I’ve been spending some time with friends in Missouri. Since I’ve been here, I’ve learned a few things.
In some areas, the state we’re in is “Mi-zur-ee.” In other areas, “Mi-zur-uh.”
“That hound won’t hunt” means “you’re not getting away with that, young lady.”
“Even a blind sow can find an acorn once in awhile” means “anyone can get lucky once in awhile.”
“The sow found an acorn!” means “I just had a stroke of great luck!”
The lady of the house asked if I’d like some iced tea, and I said, “Sure, a tad bit.” Then I had to explain how much a tad was. (For those who don’t know, it’s more than a pinch, but not quite a schosh.)
Then the same lady said, “So, you’re from Ore-uh-gone.” I cringed and explained “Ore-uh-gone is a city in Illinois. The way you pronounce the name of my state is Orygun.” So important is the proper pronunciation that Oregon has it emblazoned on T-shirts, bumper stickers, magnets, and on and on. (Mispronounce it when you’re in my state at your own peril.)
She, on the other hand, stressed that Illinois has NO s on the end when you say it. It’s Ill-in-Oy. And if you mispronounce it, forget the acorn. The sow becomes bacon and all is utterly lost!
Colloquialisms and regional pronunciations are such fun!
And sitting there, delighting in what my Mi-zur-ee friends were saying, got me to thinking about authentic voice as a writer. When you write, you need to let your true voice, colloquialisms and all, shine forth. Writing nonfiction? Be sure you sound like you! Because your voice is what sets you apart from other writers. Are you a novelist? Make sure your characters use speech that’s authentic to the region they’re in. That touch of realism will delight the readers who know the area, and help educate those who aren’t.
So now I’m curious. What are some colloquialisms or regional pronunciations from your corner of the world?
As it happens, it’s nearly impossible to train a Michigander to say “Ory-gun.” We love our long Os. Mott, a common school name around here, is “Maht.” Almost in a whiny tone. I do correct my people on Oregon when I can. I fear it’s a losing battle. We also like to make all business name possessive. It’s Ford’s, Kmart’s, and Chrysler’s. I won’t even get into Yooper (upper peninsula inhabitants) dialect.
Ron, ah, go ahead…get into it!
I might live in Oklahoma, but I still have New Hampshah blood in my veins. It’s not just hot here, it’s wicked hot, and back in Bahston, it’s wicked cold. And when the Red Sox won the World Series last year, that was wicked pissah. And the Pats game last week. I don’t wanna talk about it. The only way to get through a game like that is trip to the packie for some beahs.
That is wicked cool!
A correction: In the paragraph about “a tad bit,” you use the word “schosh” to mean “a little bit.” There is no such word, really. It’s supposed to be “sukoshi,” a Japanese word that means “just a little.” http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=sukoshi. When you say “sukoshi” fast, like the Japanese do, it sounds like the word you tried to spell. I think you’re better off spelling the real word rather than trying to make up something.
I’m from the South, and I used to have a friend from PA with whom I argued about the pronunciation of “oil.” I gave it two syllables(aw-ul). She gave it three (o-ee-ul).
You made me curious, so I checked Webster’s. The word, and it is indeed a word, is skosh, so I spelled it wrong. And the etymology is exactly as you said.
I guarantee you, though, that even if skosh hadn’t been in Webster’s, it is a word in the mind, hearts, and vocab of those of us who grew up with it.
I’m in Michigan – WAY north of Ron – and everything up here has an Indian name. I live in Ossineke (Ah-sen-neek), just a couple hours southeast of Mackinac (Mack-in-naw). We moved here from Shiawassee (Shi-a-wah-see) County. Husband grew up in Zilwaukee (Zil-wah-kee), just off Tittabawassee (Tid-a-bah-wah-see) Road. I grew up in Lenawee (Len-a-way) County, in Tecumseh (Tah-come-see). And we met in Sault Ste. Marie. (Soo-Saint-Marie)
Okay – that last one is French just to mess everything up.
I would have been a total failure at guessing these pronunciations. But hey, I know how to pronounce Puyallup, Yachats, and Willamette (Pew-AL-up, YAH-hits, & Wi-LAM-met)!
If you live in California, you’re more likely to put a “the” in front of the freeway number. So I never take “I” anything. I take the 405 to the 710 to the 5 to the 10, etcetera.
