26 pm #

      Thanks! If I had another lifetime, I would love to study linguistics.

      You probably already know about the Speech Accent Archive, but in case you don’t, check it out: http://accent.gmu.edu/index.php

      It’s fascinating. And I think it should be required listening for any dialect coach.

  17. fireandair January 26, 2011 at 10:45 am #

    Hon, I drawl when I’ve had a drink too many, and I’m from Philadelphia. 🙂

    • girloutofdixie January 26, 2011 at 5:26 pm #

      Touché. LOL!

  18. I Made You A Mixtape January 26, 2011 at 10:47 am #

    LOVE a Southern accent. Very sexy.

    • girloutofdixie January 26, 2011 at 5:37 pm #

      Thanks! I love the name of your blog. And as a reformed Duranie (oh, yes, we had names for ourselves), I enjoyed reading your post about them.


  19. wtfwereuthinking January 26, 2011 at 10:53 am #

    Sympathize greatly, Love Ya’ll!!!

    • girloutofdixie January 26, 2011 at 5:37 pm #

      Thanks for reading!

  20. Jen January 26, 2011 at 10:56 am #

    I’ve lived all over the country (CA, AZ, MD, GA, NC, SC, MI), and I can confirm that this is a Southern thing — it isn’t just Seattleites that pronounce those words differently. (And they aren’t the only ones who say Oregon like Or(uh)gan). But lots of pronunciations vary by region of the country. It took me a year to figure out my college roommate (who is originally from Connecticut) meant “drawer” when she said “draw.” Don’t even get me started on the weirdo way people in the mid-Atlantic pronounce “ambulance.”

    I think people don’t usually think of accenting different syllables like that as part of the Southern accent. It surprised me when I first moved South, but now I love it when someone says something like INsurance. I haven’t picked up that particular Southern-ism, but I do say y’all and sometimes will say “fixing to” or “might could” in my head — but I am able to stop myself before saying those out loud. 🙂

    • girloutofdixie January 26, 2011 at 5:48 pm #

      I would find it pretty near (or PURT neer in Southern speak) impossible to remove “fixing to” or “might could” from my vocabulary.

      On Designing Women once (that one time I watched it, you know) they were talking about PMS and Delta Burke’s character said, “Oh, we call that FTS.” “What’s that?” someone asked. “Fixin to start.”

  21. educlaytion January 26, 2011 at 11:00 am #

    I guess southerners just aren’t in any hurry. I come from Pittsburgh where a whole other language exists. I’m often told that I don’t have the accent but every once in while, perhaps around midnight, it slips out. We say Yinz instead of ya’ll. Downtown become dahntahn and stuff like that.

    • fireandair January 26, 2011 at 11:49 am #

      Yinz … I haven’t heard that since I was at Penn State. 🙂 (In Phila, we say yiz.)

    • girloutofdixie January 26, 2011 at 5:50 pm #

      Hurry? I’m not familiar with that word. 🙂

  22. The Narrator January 26, 2011 at 11:00 am #

    I confess. I’m guilty. Of both the first syllable emphasis (made particularly tricky by double-vowel beginnings of words (like aisle)) and also of becoming drawl-ier and drawl-ier as I get sleepier and sleepier. The funny thing is, when I lived in Alabama, my accent never stuck out. Now that I’m in Nashville, though, people comment on it all the time – even though Nashville is a pretty Southern town!

    Love this blog – I’m glad I found it!

    • girloutofdixie January 26, 2011 at 5:55 pm #

      Thanks! I’m glad you found my blog, too!

      The double vowel word that most gets me in trouble is “oil.” I have to make a concerted effort say OY-YULL because nobody around here knows what UL is. It’s easy to remember with olive oil, but tin foil will always be tin FUL.

  23. Ardith January 26, 2011 at 11:10 am #

    Oh no! You’re being pitted against a Seattleite? Love it! (I grew up in eastern WA, moved to the west side for school, and am currently in Oregon.)

    • girloutofdixie January 26, 2011 at 11:05 pm #

      Actually, he’s originally from Nevada, which is how i learned the proper pronunciation of that state: NE-VAA-TA, not NE-VAH-TA.

  24. Belvedere January 26, 2011 at 11:26 am #

    I’ll admit. Living up north all my life, I often have trouble understanding people from down south with the heavy southern drawl.

    • girloutofdixie January 26, 2011 at 11:06 pm #

      I’ll admit, I sometimes have trouble understanding the drawl myself!

  25. Stevie January 26, 2011 at 11:27 am #

    I love it. After living in the south for nearly 2 years I definitely noticed this.

    One question: how did you get the “Share This” at the bottom of your post?


    • Raj Kashyap January 26, 2011 at 2:15 pm #

      In your blog Dashboard, go to Settings>Sharing -HTH

    • girloutofdixie January 26, 2011 at 5:57 pm #

      Hi Stevie,

      Glad you liked my blog.

