Saturday, January 26, 2008

I Do Not Talk Funny

I find myself saying this on a regular basis. Usually to my SO, but from time to time to others as well. It seems that though I am currently residing in a place where people "mash" buttons, "might could" do things or are "fixin ta" do things I still "talk funny."

I grew up in south central Illinois. (And just for the record, the s is silent.) Anyway, the region where I grew up was near some of the larger coal mines. When the mines in West Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky failed, many of the miners relocated their families to portions of Illinois and Indiana. It wasn't until many, many years had passed that I realized that those people had had an impact on the way we speak.

I was teaching a unit on a book called Dovey Coe. This is the story of a young girl in the North Carolina mountains who is accused of murder. As I was researching the Appalachian dialects, I began to notice something. The very speech patterns they were identifying were present in mild forms in my speech and that of the people where I grew up.

While teaching Across Five Aprils (my favorite Civil War era book) I learned that yes, just like in the book, many of the people of Kentucky and Tennessee had moved into our part of Illinois and some families were divided during the war with one son fighting for the Union and one going back home to fight for the Confederacy.

We'd always heard people from Northern Illinois accuse us of having a "Southern accent," but dismissed it. It turns out they were wrong, and not wrong. People from where I grew up have an odd blended dialect that resembles mountain talk. Some examples:

We have words for some things that are different in ways that don't fit the regional differences:

fireflies= lightening bugs

ghosts =haints or haunts

valley =holler


bowl or plate =dish

We say somethings differently:

across (sounds like) across-t

wash (sounds like) wa-r-sh

squirrel...two syllables? Nope. Just one. squrrl

hoop (sounds like) hup

roof (sounds like) rough

hoof (rhymes with rough)

And my editor has helped me notice that my writing and speaking style has an odd sense of formality to it, and older pattern of words, that she rearranges from time to time. I remember a lengthy conversation about how it had to be "an herb" not "a herb."

My point? A lesson in patience I guess. The next time one of my colleagues "might-could be fixin ta mash that there button." I'll just smile and shut up.

Oh, and meet the most beautiful newborn little girl in the world. Carly Georgette has officially made me a great-aunt. And anytime that starts to bother me, I just remind myself that makes my younger sister Staci a grandmother.


Molly Daniels said...

She's beautiful! Welcome Miss Carly:)

Here in southern Indiana, we have some of the same. Even in my old home, in central Indiana, I had a neighbor who 'took 'an went'...drove me crazy! And down here it's worse...several people talk as if they have marbles in their mouths.

What part of southern Illinois? I'm right across the river from Lawrenceville.

JacquƩline_Roth said...

I grew up between Oakwood, IL and Danville. Right on the Indiana line.

Kelly Kirch said...

Beautiful baby!!! Congrats Auntie. And yeah, you do talk funny.

Amarinda Jones said...

Only Aussies speak proper lingo

Anny Cook said...

"All of a sudden" I feel right at home. Helen is constantly struggling to teach me northern English! We always called them lightning bugs and cupboards and... yeah, too many to count.

Same with the formal speech, but I think there are also some influences from the good ol' King James in there.

Bronwyn's Blog said...

Carly is absolutely adorable. Congratulations Auntie Jae (you'll note I omitted the Great - my husband's neices and nephews have kids and are not allowed to call me Great Aunt anything!)

BTW, I grew up using cupboards, too.