And those of us across the border north use the I! Too funny.
Your comment about Mi-zur-ee cracked me up. I’m from Kansas City on the Mi-zur-ee side of the line. So I cringed when I went to college in Springfield (southern part of the state) and heard people calling it Mi-zur-uh. That was bad enough, but my friend Naomi was re-christened Na-om-uh!!
I had a friend from the Northeast who says my name, “KAH-run.” Always makes me grin.
I just wrote a blog post on how newcomers to AZ mispronounce the saguaro cactus. If they say “sah-goo-row” instead of “suh-whar-oh”, they’re a newbie.
Sue, thanks for helping us sound like we belong!
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
When I was 15, I told a Californian that I thought the San Joh-Ok-kwin Valley was super hot.
He wheezed and cried and then I realized he was laughing at me. ME? I mean, maybe I shouldda told im that the mission at San Loo-wis Obisspo was nice.
Tamela Hancock Murray
I am from Southern Virginia, but when I ordered a Co-Cola in Northern Virginia, I was presented with a steaming mug of hot cocoa. Good thing I quit drinking sodas.
The word “reng” — short for “reckon” — is a colloquialism I still use. If you listen closely to reruns of the very first Andy Griffith shows, you’ll hear him say it, too.
I reng it’s time for me to get back to work now. Fun post, Karen.
In Oregon, what you stopped drinking is pop.
And then there’s the possessive: “Where’s y’all’s baffroom?” Which I had to ask a sweet little 8-yr-old to repeat 3 times before I understood what she was asking!
I loved this, Karen. And your comment about the sow becoming bacon? Made me laugh out loud. 🙂
I’m from Colorado, as in “rod” rather than “rad’. Not Coloraduh.
I think the most interesting dialect I heard was when we lived in Alabama. When you were talking with one person and addressing them, it was “y’all.” When you were talking to more than one person it was, “all y’all.” I loved that.
I had a friend who used to teach kindergarten and she had the hardest time teaching her students the difference between quite and quiet. With her beautiful drawl they both sounded the same. 🙂
I’m from Texas, and we say it the same way. 🙂
Amy Boucher Pye
I break with received etiquette here in the UK all the time to correct the Brits on their pronunciation of some American places – Los Angeleeees or Mitch-i-gan, anyone? And don’t get me started on the great spiritual disciplines writer Dallas Willard (Will-LARD, they say).
When I first moved here, my hubs and I were invited out to lunch. The host brought out a spice beginning and ending with the letter ‘o’ and delighted in asking me to pronounce it. I did, and they all laughed. “How you do pronounce it?” I asked. “Ore-ey-gan-o.” And that it a key to much of British pronunciation – each syllable gets its own turn.
Fun subject, Karen!
Thanks for playing, Amy!
Fun post for wordlovers! Here, we have a few outsiders who want to say Wesconsin, when it’s clearly WIsconsin.
When I lived in Illinois, just outside of Chicago, always made me grin to hear a native Illinoian (Illini?) pronounce the name of their state. It’s “EL-ih-noy.” No “i” in that one!
Anybody ever live in Pittsburgh? I did for over twenty years. I like to say I’m from the ‘burgh. I often went donton (downtown) to shop, where I woud buy some pants ‘n that, which meant I purchased numerous items including a pair of pants. I would carry my umbrella (accent on the um) in case of rain. I would invite some friends to join me by asking, “Yuns (you plural) interested in goin’ donton? Of course I loved the Stillers (Steelers). Always made sure I ate a hefty plate of cheese fries at every game, and hoped the sun wasn’t too hawt (hot) or I would be cawnstantly (constantly) using a gumband (rubberband) to tie back my hair.
Boy, am I glad to be back in Western New York, although everybody at the ACFW Conference told me I had a funny accent. Especially my dear friends from Mississippi–Miss y’all!
This is great! Thanks, Chris!
Fun topic! I grew up not far from the Illinois “Ore-gone” so it wasn’t until we moved to northern Idaho that I got schooled on “Orygun.” And please, please, please leave the “s” off “Illinois.”
I get called out on being a Chicagoan for my nasal vowels (“pond” comes out “pahnd,” not “pawnd.” “Don” is “dahn,” not “dawn.” “Chicahgo” over “Chicawgo” etc.) and the quirky construction that dangles “with” at the end of the sentence. “I’m going to the store. Do you want to come with?” I’ve tried to pass this off a charming colloquialism based in the German “komm mit,” but nobody’s buying it.
