Monday, December 23, 2013

Dialects And Such...

Being an amateur linguist, I found this interesting.

And by amateur linguist I mean that I don't get paid to speak, read or translate other languages. That's a good thing. While I have a smattering of German, a touch of French, a little bit of Korean and the odd phrase (or three) in Russian, Italian, Japanese and Zulu, if I had to make a living on my language skills, I would quickly starve.

Oh, I can give you one very useful language tip. The first phrase to learn in any language is, "I'm sorry, I don't speak much whatever, I'm still learning". But do not learn how to pronounce this perfectly. As they won't believe you. I learned this the hard way.

So all that being said, I enjoy language. I try to pick up the rhythm and cadence of a language early on, it helps when learning to pronounce things correctly later on. It's also fun. (To me at any rate, YMMV.)

Though be warned, you can get in trouble with that. I was once told that I speak French with a German accent. Not a good thing in the Francophone parts of Europe. For some reason, the French-speaking Belgians and the French of a certain age don't particularly care for Germans.

Oh wait. I do know the reason for that. I have visited a number of villages in those regions where there are many memorials and head stones in graveyards which bear the words -

Fusillé par les Allemands*

And those will bear a date within one of two sets of dates -

1914 - 1918


1940 - 1945

Old memories die hard in some places.

But (as always) I digress...

I took the quiz at the link given above as I wanted to see where in the American-English dialect spectrum I fell.

As expected, my results were heavily weighted towards New England. Which is, after all, where I learned to speak English. Though I have to tell you a few of my observations regarding my home region, as it were.

I would say that folks from Connecticut have either no accent or they sound slightly like New Yorkers. But my experience with folks from The Constitution State is very limited.

OTOH, I have extensive experience with Vermonters, New Hampshiremen, Bay Staters (Massachusetts), Rhode Islanders and Mainers. Vermonters tend to sound kind of like New Hampshiremen, at least the ones in the Western part of New Hampshire. And vice versa of course. (Eastern New Hampshire folk either have no discernible accent or they sound like Bostonians or Mainers. It all depends on the part of the state you grew up in. My parents both hail from the western regions of The Granite State. So they sound like Vermonters or, Vermonters sound like them, or, uh, never mind...)  The Vermonters up north tend to send like Canadians, especially French Canadians.

Folks in Western Massachusetts sound (to me) like southern Vermonters. Which to me means "no accent" or a barely discernible "twang" on some words. The eastern part of that state? Think Boston. Think "pahk my cah in Ha-vahd yahd". What the Wahlberg brothers, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck sound like when they're not acting. (Yeah, I know. When is that?)

And Rhode Islanders have a very unique and distinctive accent. Most, to me, sound like eastern Massachusetts but not so heavily Bostonian. Others, to my discerning ear, don't speak English at all! At least not any English I recognize. Which may be absolutely true, they may even be speaking Portuguese. Which is not English. Which a Portuguese friend of mine describes as "poorly pronounced Spanish". (I'm sure the Portuguese community in Little Rhody had nothing to do with him having to move to Florida. Rather abruptly...) There are a lot of folks from the Azores (Açores if you will) around these parts.

You'll note that I haven't mentioned Maine at all. My only experience with Mainers is those from the southern coastal regions. It is my opinion that folks from that part of Maine don't speak at all. Except perhaps to utter that Maine classic "Ayuh". Which is short and abrupt or long and drawn out. Depending on what part of the state the Mainer is from. So a conversation with a Mainer (or Mainiac, if you want to get beaten-up while in Maine) would go something like this:

"Is this the road to Bangor?"


"Is it far from here?"


"Is that all you're going to say?"


Smile and nod, slowly get back in your car and drive away. It's not that Mainers don't like outsiders, they apparently just don't like talking to outsiders.

Apparently though (no doubt due to my exposure from people from around the country, and the world) there are a few phrases I tend to use which are apparently typical of three cities in California. Oakland, Stockton and Modesto.