      I, too, had a tough time figuring out how to get the “share this.”

      Thanks for the info, Raj. I’d long since forgotten how!

  26. Lindsay January 26, 2011 at 11:33 am #

    Oh this is hilarious! I hadn’t thought about that! I’m from Central PA, so I grew up dropping the “g” on the ends of words, too!

    I think Southern accents are sexy!

    • girloutofdixie January 26, 2011 at 11:10 pm #


      I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I think Australian accents are the sexiest.

  27. notesfromrumbleycottage January 26, 2011 at 11:34 am #

    I love hearing different accents, love hearing how words are pronounced at one end of the country and so differntly in another. Great post.

    • girloutofdixie January 26, 2011 at 11:14 pm #

      Thanks! If you haven’t heard of the Speech Accent Archive, you might want to check it out. You can listen to accents from all over the country.

      here’s the link:

  28. deborahbidwell January 26, 2011 at 11:47 am #

    Being Half southern, Momma from South(Texas) , Daddy from north (Wisconsin) lends for a definate mix in my speech, when I lived in FL I noticed it, when I talk to southern friends it also comes in handy to know and speak Southerneze.

    I work in customer service, and whenever someone doesnt understand a southern customer my co-workers either ask me, or transfer them to me cause I can talk the walk, only problem is when I do this, I end up with my drawl back.

    congrat’s on y’all being FP 🙂

    • girloutofdixie January 26, 2011 at 11:16 pm #

      Oh I just love that you’re working as a Southern speech translator. That’s hilarious. Although I must say that if you call your father “Daddy,” you may be more than half Southern. 🙂

  29. Ellie@fitforthesoul January 26, 2011 at 11:53 am #

    Thanks for this lesson! Never really noticed the accented syllables. It’s interesting because I’m a linguistics major and enjoy bits of info such as this. 🙂

    • girloutofdixie January 26, 2011 at 11:18 pm #


      You may have already heard of this, but if not, check out the speech accent archive at http://accent.gmu.edu/

  30. thenakedlistener January 26, 2011 at 11:55 am #

    Most Americans tend to stress the first syllable of any word anyway in comparison to speakers of British English (and that includes the British!). But it doesn’t matter anyway – I just luuuuurve Dixie in females!

    • girloutofdixie January 26, 2011 at 11:27 pm #

      That’s good news to Dixie chicks, seeing as “you can take the girl out of dixie, but you can’t take dixie of of the girl.”

  31. Lakia Gordon January 26, 2011 at 12:41 pm #

    lol loved the article!!

    • girloutofdixie January 26, 2011 at 11:28 pm #

      Glad you liked it. Thanks for reading!

  32. dearexgirlfriend January 26, 2011 at 12:47 pm #

    accents are great. all of them (yes, even thick maine ones). but nothing quite like a southern belles!

    • girloutofdixie January 26, 2011 at 11:34 pm #

      I always thought Southern girls were not appropriately appreciated in “California Girls.”

      “The Southern girls with the way they talk/they knock me out when I’m down there.”

      But then I’ve never been a fan of the Beach Boys anyhow.

  33. jule1 January 26, 2011 at 12:48 pm #

    Oh Lord, Ah’m back in Texas, thank yew, after this post!

    And by the way, mah name in Texas is pronounced “Gee-oo-ah-leeeeeeee”! 😉

    • girloutofdixie January 26, 2011 at 11:39 pm #

      Glad you liked it!

      Now I know the proper way to address my friend julie, who’s an expat from Texas.

  34. reneemason January 26, 2011 at 12:51 pm #

    “Jest two gall darn funi there, sugar britches!” Being raised in Texas, with the first name of Deborah, I was perpetually amazed at how my red neck relatives managed to turn Debbi into an 8 syllable word, as in DAAAAABBBBBBBEEEEE. Loved the post, spot on!

    • girloutofdixie January 26, 2011 at 11:42 pm #

      Thanks! I think only a Southerner could translate your first sentence. Love it!

      Two syllables into eight might just be a record. And then again…

  35. Debbie Pendell January 26, 2011 at 1:02 pm #

    Bless your heart ~ I love the way we talk!

    North Carolina born and bred; transplanted to IL and MI for about 26 years; back home now (almost ~ living in SC).

    So happy to have found your blog.

    • girloutofdixie January 26, 2011 at 11:44 pm #

      I’m delighted that you found my blog! Is it true that South Carolina is less Southern than North Carolina, or does that only apply in Florida?

