Southern English

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Thu Nov 24 20:15:25 UTC 2005

On 11/24/05, James A. Landau <JJJRLandau at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "James A. Landau" <JJJRLandau at AOL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: Southern English
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> In a message dated Wed, 23 Nov 2005 21:36:56 -0500,  Wilson Gray
> _hwgray at GMAIL.COM_ (mailto:hwgray at GMAIL.COM)
> writes:
> James A. Landau writes
> >"For a long  time I thought it was not  "ro DAY o"
> >but rather "ro  DALE".
> I thought the same thing. It must be God's punishment for having  the bad
> luck to have learned English behind the Cotton Curtain.
> While Kentucky is definitely a Southern state, I would hardly call it
> "behind the Cotton Curtain".  A cornpone-and-magnolia accent would
> stand  out there
> as much as would an Appalachian accent (both were about equally  uncommon,
> in
> my experience), and when I moved North people would ask "You're  from
> Kentucky?  Where's your Southern accent?"

I'd considered using "south of the Mason-Dixon Line, but that's so played
out. ;-) So, I reached for a more, uh, colorful phraseology. ;-) I used to
use "beneath the magolias," till I found out that magnolias are quite common
in, e.g. the greater Boston area. That was quite a shock, given that I can't
recall ever seeing magnolias in Texas and I first heard "above [the region
of] the magnolias" in St. Louis, where magnolias are, in general, unknown.

I almost automatically explain that, though I was born in East Texas - and,
therefore, should have a Southern accent, it has been decades since I've
actually lived in Texas.

>From time to time, as an adult, I've had occasion to live and /or work with
white West Texans from Abilene, Lubbock, etc. and, to my ear, they sound
amazingly like the cowboys in the horse operas of my childhood. OTOH, that
accent sounds very much like the North-Carolina accent used by Andy Griffith
during his stand-up-comedian days, as in "What It Was Was Football." I have
a copy of the entire sketch, but those who are interested in hearing it but
not in buying it can hear a snippet of it at the Apple Store. If you don't
have iTunes, you can hear a snippet at Tower Records or at the other major
on-line record shops.

However, you bring up a good phonetic point.  In my personal
> speech  pattern,
> there is very little difference between /l/ and /w/, e.g. people
> have  heard
> me say "wife" for "life" or vice versa.  Is this typical for
> the  Louisville
> area speech?  Or for Southern speech in general?
> Asides: Ben Zimmer quoted "the "diversity of dialects" in the South,  with
> obligatory references to "Appalachian twangs" and "Elizabethan  lilts"."
> I too have heard the speech of the Appalachian mountaineers referred
> to  as
> Elizabethan.  Considering that white settlement of the Appalachians
> did  not
> really begin until after the tenth year of the Seven Years War,
> the  ancestors
> of these mountaineers must have been in contact with the speech  patterns
> of
> England up through the mid-1700's, and therefore should not
> the  Appalachian
> dialect properly be called "Georgian"?
> I asked my son (raised in New Jersey since age 2) how to
> pronounce  "rodeo".
> He said it was /RO dee o/, and /ro DAY o/ "is the street in  California."
>                - James A. Landau

Clearly, he's a most precocious child, with knowledge and understanding
beyond his years
-Wilson Gray

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