Our Southern accent: it’s different than you think.

I live in the South. I was born here, raised here, I’ll probably always live here. I have a Southern accent.

But not a country one. Or a redneck one. There’s a difference.

Sometimes, I can almost understand the people who think that all people from “down here” are morons.

(However, I still can’t get why they all think we still talk like Scarlett O’Hara, but I guess we have movies to thank for perpetuating that little piece of incorrectness. [Ok, so like one in maybe two hundred people still say “Pahk the cah,” or “You owe a dollah” but that’s really rare]).

Besides the fact that the media always chooses the most inbred, missing-toothed, unwashed, backwoods hick to interview (leading some folks “up there” to believe we’re ALL just like Bubba and his fourteen kids), some people here choose not to enunciate, or, sometimes add syllables to words. And sometimes, they combine syllables.

Several syllables.

The word “wasn’t” should be pronounced “wazz-ent” but I know three people who say “wawnt” instead.

WHAT? I didn’t hear that until I came to college and some guy was talking about his roomate not being the guilty culprit of some college prank saying, “It wawnt Mickey.”

First: the guy had a roommate named Mickey [he was from Delaware]
Second: I had no idea what this kid meant until I thought about it for a bit.

I mean, my dad is from the Mountains of NC and HE doesn’t say that! Well, he does pronounce dance “daynce” but it’s cute.

Me? I combine syllables, but only so I can get my point across faster. Once, when I was in Mexico, I asked someone if they accompanied a friend to an event we were discussing by saying, “Did you go together?”

Apparently, it came out like “Djoogotogether?” One of our hosts, Choche [real name: Rodrigo, who, if I could speak fluent Spanish -or he English-, would totally have been my boyfriend] went around saying “djoogotogether” in a singsong voice for about an hour because he had never heard anyone speak like that.

Where do you think “Y’ALL” comes from? We may enjoy a “slower” pace of life down here, but talking is a BIG deal and we have to get as much out as fast as we can.

Just the other night, I was talking to a coworker at nightwork and we had about a twenty word exchange that I doubt anyone living outside the southeast would’ve understood.

I think it went something like this:

Me: “Leighannyouwantmeetadoth’miscellaneousqueue?”

Leighann: “Yeahcausether’reawholeottanationaldatabases.”

Me: “Okayjustlemmefinishupmanualinterventionandi’llgetrightonit.”

But we got each other juuustt fine (I probably said “manual” like “manyul”, but still). Granted, her accent is a lot thicker than mine, but I’ve been around enough people from different towns to understand the drawls.

I have a friend who lives in Rhode Island that just does not understand what I’m talking about sometimes.


Me: “For real, Jay, she totally showed her butt at the counselor’s office.”
Jay: “WHAT?! She pulled her pants down in front of them?!?!”

For you non-Southerners, “she totally showed her butt [or tail, or ass]” simply means “she acted like a total bitch”.

Jay also gets a kick out of the way I pronounce things like “syrup” and “pecan”. To me, it’s “suhr-up” and “PEcahn” when talking about a tree or actual nut, but “peCAHN” when talking about butter pecan ice cream.

Once, when we went to breakfast at my favorite local diner, I ate my pancakes like they were going bad by the second. After I was finished, I commented, “Man, I really dogged those pancakes.”

Jay thought I meant I was talking bad about them and he just didn’t hear me. “No, dude, I meant ‘dogging’ like “eating really quickly.”

Also, a toboggan is NOT a sled; rather, it is a knit hat that one wears in the wintertime to keep one’s head, ears, and forehead warm. You may know it as a “beanie” or a “turque” (I had to wikipedia for that last one). Sometimes pronounced “TOEboggan” by various southern folk.

Ever hear of pine straw? No? Oh, everyone else just calls it “pine needles”.

To you, is a wreck only a huge ten-car pilup catastrophe with multiple deaths? Not to us. A mere fender-bender is just called a wreck, (a huge, huge horribly-awful car mishap is still also called a wreck). An accident is something involving pee and your pants.

Keeping kids = babysitting. I once asked my friend Lynn, in front of her straight-from-New-Hampshire girlfriend, if she was keeping her brother that night while their parents went out. SFNHG looked at me like I was insane.

“Yunna go?” = “Do you want to come with me?” Try saying it. See how much quicker that is?

Someday soon, I’m going to make a voice post of me reading from a book, just so you can see what a true Southerner sounds like.

*Y’ant me to?

And what about this: almost every singer I’ve ever listened to has put some kind of southern twist on their words. Rob Thomas says “lahk” and “maht” for “like” and “might” but the man does not have a speaking voice that is anything remotely southern. The same can be said for George Michael (sometimes), Jakob Dylan, Sheryl Crow and countless others.

*”Do y’all want me to?”


2 thoughts on “Our Southern accent: it’s different than you think.

  1. Karina says:

    I am from North Carolina, born and raised here. I didn’t really know I spoke southern until someone from the north commented on how I spoke. See, I am of Asian heritage and they thought it was sorta funny. I don’t have an Asian accent + Southern accent. I don’t speak my “native” language fluently. I’m just a southern gal. But yeah, we do say things that non-southerners don’t understand and take to literally.

    I laughed at the car wreck part! You forgot to mention our version of traffic. Like how a short temporary traffic to us is still traffic? Haha!

  2. Oh, you’re right! Our idea of traffic is sitting still for more than a few seconds; I couldn’t imagine being in an ACTUAL traffic jam [I don’t count I-40 slowdowns around Raleigh and Greensboro].

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