  36. whenquiet January 26, 2011 at 1:09 pm #

    One of my proudest moments while a senior in college was selecting a controversial theme for a term paper. I titled the term paper Unbelieving the Belief that Black English is Nonstandard English. (This was in 1979, long before I had ever heard about Ebonics.) I received an A+ for that paper. Shortly thereafter, I received my Bachelor of Arts in English. Since I am blogging, I also notice a lot of folk getting freshly pressed who have similar blog themes as I do. I guess us’s oughta jus’ keep on keepin on ‘n see what da ends gon’ be. Congrats from a Chocolate Covered Southern Belle!

    • girloutofdixie January 27, 2011 at 12:14 am #

      That’s a great theme! Congrats on the A+!

      One of my term papers was on transsexuals. I’m pretty sure I didn’t get an A+.

      Please post a link to your blog. I’d love to check it out.

      Thanks for reading, Chocolate Covered Southern Belle! (LOVE that!!)

  37. mynakedbokkie January 26, 2011 at 1:10 pm #

    I have never even thought about it till now.
    Congrats on neing freshly pressed!!!

    • girloutofdixie January 27, 2011 at 12:16 am #

      Thanks so much for reading!

  38. whenquiet January 26, 2011 at 1:30 pm #

    Not sure why my gravatar didn’t show up earlier. Trying again.

  39. makingup3000 January 26, 2011 at 1:49 pm #

    I never thought about it before but that’s so true. I found myself pronouncing these words both ways talking to myself here just to figure out how I say it. Haha. Well if I ever have to do a southern accent I’ll know one of the things to do. Cute post.

    • girloutofdixie January 27, 2011 at 12:18 am #

      Glad you liked the post!

  40. Todd Pack January 26, 2011 at 1:58 pm #

    I used to live in Lexington, Kentucky, and there’s a community close by called Athens — pronounced AY-thens. There exceptions to the first-syllable rule, though. Versailles, Kentucky, isn’t pronounced ver-SIGH. It’s ver-SALES.

    P.S. I liked your blog even before you were Freshly Pressed. Congratulations!

    • girloutofdixie January 27, 2011 at 12:24 am #

      Ver-SALES? Love it!!

      Mississippi has a town called D’lo, which is, of course, pronounced DEE LOW.

      My sister just moved into a suburb called “Provence.” She’s been told that the word is spelled wrong.

      Thanks for being one of my early readers!!

  41. themorselblog January 26, 2011 at 2:01 pm #

    Nice post!

    • girloutofdixie January 27, 2011 at 12:25 am #

      Thanks for reading!!

  42. leahrayanne January 26, 2011 at 2:23 pm #

    Well Kee-ee-um, you have made my day. I’ve lived in Indiana my entire (ENtire) life, but my family is all from Tennessee and Alabama. And until this moment, I never knew that it was Southern to say TEE-vee, but I’ve certainly been called out on it all my life. Oh, and my mom’s name is Jill, but it pert near always comes out “Jee-ohw.” Thanks for bringin’ a smile to my face.

    • girloutofdixie January 27, 2011 at 1:57 pm #

      Oh, yes, ENtire! I should have added that one. My Dixie is starting to rub off. I have more than once caught Geoff saying TEEvee.

      Glad you liked my post!

  43. Anonymous January 26, 2011 at 2:37 pm #

    After moving to South, first term I thought that was quite odd was “gah-lee”. (In Hindi there is “gaali” which has a very different meaning). A lady at work said “gah-lee” for everything. Hahha… “gah-lee”. And terms like “beats me” and “bite me”…

    One syllable names become two or even three syllables – Kim, Tim, Jim, Jeff etc. There’s also this practice of ending certain names with the “r” sound – some actually call me “Roger” 🙂

    • girloutofdixie January 27, 2011 at 2:04 pm #

      For me, the best use of that word will always be Gomer Pyle on the Andy Griffith Show. His is more like “gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa-lee.”

      Yes, Southerners will occasionally take poetic license and insert or remove letters from words whenever it strikes our fancy.

      • Raj Kashyap January 28, 2011 at 9:47 am #

        That one was my comment BTW. WP logged me out and made me go anon. Now you probably can get the “joke” in that last part of my comment. 🙂

        Wow! you have actually taken the time to respond to almost every comment. Another admirable southern custom…

        • girloutofdixie January 31, 2011 at 3:14 pm #

          Raj-er? That’s hilarious!! Only in the South.

          I have a cat named Abhi that one of my relatives calls “Bobby.”

  44. mindslam January 26, 2011 at 3:03 pm #

    That is funny…I am from Memphis & when I was young had cousins that lived in Buffalo, NY. Not only did it sound different…that had totally different words for things than us!

    • girloutofdixie January 27, 2011 at 2:15 pm #

      I hear you! One time I was trying to cook something but the stove wasn’t operating. I hollered upstairs to Geoff that I couldn’t get the eye to turn on.

      He goes, “Eye? What eye?”

      I said, “The eye on the STOVE!” (and added a silent “duh.”)

      He goes, “The eye of the stove? What are you talking about?”