Rachel Leigh Smith
I live in Louisiana. It’s N’awlins or Neworlins. NEVER New Or-leens, or God forbid, New Or-lee-anns.
We’re in Florida. Almost every one I know is from somewhere else, so no one talks the same. Makes it fun to guess at time. 🙂
Hey Chris Storm (Hello, Chris Storm), great name for an author. I live in a Burgh suburb. Went donton shopping a lot. Especially to Kaufman’s (Coffman’s not Kawfman’s) And how about North Versailles? It’s North Versales not the place in France but you can’t get automated voices convinced to say it right. Have you seen Sliberty lately? (That’s East Liberty) Watch out for ice covered sidewalks in the winter! They can be slippy!
Talking good English in Western Pennsylvania.
Slippy! I love it!
Sandy Faye Mauck
Ha. I love dialects and hate mispronunciations. Been guilty myself many a time.
I raised my kids in Prescott, AZ – telling everyone- it is Prescott like biscuit not Pres-scott.
Being born in Washington, D.C. and living in VA. You say Warshington. Can’t kill that one. I still warsh my clothes, too.
What drives me nuts in CA is the perfect Spanish translation of one town and the English version of another Spanish name. AZ and TX do that, too. Like it’s not Waco (like taco) but Wayco and not Nayco in AZ but Naco like taco.
Right now I am living near San Luis Obispo. Everyone here says SLO (slow). We are going to SLO to shop or Paso for Paso Robles which is great because it has a wonky issue with the Robles part.
And I used to live in Prescuit in Yavapai County -not
Ya VAPee but Yava pie like -you have a pie.
I could go on forever.. watch that emPHASsis on the wrong syl LA ble.
Slippy! I love it!
Apparently, we in Minnesota say our a’s wrong. In words like bag, tag, flag, rag, we say the a in long a form, when most other states say it with a short a. We also say pop, instead of soda, and kitty-corner, instead of catty-corner. Words are so much fun!
Hey, pop is the right way!
Too fun, Karen! I grew up in Oregon and would have said it’s pronounced “Organ,” like the instrument. Maybe that comes from saying it too fast? Now living in NE California, not far from Nevada, I often hear eastern news folks using an “ah” for the middle syllable of that state, when it should be the short “a” as in cat.
Coincidentally, just before reading your blog I had opened my laptop to look up the pronunciation of Appalachian, as some folks on a revered radio station were saying the “la” with a short “a.” According to Dictionary.com, the way I’ve always pronounced it–with a long “a”–is the first preference. I enjoyed reading all the delightful comments. I knew some of the tweaks on regional words but also learned a lot!
I say it Ne-vaa-da, but I just discovered there’s a city in Missouri that’s spelled Nevada but pronounced “Ne-vay-duh”!
I’m from Kentucky and Louisville is constantly slaughtered.
“Lou a vul” is the correct pronunciation for natives.
I cringe when I hear, “Louie ville” or
or worse, “Louis ville”
I’ve heard locals pronounce it, and I think you can sound just like them if you do so with a mouth full of mush.
Time for more representation from the East Coast! I was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, where we put R’s and L’s where others don’t see them.
So if I said, “I wash my hands with water in the sink. And I read a terrible library book about Washington, DC….”
It would sound like, “I warrsh my hands with wooder in the zinc. And I read a turrible lyberry book about Warshington, DC.”
As a teen I worked in Bawldymore with some little old ladies with blue beehive hairdo’s, I picked up the habit of calling everyone “hon.”(Short for “honey”.) I can force myself to stop the R’s and L’s…but I’ll never give up the hon!
I was just commenting to a friend that it seems everyone who works at stores or in customer service the last few years has taken to calling me “hon.” Had a sales girl do it today. I’m clearly older than she is, and she called me “hon.” I don’t know why, but it makes me grit my teeth every time. Like she’s being too familiar. Funny how different our responses are!
I’ve got to respond to the “hon” thing. I get incensed at that or “sweetheart”. I almost always call them on it, politely of course. I think we need to educate people on that one. If a man did it, he’d be slapped w/ a lawsuit so it shouldn’t be o.k. for a woman to use such familiar terms. It’s very condescending. I’d like to have the courage to respond, “It’s Dr. Hon, to you!”
