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January 28th, 2009

We Speak With Funny Words

I am fascinated by accents and dialects. I always have been. Not exactly sure why, but the regional differences in language are just so cool to me. (So if you hear me pointing something out in your speech, don't be offended. I'm just most likely fascinated.) Somehow I found myself on the Wikipedia page for Central Pennsylvania accent. And I'm going through it, reading all the examples, catching the ones I do, catching the ones I didn't realize I did, and going "no! That one's more Pittsburgh!"

Having grown up in Central Pennsylvania, I don't do as many as some (perhaps even most) Central Pennsylvanians. Part of that is definitely education and schooling, as I always prided myself in speaking properly, unlike the (what I considered to be) unwashed masses around me. However, part of that is because my parents are not from Central Pennsylvania. They are from Southwestern Pennsylvania, and have parts of the Pittsburgh English accent (my father more than my mother). So I learned how to talk from people with the Pittsburgh accent (as well as, I'm sure, from the television.) And taking trips out to Southwestern PA as a child, I picked up on the obvious differences in dialect that my relatives spoke.

That being said, if I have to assign a dialect to myself, Central Pennsylvanian would probably be it. Certainly not Pittsburgh. I say "soda", not "pop", thank you very much. ;-)

So my accent is a mix of Central Pennsylvania things ("redd up" for "tidy up", although supposedly that's also found in Pittsburgh, although I never heard it out there), a few Pittsburgh things (I say "gum bands" instead of "rubber bands", I call it "kibassi" which is similar to the "kolbassi" of Pittsburgh, which is actually the Polish word for kielbasa), and a distinct lack of other Central PA things (the first time someone said to me "It's all", meaning "it's all gone", I was totally confused.)

And the truth is, there are many similarities between the Pittsburgh and the Central Pennsylvania dialects. But there's also plenty of differences.

And I love figuring out boundaries and who does what. Like, my mother's parents spent their teenage years and most of their adult lives in Washington, PA, which is in the heart of Southwestern PA. They say "warsh" instead of "wash". I honestly don't remember what Mom and Dad say. But I know I say "wash". The funny thing? My housemate, who is born and bred and has lived in the DC area all his life... he says "warsh". I always associated this with Pittsburgh and some with where I grew up. Huh. (The thing is, there's actually a large transplanted population of Southwestern Pennsylvanians where I grew up. But most of the people I grew up around were natives.Some of my parents' friends were from the Pittsburgh area, though.)

And I remember reading a fascinating article on tiny little accents and dialects of the Chesapeake Bay, ones that are totally dying out because they were so specific to an area and now people are moving out and interacting with others more. I mean, some of these accents were just 2 towns or a peninsula or an island.

And then there's my ex winterroseasfr. He grew up in suburban southern North Carolina, but originated from Appalachian stock in the heart of West Virginia. He said he trained himself out of the Southern accent as a child, but some of the words he uses are very hillbilly Appalachian American. Like calling his family and relatives his "kin" or his "kinfolk". (It's actually kind of cute and sweet.)

And then there's little things that I didn't even know was dialectical. Like "catty-corner", which means "on a diagonal to", usually "on a diagonal corner of", but not always. (ex. The Kuhn's house is catty-corner to our own.) Used this once with herodotusjr, who's from the Chicago area, and he had NO IDEA what I was talking about.

So what dialectical region are you from? Do you speak the dialect? Are their words that you use and you realize and you're ok with? Are their parts of your dialect or accent that you use and you don't like and you'd like to get rid of? How did your parents' accent or dialect affect your own? I'm curious to find out what other people say.


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