      I said, “The EYE! The EYE! Where you put the frying pan!!”

      He says, “You mean the burner?”

      Well, yes, that’s what I meant. But, no, it’s called an “eye.”

  45. Summer Embee January 26, 2011 at 3:29 pm #

    My Texan husband does this with some words — THANKSgiving has always annoyed me in particular. Because we Californians speak perfectly. 😉

    • girloutofdixie January 27, 2011 at 2:23 pm #

      Don’t get me started on my time in Los Angeles.

      It involves being mocked for pronouncing “Los Feliz” LOS-FEE-LIZ.

  46. ceceliafutch January 26, 2011 at 3:31 pm #

    Loved the post. As a transplanted Louisiana native, I know exactly what you’re talking about. BTW, congrats on being FP.

    • girloutofdixie January 27, 2011 at 2:24 pm #

      Glad you liked it! Thanks for reading.

  47. middleagedplague January 26, 2011 at 3:37 pm #

    My son, who is solidly from the Northwest, insists upon saying vanilla ex-TRACT. Drives me nuts.

    Don’t know how he learned to talk like a Seattlite without every having lived in the place.

    Funny post.

    • girloutofdixie January 27, 2011 at 2:27 pm #

      For me, ex-TRACT is what you do to a tooth.

      Thanks for reading!

  48. becki in seattle January 26, 2011 at 3:38 pm #

    Awesome post! I am a huge phonetics fan and constantly tease my friend for mis-pronouncing words. Gotta admit, I’m on Geoff’s side here. 🙂 My friend is even from Seattle, but constantly accents the first syllable. Interesting. I guess she’s not alone! 😉

    • girloutofdixie January 27, 2011 at 2:28 pm #

      Hey, no fair! It’s my blog, so you have to side with me! 🙂

  49. markp427 January 26, 2011 at 4:41 pm #

    Well dadgummit (is that correct?), you’re right! I never noticed the Southern accented emphasis on the first syllable of the word, but sure enough…

    I’m from Portland, Oregon and I think the accent out here – or lack of one – is boring. My parents hail from Trenton, and I can hear the Jersey in certain words they say all the time.

    Regional dialects sure are fun.

    • girloutofdixie January 27, 2011 at 3:33 pm #

      I love the differences in dialects, too.

      Before I met my friend Karen from New York, I never realized that they leave the “h” off words like “huge” or “humorous.”

  50. Doug M January 26, 2011 at 4:42 pm #

    Ha ha ha! Being a native Seattlite, I never realized there was a difference in accent of syllables. We *do* accent the second syllable, but I always just assumed it was the standard in the US. Proves me wrong. 🙂

    FWIW, I am frequently asked if I am Canadian (or sometimes British) and it’s something about the tone too. I wonder if other Seattlites talk like that. I never noticed myself.

    • girloutofdixie January 27, 2011 at 3:38 pm #

      Once, I interviewed a Canadian over the phone. By the end of the conversation, I realized that I was starting to sound Canadian. It’s weird how accents can be contagious sometimes.

  51. Ragan January 26, 2011 at 5:27 pm #

    I grew up in California, but spent my whole life “fixin to do the warsh”. I have my Southern mom and grandparents to thank. I live in Arkansas now, and no one believes I’m not from here.

  52. Thomas Stazyk January 26, 2011 at 5:27 pm #

    And don’t forget DAY-UM

    • girloutofdixie January 27, 2011 at 3:41 pm #

      another instance where two syllables are better than one!

  53. antiqueshoes January 26, 2011 at 5:33 pm #

    apparently I used to mispronounce comparable.
    I went with com-PAR-able instead of COM-par-able.

    but I suppose it’s the same as people mispronouncing my name as LEE-nna instead of LE-nna.


    • girloutofdixie January 27, 2011 at 3:43 pm #

      yeah, my sister’s name is Jenna, and she’s often called GEE-NA.

  54. disturbedprincess January 26, 2011 at 5:36 pm #

    Wow this is cool good observation. I’m from Minnesota so I have a Minnesotan accent we emphasis our O’s a whole lot lol

    • girloutofdixie January 27, 2011 at 3:45 pm #

      I never knew that till I saw Fargo. 🙂

  55. reelingintheyears.wordpress.com January 26, 2011 at 5:43 pm #

    Hi-LAR-i-ous! (Which is how my fam of origin and I would say it). Growing up in the ‘Shallow South’ simply as contrasted to the Deep South–not that the Carolinas are a least bit shallow, then living in New York, New England, the Midwest and Florida, I have been happily planted in the Deep South for 24 years. One of my all-times favorites is, the pronunciation of ‘realtor.’ And believe you me, yes, we have one in the family.

    Congrats on FP!

    • girloutofdixie January 27, 2011 at 4:33 pm #

      Glad you liked my post!