I have never spent any amount of time in either Oakland or Stockton. Though I have driven through both of those cities. My son, The Naviguesser, and his branch of the tribe live near Modesto. So I have spent a little time in that fair city. In fact, I do believe I went to the movies there. Once. But didn't interact with the denizens of that region all that much.

Oh well, go take the quiz (if you haven't already) and tell me how you did. How accurate do you feel it is?

We military guys think we lose our accents over time, but when I was in Germany I was talking with a fellow who had no discernible accent. He asked me "What part of New England are you from?"

I was flabbergasted. Not so much that he recognized the very faint traces of my Vermont accent, but due to the fact the chap was German. Spoke English like a Midwesterner he did. Also spoke about six languages. I'm guessing he was actually a professional linguist. They do have them you know.

H/T to Parrothead Jeff from whom I stole borrowed this via Facebook.
* Shot by the Germans.


  1. My map. I was kinda-sorta surprised coz, like you, I think I've lost what little accent or dialect I ever had... if any.

    1. My brother The Olde Vermonter has lived in Vermont his entire life. He most assuredly has an accent. My Mother tells me that I used to sound just like him.

      So being out and about wearing a uniform for decades at a time, does tend to water the old accent down a bit.

  2. Wow! Dark red band from SLC to Des Moines to the Canadian border.. Guess I'll always be a Rocky Mountain man.

    1. And there's nothing wrong with that!

      (As a matter of fact, the country needs more of your ilk, in my somewhat learned judgement...)

  3. I had to take the quiz twice.
    Differences in the questionnaire produced different results.
    The first result had me at Baltimore, New York City, and Yonkers.
    The second scattered me all over (Baltimore, Modesto, and Salt Lake City).
    I have it on good authority that Baltimore is pronounced "Bal-mer."

    1. The biggest issue I had with the quiz is that it would allow me to select more than one answer.

    2. I too took it twice. Results had me firmly in the Northeast.

    3. I just re-read your second comment, there were a couple of questions where the answer lent itself to multiple responses.

      As to some of the others, it would have been nice to pick more than one. (Might be that world-traveler thing we military types are exposed to...)

  4. Huh; Kentucky, Virginia, and North Carolina. I've never lived in any of those, but my mom's family is from the Clinch River in Tennessee. I suspect a lot of our phrases migrated there, and then to where I was raised in Missouri.

    1. I think as time goes on, a quiz like this will have less and less relevance. We Americans tend to move around a lot as compared to the old days.

      Then again, you learn the language you hear your elders using. So where ever they are from, you get some of that.

      We lived in Long Beach, MS for a whole summer. We had a maid and everything. Explains partly why both of my daughters (who were in that "learning to talk" phase at the time) sometimes pronounce things just like a 65-year old black lady from Mississippi. Seems the maid liked to stop and set a spell with The Missus Herself and the young'ns and chat. She was a grand lady who had a wealth of stories. The girls loved that lady.

  5. Louisiana Texas... Right where I grew up!

    1. The quiz isn't too bad really. I was really puzzled with that Oakland/Stockton/Modesto result until I looked at why. It says because I called a certain traffic structure a "roundabout". Of course, that's what they call it in England, I spent much time with the English while stationed in Germany. So, what did we call that when I was a youth? A rotary. This time the quiz says the closest cities are Worcester and Springfield in Massachusetts and (of course) Providence in Little Rhody.

      So as a well traveled old fart, I seem to have some California in me. Reverting to my youth, I'm squarely in New England.

      Of course, this is a very North America centered test. Be interesting if they could come up with one for us military types. (Skoshi - you were either assigned to Japan or had a boss who was. I picked up a number of Thai phrases from my NCOs, I've never set foot in Thailand.)

  6. I came in as from San Francisco. Ha. I went to grade schools in Texas, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Virginia, Rhode Island, Alabama and New Jersey. 11 very different schools all together, many of them Army kid schools. Oddly, none in California.

    1. I do believe the military experience can skew the results.


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