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Monday, June 26, 2006

Jessup … fetch me my musket!

I heard a decent NPR piece the other day about how you can identify where all Americans learned to talk based on how they pronounce a handful of words. It's based on a study by these academicalish types who developed the thesis and were good enough to make it fun … you know, for kids. I found it wicked awesome, as my giggles nearly knocked me off of Route (roooootttt!!!) 17.

One bone to pick –Indiana-types, i.e. "ones who Hooszch," according to the interviewee, Mr. Beard, Ph.D., have "no accent" or weird pronunciations … Come now. I lived there for five years and their speech-isms drove me to drink … wait, perhaps I didn't need much help on that score. Anyway, point made … Indianner-types talk funny, too.


Hoosiers who derive from outside of
the Indianapolis suburban donut, but also outside of the Indiana part of Chicagoland – basically, folks who come from area codes 812 and 765, and some of 317 – systematically fail to pronounce the first consonant in any directional noun following "up" – i.e. "Up 'ere," "Up, 'ere," etc. They also take the casual habit of ending sentences with prepositions, which many Americans suffer, and elevate it to a form of bad art – i.e. "Where are you going to?" "Come with," and "Where are you at?"

One of 'em 812 fellers out protestin'

Half of America's radio personalities seem to have roots in Indiana, and
David Letterman and Jane Pauley aren't the only TV successes (note the always lovely Mark Cuban …) who tear up when Jim Nabors sings "Back Home Again In Indiana" before a certain famous 500 mile face. Yet, Indiana-speak is far too filled with peccadillos such as I list to deem its talkers as "accent-free."

Incidentally, I am a nephew to my
I enjoy Babbling Brooks, whereas a
Creek is a sound the floor makes.
Sandwiches of lore are Italians or Subs (you can take the kid out of Mass., but not the Mass. out of the Kid.)
wear sneakers (a favorite point of mockery for my Hoosier wife), and would wear puh-jahhh-mas if it wasn't such a fuss.
drink soda (while my parents drank tonic), and ask Third Bass about Pop

Yet, I have absolutely no response to
the minority view of doing donuts. Yes, the upper mid-west is a strange, strange place.

Whipping Shitties?


Anonymous Timmy B said...

Growing up in Hoosier land one notices the mis-pronounciations are related to the essentially Southern character of its rural residents. Despite Indiana's long love of the Union, there are quite a few Confederate Flags flying on pick-up trucks. Uncle Jesse had a huge Hoosier following!

My relatives have a tendency to speak a fast, Southern twang and say The President lives in Warshington D.C. and "I will do the warsh in the warsher."

I was 12 before I learned my grandmother's "mize well" was really "might as well" squished into another dialect by people who were in a huge hurry (after all, Grandma was housewife on a farm...there was a lot to do).

Her use of the word "reckon" will, I fear, forever be foreign to me.

That said, at least we don't talk like Kennedys. Ya all buthcher the English language. Hey, Rick, where you going to in your tennis shoes?

7:01 AM

Blogger B said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:08 AM

Blogger B said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but making contractions has nothing to do with an accent per se. Not pronouncing the first letter in a specific word of a phrase (as given by example) is just a contraction with the intent being the stating of a phrase more quickly (i.e. tru dat). While the making of contractions in a myriad of ways may have dirven you to drink (we know the truth about that claim), it's not the accent and it is the education level of most Hoosiers.

On NPR this morning in greater 317 (or Indianapolis), it was revealed that IN boasts the nation's highest dropout rate in the nation for those who even make it to HS. Thanks Mitch Daniels for spending time selling our state resources and not saying a word of education... I digress...

So, in conclusion... Indianaians like to conbine words in sometimes stupid ways, but they pronounce them with much better clarity than someone from the New England region.

And for the record, just because Good Will Hunting showed that someone with a medium-intensity Boston accent can be "wicked smart", it still sounds really stupid to those of us who learned (and know how) to pronounce.

8:11 AM

Blogger weasel said...

Not strictly relevant, but Robert Indiana lives on Vinalhaven, ayuh.

Now that's a wicked good artist, bub.

8:50 AM

Blogger Rikki said...


LOVE is a many splendored thing ... in all of its overblownness. I enjoyed watching a golden retriever golden relieve itself on Rockland's "Love" last weekend. That was many and splendored ...


True, true.

Contractions aren't bad, per se. I think my point about those usages -- 'ere, for instance -- wasn't to deem them contractions as they would appear in print, so much as verbal inflection / diction. I think if you asked the same folks to write out what they said, they would write, "What's up there on top of that tree?" and not "What's up'ere on top of that tree?" ... unless they were trying to channel Mark Twain ...

In my ear, accents are cool -- no matter what region they represent. What kills me are regional grammatical and usage pecadillos.

In the interest of fairness, rural Indiana folk may tend to over-do the "preposition ending a sentence" thing, but rural/coastal Mainers seem to butcher the whole present-passive verb tense thing by using was without regard for the plural/singular-ness of the subject -- i.e. "We was down at the beach ...." Kills me!

Reminds me of another Indiana thing: tendency to overuse the gerund form of verbs when a clear, present tense verb would work fine, and general tendency toward the passive voice: i.e. "Were you wanting that last donut?" v. "Do you want the last donut?" Grrrr ...

And for what it's worth, Maine has a decent high school graduation rate, but among the lowest post-secondary attendence/graduation rates in the country. So we have a bunch of people who are really good at spelling and simple math, but who have no skills to do anything else. No wonder no industries want to relocate here ...


In my best Hoosier inflection, "Were you wanting me to answer that question? Where do you want me to direct my comments at?"

First thing -- I think you've hit on an interesting observation about Indiana's speech relative to its geography. Much of the stuff we discuss is inflected by Southernisms. However, you hit on the other half of it -- it's innate Midwestern-ness. Warsh is from the prairie and farmlands of Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, and Wisconsin -- not so much from the South. I'd gander that southerners would say, "Waahhsh." Of note, New Yorkers and Philly-ites would say, "Wooaahhsh."

Considering Indiana's geographic identity, or rather, it's contradictions, it makes total sense that its speech is a contradiction, if not a melding, between that of the Western South (Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas), the prairie Midwest (Illiniois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, etc.), and a touch of whatever it is that defines the Industrial heartland's (Ohio, Michigan, and western Penn.) speech.

Incidentally, ... the accents and regionalisms spoken by my mother, and to a lesser degree by my sisters is not Kennedy. They don't say "fuhhrr-thuuhhrr." They say, "fah-thuh."

I guess my greater point is that accents seem to be fading. All that appears to remain of regional speech lies in the differing words and pronounciation we use for the same things, depending on where we learned to speak.

TV is making all suburban middle and upper-middle class Americans speak with accents indicating that we grew up on the Northside of Indianapolis. What TV hasn't ripped from us, is how we use that Indianapolis accent to label the shoes on our feet, and label the numbered highways that take us from where we live to the rest of the suburban neighborhoods of America.

How's that for cozy?

11:57 AM


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