      I’ve often wondered what the proper pronunciation of “realtor” is. Not enough to look it up or as my friend who is one.

      I usually go with REEL-tur or REEL-a-tur.

  56. thesecretgirlforever January 26, 2011 at 6:49 pm #

    now i know how to talk like im from the south! congrats on being freshky pressed!! :]

    • girloutofdixie January 27, 2011 at 4:35 pm #


  57. Joanne... January 26, 2011 at 7:01 pm #

    As a upstate New Yorker moving to North Carolina, this blog was perfect! I never thought about it, but that is exactly what my southern friends do – emphasize the first syllable. Now I can talk a little bit more like a native, so thanks!

    PS – my first quiz from my southern neighbor was “what’s the difference between “y’all” and “all y’all”? Fortunately I aced it – “y’all” is often one person, and “all y’all” is a group!

    • girloutofdixie January 27, 2011 at 4:47 pm #

      Hmm. There must be different schools of thought on the use of y’all. Where I come from, “y’all” is never singular. “all y’all” is reserved for larger groups.

      i must commend you on your proper spelling of y’all.

  58. lampoondish January 26, 2011 at 7:14 pm #

    it’s one of the most recognisable accents, but i could never figure it out! ..and that’s the simple secret to speakin like niecy nash of Clean House 🙂

    • girloutofdixie January 27, 2011 at 5:10 pm #

      Glad I could help!

  59. ninny92 January 26, 2011 at 7:59 pm #

    I like the way you write – very honest and humourous 🙂

    • girloutofdixie January 27, 2011 at 5:11 pm #

      I like the way you write – straightforward and complimentary!


  60. ninny92 January 26, 2011 at 7:59 pm #

    I’m erm Asian so I spell “humorous” as “humourous” 🙂

  61. TheManInTheYellowHat January 26, 2011 at 8:00 pm #

    Hilarious! (Or HI-larious!) My sister says IN-surance and THANKS-giving and it’s always bugged me. Now I understand where it might’ve come from. Although she was born in Chicago like the rest of us, she was conceived down south. That Southern accent is pretty powerful.

    • girloutofdixie January 27, 2011 at 5:13 pm #

      That’s funny. I was conceived in New York City, which may be why I’ve always been a city girl.

  62. vanaye January 26, 2011 at 8:02 pm #

    Your fantastic!!! I’m from Cali among the Southerners!!! I love it!!!!

    • girloutofdixie January 27, 2011 at 5:17 pm #

      Thanks! This Southern girl lived in california for 7 years. I imagine the culture shock goes both ways!

  63. Hippie Cahier January 26, 2011 at 8:12 pm #

    I lost track of you for awhile. I’m so glad to see you’re back and I’m looking forward to looking at what I’ve missed. I just love your blog.

    It is indeed an honor to be next to you on FP. Congratulations!

    • girloutofdixie January 27, 2011 at 5:19 pm #

      Thanks! Glad to “see” you again!

      I enjoyed being next to you on FP. Let’s meet there again soon!

  64. Salgal January 26, 2011 at 8:23 pm #

    Well, Im from Michigan eh? And as soon as I say that word “eh” I give myself away. My parents were born in the Upper Penninsula.
    Say yeah to da UP eh! It was a normal word in the vocabulary in our house. I live in Reno NV now and everyone always comments on my accent. What Accent, I say? Eh?

    • girloutofdixie January 27, 2011 at 5:22 pm #


  65. Melanie Hillam - Protocol Coach January 26, 2011 at 9:59 pm #

    I giggled all through your post – thanks. As far as accents go though, try being a Kiwi in Utah! Ü

    • girloutofdixie January 27, 2011 at 5:26 pm #

      Glad you liked it.

      Kiwi in Utah? I feel your pain!

  66. lifeofaphoenix January 26, 2011 at 10:01 pm #

    First, Congrats on being Freshly Pressed! I am originally from upstate, NY. I now live in Seattle and my husband can always tell when I talk to friends or family from back home. I stess all of my middle vowels and say things like mElk instead of mIlk. East coast people say OregOn and west coasties say OregEn for the state. I laughed out loud reading your post thinking… “God, I’m not alone”!

    So Thank You!!

    • girloutofdixie January 27, 2011 at 5:29 pm #

      You’re welcome!

      Whenever I come back to Seattle after a visit to MS, it takes me a day or two to adjust. It’s like accent lag.

  67. inidna January 27, 2011 at 12:28 am #

    Ha, KEE-EE-UM, congrats on being freshly pressed and thanks for making me LOL. I just had a lot of fun putting on a Southern accent with the words mentioned in the post. Makes me want to give it a go with other words but then I might just sound a bit too silly (not that I didn’t already). And, I think the way they speak in the South is quite quaint 🙂

    • girloutofdixie January 27, 2011 at 5:32 pm #


      Glad you had fun trying on the accent!

