Author Archives: Ben

About Ben

Ben Trawick-Smith launched his dialect fascination while working in theatre. He has worked as an actor, playwright, director, critic and dialect coach. Other passions include linguistics, urban development, philosophy and film.

“Courtney Act” and Non-Rhotic Puns

This season of RuPaul’s Drag Race featured Courtney Act (aka Shane Jenek), a renowned drag performer from Brisbane, Australia. In an early episode, Act/Jenek laments that Americans don’t get the pun in his stage name, which sounds similar to “caught in … Continue reading

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Posted in Australian English | Tagged , , , | 16 Comments

Urban Southern English

A reader wrote me recently with a question about his “fading” Southern accent: I am a native, fourth generation Georgian who has lived in Roanoke, Virginia for two years. Before then I spent three years in Austin, Texas; two in … Continue reading

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Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | 14 Comments

Jim Hawkin’s “Blues”

I recently read Stevenson’s Treasure Island, a story I greatly enjoy as a child. The novel’s pirates speak with a dialect I find puzzling as an adult reader: is it the West Country of the early chapters’ setting (akin to … Continue reading

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Posted in British English | Tagged | 6 Comments

Reformed Views on Spelling Reform

Back in college, I obsessed over English spelling reform. Why deal with silent gh’s, I figured, when things can be so much cleaner? So I started inventing phonetically-precise alphabets, ending up with results like this: Tu bii or not tu … Continue reading

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Posted in Miscellaneous Accents and Dialects | Tagged , | 31 Comments

“Jersey” or “Jersey?”

About a week ago, my wife and I went to a fancy grocery store and splurged on an expensive bottle of half-and-half. As we were putting away our haul, I read the description on the back of the bottle and … Continue reading

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Posted in American English | Tagged | 14 Comments

New Mexican Spanish

Wikipedia has many excellent entries on regional dialects. I’m wary of taking all its information at face value, but the site provides good links to relevant sociolinguistics texts that would be tricky for laypeople to track down otherwise. That being … Continue reading

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Posted in Miscellaneous Accents and Dialects | Tagged , | 16 Comments

Contact Info

Hi, all, I’m retiring the “official” email address for this blog (info@dialectblog.com) and replacing it with a simple gmail address. This is not an important change unless you’ve contacted me in the past. Long story short, my host’s email service is … Continue reading

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Henry Higgins, Language Snob

The classic musical My Fair Lady is on TV right now, and I am puzzling over Henry Higgins (I have shared my thoughts about the character before). If he obsesses over dialects so much, why does he hate non-standard English? Lerner and Loewe … Continue reading

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Posted in British English | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Faulkner, Joyce, and Regional Modernism

I most associate literary modernism with Joyce and Faulkner, writers who pushed literature’s boundaries further than they had, and perhaps have since, been pushed. Both explored non-standard grammar and syntax, so it’s no coincidence that they were master “dialect writers.” That … Continue reading

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Posted in Miscellaneous Accents and Dialects | Tagged , | 3 Comments

“Oy,” “Bollocks” and Other Trick Words

In an episode of HBO’s The Newsroom, Emily Mortimer’s character addresses coworkers with a frustrated “oy!” Mortimer does not play a Brooklyn grandmother; “oy” [or “oi“] is a British term roughly similar to American English “hey!”* I would assume the show’s American writer, … Continue reading

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Posted in British English | Tagged | 12 Comments