Heard on The Judges: St. Louis BE

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Wed Aug 4 04:51:05 UTC 2010

One day, two black couples from Saint Louis were on one of the shows.
Sure enough, the -Vr sound spelled variously h-ere/h-ear, th-ere,
-air, etc, was uniformly pronounced [^r], "hurr, thurr, and urrwhurr,"
as the song says.

It reminds me of the old "whar, thar" etc. horse-opers pronunciations
- currently used in the supposed(? I have no idea) North-Georgia
hill-country dialect used in the animated cartoon, "Squidbillies"
(available on YouTube, together with "The Boondoocks" for BE, if
anyone cares) except that the equivalent of "hya(i)r" - "hyurr" -
appears not to occur in BE.

Later, two more such couples appeared and they did *not* use what The
Boston Globe called "the St. Louis drawl." Instead, they used pretty
much what I recall as the StL middle-class BE of my youth.

I assume that, as was the case back in the day, StL continues to have
at least two distinct, local dialects, both obviously very r-ful. of

R-fulness can be hard to track in BE. The same person may say
something like, "_There_ he was, right _wheh_ I tolt[sic] him to be."
OTOH, "yew is / y'all a(re)" seems to be creeping toward universality
in working-class BE speech.

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"––a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
–Mark Twain

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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