  68. richannkur January 27, 2011 at 12:53 am #


    • girloutofdixie January 27, 2011 at 5:32 pm #


  69. Implore Vida January 27, 2011 at 3:59 am #

    Congrats on being FP! I love a good transplant story. Your blog is awesome. I’m originally from NC central-then western-then eastern. One late summer day, I found this road called I-95 and heard Frankie calling my name. On my first day in the big city, I was asked for directions by a stranger and I could deliver the information. I guess my fascination with maps helps. I passed as a New Yorker (self-qualified, that is) for at least 3 years before moving to SC and coppin’ a squat in Charleston for the last 9.5 years. (like how I digitized that time frame? That’s residual NY essence. LOL). Anyway, hey there, nice to read ya, and I look forward to your posts!

    • girloutofdixie January 27, 2011 at 5:40 pm #

      Love your story of passing as a new yorker. I’m sure that couldn’t have been easy!!

      One of my best moments when I was in Paris was being stopped by a Parisian and asked for directions. I wasn’t able to help much. But, passing for a Parisian for even a few minutes was pretty awesome!

  70. michael hill January 27, 2011 at 4:42 am #

    Anyone here from Floor-duh?

  71. Adrian January 27, 2011 at 5:15 am #

    Interesting but funny as well…

  72. brightbunch5plus1 January 27, 2011 at 7:13 am #

    Hahaha, I love it! Having grown up in the South with a family from the Dominican Republic makes it even more interesting for me. I have a southern- twang in my English and a southern-twang in my Spanish, ROFL! Heh… imagine that!

    • girloutofdixie January 27, 2011 at 5:44 pm #

      Bi-twang-ual! Love it!!

  73. MaryV January 27, 2011 at 7:51 am #

    Great post! I was born and raised in Louisiana. Got married and moved to Mississippi. Everyone has called me May-ree, since before I can remember. hehe. Congrats on FP!

    • girloutofdixie January 27, 2011 at 5:46 pm #


      My sister’s best friend Mary Bess is practically part of the family, but my dad never fails to refer to her as Mary Beth.

  74. Scott January 27, 2011 at 8:11 am #

    Delightful blog! Originally from MS, but spent a couple of years overseas, then lived in NM for eight years before moving to Looziana. Neither of my parents was from MS, so I never developed a really strong accent, but my pronunciation is southern and I never could stop saying y’all.

    I am surprised that, being a native, you didn’t mention the normal pronunciation of “Mississippi” as being MIS-sippy.

    • girloutofdixie January 27, 2011 at 5:49 pm #


      I have to say, most of the folks I know pronounce all the syllables of Mississippi. We like to stretch words as far as they can possibly go…and beyond.

  75. acardott January 27, 2011 at 8:11 am #

    Germanic initial syllable stress convention, dude

  76. nearlynormalized January 27, 2011 at 9:17 am #

    We were playing cards (Spades) with a friend from rural Arkansas–that in itself should be enough to keep ones ears wide open in trying to understand the regional speech. That said, she was saying Neel, she was going to play Neel…Well after a minute I looked at her and asked, “Who is Neal?”
    Bottom line to this is she was say she wanted to pay ‘Nil’. I got it, add an extra syllable, speak a tad slower then a New Yorker, low emphasis (not to much drama) and you have an understanding of rural Arkansan speech; I love it!!!!

    • girloutofdixie January 27, 2011 at 6:02 pm #

      That’s funny.

      If you want something to write with, be sure to ask for a PEE-UN. Or maybe even a PEE-EE-UN.

  77. The Letter "B" January 27, 2011 at 10:37 am #

    I was born and raised in the South. Most people find it surprising when I mention this because my family (mom’s side) didn’t really have the stereotypical accent. However, a friend from college (from California) pointed out that I said “UM-brella” while Americans from other regions place emphasis on other syllables. I became INcreasingly cognizant of it and made sure I didn’t do this while teaching English to non-native English speakers in Brazil. But now that I am back home, an UMbrella will do me just fine. 😉

    • girloutofdixie January 27, 2011 at 6:11 pm #

      Oh, yes, UM-brella. You’d think I’d remember that one living in Seattle, but I haven’t used an UM-brella in ages. That’s how you tell the tourists from the residents. They carry umbrellas. We walk faster.

      Love your ESL teaching story!!

  78. momintraining13 January 27, 2011 at 3:47 pm #

    I’m from the south and didn’t think I had much of an accent. Compared to most Cajuns, I don’t. But I would have emphasized those first syllable’s just like you did.

    • girloutofdixie January 27, 2011 at 6:18 pm #

      Compared to most Cajuns, nobody has an accent!

      If I were to venture outside New Orleans, I’d consider bringing along a translator.

      I love to hear Cajuns speak, though (and play music!). My favorite is when asked for directions, they’ll tell you something is “five or four” miles down the road.

