Category Archives: American English

The accents and dialects of North America.

Accent Prejudice Isn’t “Prejudice Lite”

I’m hesitant to respond to Gawker‘s “Ugliest Accent” tournament. For those who haven’t read it, the piece is a “March-Madness-style” competition to determine America’s “ugliest” regional English. (Pittsburg was crowned the winner last week.) I’m clearly no fan, but Josef Fruehwald offers great critiques … Continue reading

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Iggy Azalea and Ethnolect Appropriation

A few years back, I was talking to an Irish musician about the American blues. I found it strange that British and Irish musicians, particularly those honing their chops in the 1960s, seemed more taken with the form than Americans. “Well,” the … Continue reading

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“Fargo” Redux: Dialect Work in TV’s Renaissance

When Fargo was released in 1996, “Minnesota speech” was largely unknown to the majority of the American populace. With a handful of exceptions, the dialect had little representation in popular culture. The film’s appeal lies not only in the quality of … Continue reading

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“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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The “Awesome” Trajectory

Regarding the subject of my last post, I was struck this passage from Alice Munro’s story, To Reach Japan: They opened the compartment curtain to get more air, now that there was no danger of the child’s falling out.”Awesome to have … Continue reading

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Canadian and American /T/

I recently read Alice Munro‘s famous short story collection Dear Life, my interest piqued after the Canadian writer’s recent Nobel Prize win. I enjoy watching interviews with authors I’m reading, so I looked up several with Munro on YouTube. I … Continue reading

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Pre-R Raising in Cleveland

One of my favorite Food Network personalities is Michael Symon, a decorated chef from Cleveland. Celebrity chefs, refreshingly, tend not to alter their accent much (all those fancy French terms belie the industry’s working-class ethos). Symon is no exception, with … Continue reading

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“Nauseous” (Standard English’s Evolution)

“‘Nauseous‘ doesn’t refer to being sick,” my 9th-grade English teacher told his class. “It refers to something that makes you sick.” He sounded more apologetic than commanding; he didn’t seem to believe this “rule” any more than we did. Yet … Continue reading

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More on Dictionary Pronunciations

As per my last post on “dictionary standards,” here’s an actual editor’s thoughts on dictionary pronunciation guidelines: Good dictionaries leave room for change. Take, for example, a word like “comfortable.” In a pronunciation guide from the early 1960s, the word is … Continue reading

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Midwestern English is Not “Dictionary Standard”

In a recent column, Marilyn Vos Savant (a columnist with an allegedly record-setting IQ) wrote: I’ve retained 99+ percent of my Midwestern ‘accent,’ which sounds like no accent at all because nearly all the words are pronounced according to dictionary standards. A … Continue reading

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