Fun:American English

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American American English is a variant of the English language used in the United States of America; this variant itself encompasses several regional dialects, which is not surprising given the size of that country. Unlike just about every other language on earth, which defaults to using the dialect of the largest city as the prestige dialect, Americans typically try to emulate the accent of the upper Midwest; pre-WWII it followed the same rules as everyone else, with the New York accent predominating among the elites, but after WWII it rapidly became associated with the working class and therefore was looked down on as peasant doggerel. This follows the pattern of the US inverting city life in general, where the rich people live on the edges instead of at the city center like every other elite. Because, 'Murica!

Spelling[edit]

Noah Webster proposed various reforms to English spelling that became characteristic of American English as we know it today. Americans do not waste time writing the extraneous 'u' found in British English. "Center" is the more logical spelling of "centre" (although this causes problems when the letter "e" mysteriously disappears in the word "central") (also this same rule applies to the letter "L", such as the fact the word "little" is not spelled "littel"). "Jail" makes more sense than "gaol". "Organization" seems more reasonable than "organisation" (although this change is not consistent, as certain words such as "compromise" are left unchanged) (although many of the reform rules have various exceptions, such as the word "acre" which would be pronounced differently if it was spelled "acer"). The list goes on.

Pronunciation[edit]

Although Americans pronounce words differently, there is no such thing as the American language, only American English. This is probably because the British themselves once spoke in much the same way, several hundred years ago. A major example is rhoticity. The letter Z is also pronounced "zee" instead of "zed", which helps the alphabet song rhyme. British people say it should be pronounced "zed" because it comes from the Greek letter "zeta". For some reason though they don't pronounce the letter "b" like "bed" because it comes from the letter "beta", or pronounce "e" like "ed" because it comes from "eta".

Regional dialects[edit]

The many regional dialects are the source of much amusement. Among the most spectacular:

  • Appalachian English - characterized by a heavy drawl. In more isolated regions there is much borrowing from Scots-Irishisms: "I swan" for "I swear", "chimbley" for chimney, "like to" for almost. The plural of you, depending on which part of Appalachia is "y'all" (further south) or "y'uns" (further north).
  • Southern English - I is pronounced "ah". A soft drink is always a "Coke" even if it is really a Sprite, Pepsi, or Dr. Pepper. The plural of you is "y'all". Think stereotypical Daisy Duke-speak here: "Y'all mahnd if ah go skinny-dippin'?" This one has a very sharp age distinction; older Southerners are generally non-rhotic (go back and listen to Foghorn Leghorn for reference) whereas younger Southerners have almost all gone the opposite direction to become very hard rhotic (often to point of having an intrusive rWikipedia).
  • Yat -- nigh incomprehensible, often subtitled dialect from New Orleans
  • Texas English - has a drawl but not as heavy as in Appalachia or the southeast. No one sound is unique to Texas, it's all in how each sound comes together. Think more of a western drawl and try to talk like John Wayne or Ross Perot. Hello is "howdy". Partner is "podner". Also spoken in other states like Oklahoma and New Mexico and as far northwest as Wyoming (anything past that e.g. Montana, Pacific Northwest English takes over). On CB radio, everyone speaks Texas English no matter what accent they normally have. NB there are people in Texas who do speak like Boomhauer from "King of the Hill."
  • California English - stereotypical surfer, valley girl, and hippie-speak didn't come out of nowhere. All three are pretty much examples of the same California accent. "Aww dood, he's goin' through changes like fer shuur. Awesome!" Add "like" at odd places in your sentences and affect a laid back style like you're permanently on vacation at the beach. Spoken only in and around coastal Los Angeles—where Hollywood is, incidentally, which is why this accent gets such good coverage in movies.
  • Boston English - in Boston you "pock the cah". The phonemes corresponding to the letter "r" may scarcely be heard in Boston.[note 1] Boston English is difficult to comprehend by anyone visiting from any other region, as anyone landing at Logan "Aihpoht" and trying to rent a "cah" can attest. Gloucester and Worcester are pronounced "Glosstah" and "Wisstah". Although New England is geographically far more longitudinal than latitudinal, in speech it's the opposite; New Hampshire, Maine, and eastern Rhode Island (which for centuries had an uncertain border with Massachusetts) sound more Boston, whereas Vermont and Connecticut have only very subtle hints of regional affinity ("flatlander" im Vermont and "raggie" in northwestern Connecticut are as close to a shibboleth as you'll find).
  • Boston Brahmin - A unique, almost British sounding version of English spoken almost entirely by families that came with the Pilgrims.
  • New York English - in New York you "pwark the cwar". The letter "r" is overpronounced when not word-final and "w" is added to everything possible. "This Nwew Ywork cwold is rrrotten!" The plural of you is "youse". Also spoken in northeastern Nee Jersey. Each borough has a slightly different accent so it is possible to detect whether one is from Brooklyn or the Bronx by their accent. Another dialect with a very sharp age distinction, pre-WWII has the coil-curl mergerWikipedia (c.f. Abbott and Costello) while younger New Yorkers pronounce "curl" more like "cehl".
  • Philadelphia English, which (despite the Rocky movies swapping in the New York accent) is quite a unique one. Think English while speaking with your lips pressed forward and slurring your t and d sounds; the very name Philadelphia is "Phillyduh(l)phia", and "Mary" comes out more like "Murray". Kevin BaconWikipedia in his non-acting moments is known to revert to this when no one is looking. Also spoken in New Jersey (outside the northeastern part of the state) and down into the Baltimore area of Maryland.
  • Pittsburgh English - the rule to remember here is house, mouse, downtown, etc. are pronounced haas, maas, and dahntahn. The plural of you is "yinz". A soft drink is a "pop".
  • Pacific Northwest English - Seattle and Portland are where they used to send newscasters to lose whatever eastern dialect they had and learn to speak "without an accent", but the rural PNW is a different story altogether. Watch Ax Men to get an idea. It's almost an exact cross between Canadian and Californian English with occasional borrowings from Chinook. About is pronounced "aboat".
  • Upper Midwest English - The is pronounced "da", "yes" is said in German instead of English, creek is pronounced "crick", the U.P. is "da yoop", and otherwise it sounds like Bob & Doug McKenzie's Canadian English except without the "eh?" For more authenticity add Scandinavianisms like "uff da" here and there. See also How to Talk Minnesotan, by Howard Mohr.
  • African American Vernacular English is a subject unto itself, distinct from any of the above regionalisms but with its own regionalisms. Southern AAVE heavily influenced Southern English, though the two have always been quite distinct. See the article for more detail.
  • Mid-Atlantic English - A type of English that isn't quite American but isn't quite British; it's caught somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic. Examples include Franklin D. Roosevelt, Cary Grant, or Katherine Hepburn. This mostly survives along the white population residing along coastline in Virginia and North Carolina.

Notes[edit]

  1. "R" does have a few local uses. "Haverhill" (HAY-vril) and "Roxbury", for example, would be unintelligible without it.

External links[edit]