  79. Zach January 27, 2011 at 6:43 pm #

    Ya’ll thanks for the post, it was a fun read!!

  80. languagesofmastery January 28, 2011 at 2:58 pm #

    Hahaha, I love this blog. I’ve stumbled on it once or twice. I’m actually subscribing now.

    • girloutofdixie January 31, 2011 at 3:22 pm #

      yay! thanks for subscribing!!

  81. nearlynormalized January 30, 2011 at 7:17 am #

    We were waiting in line at a store and I heard the most wonderful Southern accent…Slow, low keyed, so beautiful…Accent was North Carolinian and I turned to see who was speaking and it was a young Asian girl. I smiled and had to ask if English was her first language. (I don’t think I was being rude) She said, “No”, Korean was and she was brought to the United States when she was three. I asked her if she speaks Korean with a North Carolinian accent and she said she does…It was such a joy to see and hear this woman speak to me in English and then speak to her Mom in Korean with the Southern tilt. Yeah for us!!!

    • girloutofdixie February 4, 2011 at 1:54 pm #

      My dad served in Korea during the war, where he learned to sing “Jesus Loves Me” in Korean. I’m pretty sure his version is way more drawl-y than native speakers…

  82. Felicia January 30, 2011 at 1:29 pm #

    This is so great! I’m from Alabama and I was just recently transplanted to Delaware. After six months, you would think I would get used to all of the comments on my southern drawl. I like to think that my accent makes me seem mysterious and foreign!

    • girloutofdixie February 4, 2011 at 1:57 pm #

      It does!

      As the Drive By Truckers say:

      “Don’t worry about losing your accent
      A Southern man tells better jokes.”

  83. noone January 30, 2011 at 2:43 pm #

    that’s great. I never use to speak that way and I’m not from the south… good old southern Ohio (ohiya). But my former husband does the syllable thing and I picked it up from him. People think I’m crazy. (he’s not from the south either, just southeastern ohio.
    I use to say “mountain DEW” – now I say, “MOUNTain dew”
    Everyone else pronounces my name, “Leah DAWN”, he pronounces it, “LEAH Dawn”
    thanks for sharing

    • girloutofdixie February 4, 2011 at 2:02 pm #

      Are you sure you’re not from the South? Folks with two first names usually are. 🙂

      Out of curiosity, do you pronounce “Dawn” the same as “Don”? People around here do, but my sister’s middle name and we always pronounced it the Tanya Tucker way: DAW-n.

  84. Trinity River January 31, 2011 at 7:42 pm #

    May I missed up above, but a frying pan is pronounced fryin Pay-un. And there are the every popular y’all and fixinta 🙂

  85. Emily Pickett February 4, 2011 at 7:40 am #

    Loved this! My husband and I met in high school in Indiana, but I was a transplant there from the east coast. There’s a joke that Indiana is really a southern state that some how got to far north and the accents prove it.

    To this day, (10 years later), my husband still does not understand when I correct his pronunciation of the word “color”, which comes out sounding more like COLLAR. And I am very familiar with the first syllable stress. For a time I lived in Fort WAYNE, but husband’s family calls it FORT wayne!

    I love this kind of stuff–that’s probably why I have an English degree! Thanks for posting.

    • girloutofdixie February 4, 2011 at 2:07 pm #

      Glad you enjoyed the post.

      Interesting that they call it FORT wayne. I tried to think of how I pronounce Fort Worth. I think I’ve always said FORT-WORTH. But I’m sure there are folks from home who call it FORT worth.

  86. Raj Kashyap March 10, 2011 at 8:44 am #

    Was listening to this on NPR couple of days ago. Thought you might like this: http://www.npr.org/2011/03/08/134359354/sam-chwat-dialect-coach-to-the-stars-and-to-us

    Sam Chwat, Dialect Coach To The Stars
    “Julia Roberts sought him out, first to lose her Georgia accent and then to regain it for her role in Steel Magnolias.”

    • Kim Holloway March 10, 2011 at 1:09 pm #

      Thanks for sharing the NPR story, Raj. For the opposing viewpoint, check out: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/138/the-real-thing

      A Southern expat expounds on how Sam Chwat trains actors in the “Foghorn Leghorn” school of Southern accents.

      I’m sure Sam Chwat knew a lot about vocal sounds, diction, dialects, etc. but his Southern accent coaching left a lot to be desired.

      I was shocked to learn from his interview that “The vowel “I” never exists in the South.” Or rather, I should say that “Ah” was shocked. And for the record, I’ve never met a Southerner who dropped “r”s in the manner (or manna’) he suggests. We say “here” and “there” not “heah” and “theah.”

