North/South Differences & Public Radio Accent?

Posted by Lee Gilchrist on October 30, 2001

In Reply to: "What's the giddas?" & Bristol posted by Bob on October 27, 2001

It's interesting, I've lived in Minnesota for 20 years (and some people really do sound like they do in Fargo...although a lot of people put on the accent now) and when I go back to Des Moines, I hear what sounds almost like a drawl. I remember once seeing a demographic map that showed the largest ethnic groups in each area of the country and Des Moines was right on the edge of the nothern midwest Germans and the southern midwest English. Growing up in Des Moines there weren't that many people I knew with German names. In fact I thought everyone with a German name was Jewish.

I also often wonder what affect watching and listening to all the British shows and announcers on public television and radio has had. I know when I had a job interview with an Englishman (if that's still an acceptable term) a few years ago, he commented, "but you're English"...and I said "no I just speak good old Midwestern English". But I wonder if like BBC news reader English, there's beginning to be something you might call a public radio accent?

: : : : : When I was growing up in Des Moines, this was a popular phrase among us kids. It something you say when you join a group of people and want to know what going on and that you want to get in on it. I have no idea of the spelling. I have never heard this anywhere since.
: : : : : Some of us, my self included, also put that extra "r" in words like warshing machine and George Warshington. What's up with that?

: : : : For "giddas" you might try the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) site (link below and URL here):
: : : : dare/dare.html

: : : : From one regional variety of spoken English to another, R's appear and vanish like anything. My father came from (rural) Iowa, and he didn't say "warsh."

: : : R's feature strongly in English regional language differences too. The 'hard' and 'soft' R is spoken in the north and the south respectively. In the south people have 'barths': in the north its 'bath', with the hard A as in man.

: : : Stranger still, near to the town of Bath there's Bristol. People there have the habit of adding L to the end of words. I've heard that the place used to be called Bristo, although I can't find any confirmation of that. They do call the stuff that is used to veneer kitchen worktops formichaeal though which is rather nice.

: : : Patty

: : In Anglo Saxon times 'Bristol' was 'Brigstow' - 'tha gathering place by the bridge'. Bristolians do indeed add an 'l' to the end of words which seem to end in a vowel - hence 'Brigstow' changed to 'Bristol' over the centuries. This habit can be quite confusing, since it leads to words like 'idea' turning to 'ideal' - the true Bristolians can't hear the difference and, after 35 years since moving to the town, neither can I! They tend to go on holiday to places like 'Palmal, Majorcal'.

: Linguists divide regional speech between "rhotic" and "non-rhotic" areas, i.e., where people pronounce their R's or not. I have often speculated that since many early American settlers came from East Anglia (rhotic) that that's why so much American speech is rhotic. Of course, R's tend to disappear in Boston (a suburb of Oxbridge?) and New Yawk (or get rearranged, as in "idear") and R's are softened in the U.S. South, but MidWest and Western U.S. (Standard American pronunciation) is strongly rhotic. (Note the Beach Boys singing "California Girrrrrrrrrrrrrls.")