Tag Archives: pronunciation

100th Post! Y’all Say Potato; We Say Tater

17 Jun

On the SSPL Facebook page, I asked y’all to vote on what my 100th post would be and this topic won unanimously (except for the vote cast by my sister for “cream of something soup,” which I’ll get around to soon).

One day, Geoff says to me: “That’s the only thing you say that makes you really, really, really sound like a redneck.” The word in question: foil. As in tin foil. For him, it has two syllables: foy-ll. For me, there’s only one. Sadly, I do not know how to spell my pronunciation phonetically, but I’ll try: Ok, I have been trying for about ten minutes now, searching the internets even, and I can’t (or cain’t) make it happen. The pronunciation of the “oi” sound (which is consistent across other “oi” words like soil, toil, boil, etc.) does not seem to be one that’s used in any other words in the English language. Or none I can think of. Closest I can come is oh’l. But that’s not it exactly. I think it’s a sound that’s nigh impossible to pronounce unless you know it from the womb (practiced your rolling Rs lately?).

Elfi Walter painted this "pitcher" of a pitcher.

Ok, let’s move on. In the South, what you’re writing with or using to attach a corsage is a PIN. Whether it belongs to you or is atop something, it’s OWN. A PITCHER might be a vessel to pour from or an image captured via camera or a guy in tight pants hurling a ball at another guy in tight pants.

Conversely, DON and DAWN are not pronounced the same way. One is a girl, duh! Also, what you sleep uncomfortably on and how you came by that mess of fish are two different things: COT and CAUGHT.

Most people are familiar with Southerners’ blatant disregard for the letter G, but did you know we also like to change letters or drop them at random? I can’t teach y’all all the variations, but here are a few: supposably, prolly (who needs “bab”?), everbody, histry, libary, chimbly, nuCUler.

This CHARdonnay has a lovely bo-kay, for a $3 bottle o' wine.

Sometimes, just to mix it up, we add letters or even syllables where they don’t belong like misCHEE VEEous or manDENtory. My mayonnaise– (or mannaise) hating friend Sandy has a talent for adding letters where they don’t belong. I can’t figure out what the system is, but when it’s cold out it’s “nipply,” or the black-eyed peas taste a little too “hamhockly.” One of her favorite things to say is, “God bless a moogy milk cow.” And I always think, shouldn’t that cow be moog-Ly?

There are a few pronunciations that are specific to my family (or at least I haven’t heard them elsewhere) like VEE DEEo (for video), Q sin air (for Cuisinart), and CHARdonnay (for Chardonnay).

But my favorite all-time mispronunciation is “Dixie.” Let me explain: Before the Civil War, the Citizen’s Bank of Louisiana issued ten-dollar bank notes that bore the French word “dix” (for 10, which is pronounced “deece”). Folks started calling them “dixies” and the name spread such that the South became known as Dixieland.* Technically, it should have been deece-ie land, but I reckon D.C. was already taken.

*This is my favorite of the three theories on the origin of “Dixie.”

What are your favorite Southern mispronunciations?

Photo credits: Chipotle card by someecards.com, pitcher painting by Elfi Walter available at etsy.com, Three-buck Chuck by GSankary from Flickr Creative Commons.

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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.

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