      • Raj Kashyap March 10, 2011 at 3:56 pm #

        Agree. May be, Larry The Cable Guy would be a good coach (Tow-Mater was awesome – can’t wait for Cars II) just for Southern accent. Sam Chwat had to deal with a large variety of regional variations from the Gulf to the Lakes. As he mentions in the interview, there are discernible differences among the various ethnic groups (Anglo, Irish, Scottish etc) as well. It keeps changing with every new generation. It’s a tough job, studying, practicing and coaching others in multiple accents and dialects. Very difficult to make it sound convincing. While it is easy to get carried away with generalizations, stereotyping and exaggerations.

        • Kim Holloway March 15, 2011 at 11:08 am #

          Indeed, creating a convincing Southern accent is extremely difficult, especially for actors whose only exposure to the accent is via TV or movies.

          I have to make a conscious effort to tune out terrible Southern accents. Whereas, I’ve probably been subject to countless other terrible accents from other countries/cultures without realizing their terribleness, seeing as I don’t have an ear for what’s wrong.

  87. Val Erde March 13, 2011 at 7:28 am #

    As I struggle with the American pronunciation of aluminium (a LOO minum, to my ears) which here in the UK we pronounce Alyoo MINNY um, this does not surprise me in the least!


    • Kim Holloway March 15, 2011 at 11:20 am #

      In my house, there is regular debate on the pronunciation of the word “foil” (as in “aluminum foil” or as Southerners say, “tin foil.”) My boyfriend pronounces it “Foy-you’ll” as do most non-Southerners; we say…hmm…I can’t even think how to spell it out…FOLL (maybe?).

  88. Charity May 10, 2011 at 9:34 am #

    I was about to post a comment on a friends photo and noticed facebook was indicating that my spelling of the word “Mischievous” (correct spelling) was incorrect, I was spelling it the way I’ve heard it pronounced my WHOLE life.. “Mischievious” (Mis-chee-vee-us) ! My question to you, did any of your Southern folk pronounce it that way? Or are my kin folk just special lol

    Charity (a citified southerner lol)

    • Kim Holloway May 12, 2011 at 4:47 pm #

      Oh, yes, yes they did (and still do).

      My 100th post will be on mispronunciation. Stay tuned!

  89. DessertForTwo June 14, 2011 at 8:32 am #

    Oh my god. I talk like this. I had no idea. It really is JEW-ly, INsurance, and the like!

    Another one my friends laugh at: grease (with a soft c sound) rather than grease (with a z sound). Don’t know if that makes sense.

    • Kim Holloway June 14, 2011 at 10:42 am #

      They say “greaze”? That is 18 kinds of wrong. Point them thisaway: http://www.merriam-webster.com/cgi-bin/audio.pl?grease01=grease

      Ok, maybe not, seeing as Southerners blatantly disregard proper pronunciation. They might want to retaliate by pointing out all the words we pronounce incorrectly…

  90. ashleyolsonrosen July 27, 2011 at 8:26 pm #

    I love this! My hubbie is from Connecticut and one of the first conversations my father-in-law and I had was … well, less a conversation than a debate… well, less a debate than an argument … about how to properly pronounce INsurance and UMbrella. We agreed to just never use those words around each other. But sometimes when he visits our house, I repeatedly whisper the RIGHT pronunciation through the vent.
    I love your blog!

    • Kim Holloway August 8, 2011 at 10:57 am #

      Glad you’re enjoying my blog!

      Maybe whispering through the vent will plant subliminal messages. I’ve heard my Reno, NV, born boyfriend say TEE-vee on more than one occasion. Makes me proud…

  91. Matt November 11, 2011 at 8:36 am #

    I know the Tennessee-Arkansas-Missouri accent of my “ruts” puts the stress on the first syllable, but that has a lot to do with the fact that we only pay lip service to the rest of the word. I’d say IN-surnce with 2 syllables, any the only vowel I’d really pronounce in the second syllable would be the “u”. Even with over a decade in CA and NY, I still reduce many 3-syllable words down to a manageable 2. You might know it as the Memphis mumble.

    Also, no matter what they say, most people secretly envy our mastery of the most beautiful and poetic version of the English language. Not just words, but phrases. I’ve heard a few Long Islanders that “might could take on that project” or “heard tell that so-and-so quit” after hanging around me for a year. It’s still not proper English (Long Island English sounds like someone murdering a seagull), but its an improvement.

    • Kim Holloway March 26, 2012 at 4:02 pm #

      Hi Matt, I always think it’s strange how some Southerners like to expand words into as many syllables as possible while others prefer to contract. I’ve never heard it called the Memphis mumble, but that’s how I’ll refer to it from now on. One time I was looking for parking and I said, “I might should have parked back there.” My friend said, “Is that a Southern thing?” I said, “Yeah, I reckon it is.”

  92. stonekingseminars January 25, 2013 at 5:10 am #

    love yer stuff – hillBilly residing in Australia – check me out at http://www.wheresthedrama.com


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