Monthly Archives: August 2012

The Speech of Old L.A.

My grandmother grew up in Los Angeles. Her L.A. was not the L.A. of contemporary stereotype. It was a city with one of the world’s finest rail systems, gracious Victorian homes in forgotten neighborhoods like Bunker Hill, and a bustling … Continue reading

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Posted in American English | Tagged , , | 21 Comments

Yes, Canada has Regional Dialects

On a train to Canada several months back, I overheard a young man scolding his American companion with the following: ‘Listen. Canada has different accents. Alberta has an accent. Toronto has an accent. We don’t all talk alike.’ I’ve received … Continue reading

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Posted in American English | Tagged , , | 35 Comments

Aristocratic American (Mrs. Roosevelt’s Accent)

I often discuss Received Pronunciation, the British accent which was long the standard of educated speech in England. Although Americans have a hard time understanding how an accent spoken by so few people could be the ‘standard,’ we in fact had … Continue reading

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Posted in American English | Tagged , , | 27 Comments

The 4-1-1 on Urban Metonyms

A metonym is a word which symbolizes another word with which it has some relationship. (Not the most elegant definition, I know). A good example is the way we substitute geographical locations for authority figures or bodies of Government. We use Capitol … Continue reading

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Posted in American English | Tagged | 19 Comments

The Cockney v/w Mystery

When I think of ‘Cockney,’ my mind goes to gritty 1960’s tough guy films: Poor Cow, Get Carter, that kind of thing. That is, I imagine something like the hilarious ‘duelling Michael Caines’ from the Michael Winterbottom comedy The Trip: We … Continue reading

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Posted in British English | Tagged , , | 15 Comments

Fuhgeddaboudit

Some dialect phrases are so parodied that you question whether they have any basis in reality. Note Irish ‘top o’ the mornin‘ (mostly fiction), Australian ‘g’day‘ (mostly fact), and Cockney ‘guvnor‘ (based in fact, but passé). I would add to … Continue reading

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Posted in American English | Tagged , | 12 Comments

Mother Goose Rhymes (When Accents Collide)

Years ago, I was in a pub discussing a subject I can’t recall. A Dublin acquaintance asked a question that sounded like ‘Was he in coat?’ ‘In coat?’ Was this a dialect term I’d never heard? Did he mean ‘Was he … Continue reading

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Posted in English Phonetics | Tagged , | 19 Comments

Yes/No Intonation: The Pennsylvania Question

I lovingly tease my wife for having the most General of American accents I’ve ever heard. She grew up in an area with a unique dialect (the Philadelphia region), yet betrays little of this upbringing in her speech*. Except, that … Continue reading

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Posted in American English | Tagged | 14 Comments

Hond Begs: Belfast /a/ Allophony

Inner-city Belfast is one of the trickiest accents for the average American to understand. Confusing factors include the unique intonation (everything sounds like a question to my ears) and diphthongs (‘bite‘ sounds like American ‘bait‘). Yet the Belfast ‘short-a‘ is one … Continue reading

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Posted in Irish English | 11 Comments