Catching z's in Illinoiz [WAS: Folk Awareness oif Dialect]

Mike Salovesh t20mxs1 at CORN.CSO.NIU.EDU
Wed Dec 6 10:02:43 UTC 2000

"Douglas G. Wilson" wrote:
> >I've never heard anyone from Illinois pronounce it with the the z on the
> >end. ... I have heard non-Illinoisians say it with the z though.
> Same here. The RHUD says it as well as I can:
> "The pronunciation of ILLINOIS with a final (z) , which occurs chiefly
> among less educated speakers, is least common in Illinois itself,
> increasing in frequency as distance from the state increases."
> -- Doug Wilson

As both a birthright Illinoisan and a resident of long standing, my
offhand reaction was that pronouncing Illinois as an isolated word
ending in z (or s) marks a short-term visitor, not a longterm resident.

The possessive "Illinois's" is an obvious exception. Note that I'm using
Fowler's prescription for marking the possessive for terms with
word-final s . . .  if I remember his advice correctly.  Note, too, that
by calling it "advice", rather than something like "Fowler's law", I
reveal my preference for description over prescription.

But then I remembered an old song about Illinois.  The song is
attributed to the middle 1800s; its rhymes indicate both z and non-z
variants.  The first verse conforms to my prejudices:

        Way down upon the Wabash, such land was never known
        If Adam had crossed over it, the soil he'd surely own
        He'd swear it was the garden he'd lived in while a boy
        And straight declare it Eden in the state of Illinois

CHORUS: Move your fam'ly westward, good health you will enjoy
        And rise to wealth and honor in the State of Illinois

Another verse, however, goes the other way completely:

        Away up in the northland, just by the borderline
        A great commercial city, Chicago, you will find
        Her men are all like Abelard, her women like Heloise
                (pronounced "hell oize")
        All good and honest people 'cause they live in Illinoiz.

CHORUS: So move your fam'ly westward, bring all your girls and boys
        And raise them in that garden spot, the state of Illinoiz.

The song also alternates another pronunciation difference:
Eller-noise/Ellernoy vs. ill- at -noise/Ill- at -noy. Here I find it
impossible to separate a pseudo-authenticating device of latterday
singers from possible pronunciation variants out of the 19th century.
There aren't any convenient rhyming clues to actual pronunciation in
word-initial syllables. That's my justification for not marking the
difference here.

I learned the song from Win Stracke around 1948, give or take a year. (I
did a lot of folksinging back then, always for fun -- and for money on
my good days.) Win was a major guiding light in the founding of The Old
Town School of Folk Music, a major Chicago cultural treasure for most of
the last fifty years.

-- mike salovesh   <salovesh at>     PEACE !!!

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