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Humor in Accents: Yes, you have one

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I have traveled a bit in my still fairly young career. Not as much as some jet set people I know that have worked in sales most all of their working lives, but more than what I think the average person has. As part of that travel, I have heard many, many accents throughout the US and a few other countries. Frankly, most accents make me smile and laugh inwardly, some produce and uncontrollable outburst.

The funniest thing about accents, I think, is that most everyone thinks they don’t have one. Guess what, you do. Everyone does, it’s just a simple fact; it’s all relative. You have an accent to someone that speaks differently than you. I live in northern Utah, which really is a melting pot linguistically because of the number of people coming from all over to school here, and others that have spent a couple of years elsewhere speaking a foreign language. That said, Utah has its own set of accents like any other place. There are the natives from American “Fark” (Fork) that always are always good for a laugh.

I spent most of my youth living in Washington State. Our big pet peeve up in the Great Northwest was people moving into our great state. Yeah, we had that attitude that it was “our” state and keep everyone else out, especially those darn Californians. Nevermind that most of us were transplants to the state as well, but we were practically natives now, so it didn’t apply to us. How did you identify yourself as an “outsider?” Aside from the inability to drive in the winter, it usually started first with complaining about the rain. If you weren’t used to the rain to the point that you didn’t even break out an umbrella much less not even realize it was there, you definitely hadn’t lived in the great state long enough to be a local. In Washington we didn’t tan for color, we rusted.

The one outsider trait we all disliked the most was those that came in with an accent that included adding an “R” to the name of our state. I am sure you’ve all heard this before…Washington (war) is not the name, it reads “Wash” in that name. Now I know there will likely be some that read this site that still does this, and just know I have gotten over my strong feelings about this, now I just give that little inward chuckle at both hearings it and realizing how strongly I felt about it. That said, if this makes you realize you do this, perhaps it will help you work that out of your dialect. 🙂

I always thought this came from a specific accent, somewhere in the Northeast, but I searched the ‘net a bit and was surprised to find that in forums threads where people discussed this very thing, no one could pinpoint any place that was the source of the famous added “R.” Some indeed said the Northeast, but others actually claimed it was the oldest of Washington natives that said it. That of course was vehemently denied by Washitonians on the forums…with gusto, I might add. Others even pointed to Arizona/Nevada, and so forth. So no one area was able to be blamed.

All this reflection did make me think more about the different funny things that typify “known” accents in the many ways the English language is spoken. Of course, I know the Brits reading this will claim that we Americans don’t even know how to speak proper English, but that aside, there is humor in every dialect. Here are a few quick ones off the top of my head:

Quarter

  • New Englanders: watch
  • Mid-Atlantic States: Ku-water
  • Midwest: quarter or quarter
  • Westerners: porter

Canada – aside from the always popular to make fun of “eh?” at the end of most sentences, the way they say their “A” within a word. Good example. In the US most of us say Mazda as “mahz-dah” with the long “A” sound. In Canada, it is with more of an “a” like an apple.

The South – what more can I say than what Jeff Foxworthy has done in his comedy for so many years. When I lived there for a couple of years, I came back speaking with what my parents thought was a slur. They thought I had my retainer (one of the joys if post braces as a teen) in my mouth. Natives of the south just do everything at a different pace. Maybe its the heat, but generally speaking they get to things when they darn well feel like it. My favorite words to laugh at there were fixin’ and “ax” (ask).

Bag – pronounced as “beg”. I have seen this one again credited to the Northeast, but there is a girl in our office from the midwest that does this as well.

Adding “ed” to words that don’t have it – “across” becomes “across” for some strange reason.

Mountain – pronounced without the “t” as “moun-un” or something similar. I am guilty of this one and it is credited often to the Northwest. How many people have you heard say “of fun” though from all over? My wife is from Mountain View, California. When we first started dating she would always remind me to put the “t” back in there and say it correctly. That’s ok though, she used to have a hard time putting the “g” properly in words like hanger – she said “her” but she has since corrected it. I am still working on the mountain, so I must be a slow learner or an incredible creative of habit…ok, both really.

There are so, so many more than I haven’t included here, so I’ll ask the readers to put in the comments some of their favorites. Remember, we are celebrating our differences here – while having a good laugh along the way – no one gets offended. I want to see what everyone else has noticed as the common and funny accents or words that come from all over. Give me your best!