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
I get “hon” or “dear”. WHY?
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
I’m from Vancouver. Pronounced “Vancoover”. Where I learned to say “ah-bowt”, not “ah-boot”.
I live near Prince Edward Island, you know, Anne of Green Gables Land? Or as we say here, “Annagreengables”.
Ditch the “of” and you’ll blend in like a local.
There’s a big city in Canada called “Trohno”, but spelled “Toronto”. Everyone there is royally arrogant. Trust me. All Canadians know this.
Oh, and NO, we do NOT say “eh” after every single sentence.
That bugs me, eh?
That big province way east of here? “Noofinlan”. NOT, oh please, “Nyoo-founD-lanD”.
I need a pop.
I love this post! We are from Missouri (Miz-ur-ee). My son recently spent a three months in Saskatchewan with friends. We have had a ball with words lately!
“It’s going to get cold soon, we need to get a new bunny hug (sweater)!”
“If your head is cold, you need at put on your touk.” (uh, sock hat? Yeah, the Canadians laughed long and heartily at that one!)
And the “Eh?” thing? Oh yeah, y’all do that ever’ day! 🙂
I need a sody.
I gave up on pronunciation a long time ago. After all, I’m a pharmacist. Ever try to teach someone how to say some of THOSE words? LOL I have gotten good at phonetics though. 😉
Thanks for the warnings!
I will limit my “hon”s to my immediate geographical area.
Janet Ann Collins
One of my college Linguistics professors told us he knew another Linguistics professor who could tell within 20 miles where anyone in America was from – unless they were from California. Since people from all over the country have moved to that state the accents have all gotten mixed together.
Sandy Faye Mauck
I dunno…I got called hon for the first time last week by my very sweet grocery checker. It shocked me for a second but then I realized she meant it in a nice way.
I think the reason we don’t like it -is because we have all seen too many movies where the snobby rich gal patronizes the nice gal and treats her like trash.
It is like many expressions, it is all in the delivery. Ma’am can make you feel like a soldier’s Ma’am and feel respected and then there are all the others…
I went to high school in Ha-y-ee not Ha-y-ya….
If you said that we knew you were shark bait (a tourist without a tan).
In South Africa/Zimbabwe, we say ‘Howzit” meaning, hello, how are you.
Instead of saying ‘that’s nice,’ we say ‘that’s lekker,’ (Afrikaans). Ja, instead of Yes.
And a phrase that drives foreigners batty is, let’s meet ‘just now’, or I’ll do this ‘just now’. Most foreigners take that as right now. What it really means is any time between now and the next thirty minutes or so.
These are all colloquialisms (there are many more of course). As for pronunciation, well, since we’re so different, I won’t go there, except to say that I love the way Americans pronounce orange. My second book takes place in SA and Zim, so maybe I’ll include a dictionary to explain our local ‘dialect’
Not sure if you would actually call this a colloquialism but I am from Michigan … And when people ask you where in Michigan you are from…every Michigander puts up their right hand and poi ts to somewhere on their palm in illustration of where they live. It’s pretty funny really. Sometimes I think it is simply because they want to avoid mentioning Detroit. I reside at the base of the thumb…..
Janet Ann Collins
All this is important for poets to know because rhyme and meter change depending on dialects. So what can poets do about that? Use only free verse?
Some of the fun mispronunciations come from airline crews not familiar with an area. I got a chuckle out of the announcement that we were arriving shortly in “Spo-cane” instead of ”Spo-can.” As an Idahoan by birth, pronouncing Oregon and Nevada “right” has never been a problem for me; Louisiana is quite another matter.
When I was in school in Illinois, at least 85% of the people pronounced “Idaho” as “Iowa,” But I think that error was more geographical than linguistic! Here are some Idaho towns to test your skill: Weippe, Kamiah, Kooskia.
(Wee-ipe, Kam-ee-eye, Koos-kee – derived from Nez Perce words)
I’m with Sheila–“Lou a vul” is commonly mispronounced, but we also have cities in Kentucky like Versailles (correctly pronounced ver say uhls, not ver sigh), Irvine (ur vuhn) and Athens (ay thins).
This was a fun post. It’s interesting to read all the responses.