Category Archives: American English

The accents and dialects of North America.

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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Boston “Brother”

While waiting in Boston’s South Station last week, a man with a thick accent asked for information about the coming bus. After hearing my reply, he said “Thanks, Brother!” (That is, “Bruthah” brʌðə). “Brother,” as commonplace as the word may … Continue reading

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