Smart Phones and Southern Twang

I was born in southern Illinois but much of my adult life has been spent in northern Illinois.  Everywhere I have gone people ask me where in the South I was born.  Most guess Tennessee, Kentucky or even Mississippi.  Often I have been told that I have a “southern twang” – whatever that means.

My husband and son-in-law tease me about many words that I pronounce wrong – at least according to them.  My husband has tried to get me to said the word as he says it.  When I listen to others I can tell the difference, but try as I do, I cannot pronounce it as they do.

While we were missionaries in the Philippines several asked us why my husband and I “talk different.”  They recognized my speech pattern was not the same as his.

With my recent purchase of a smart phone I now can just speak my test messages instead of typing them out.  The result has been so funny.   Alexis – or whoever she is – does not understand my speech.  Some of the texts she has sent have made me laugh.

Some words she doesn’t get

  • I say “said” – she hears “set”
  • I say “wash” – she hears “warsh”
  • I say wrestling – she hears “rassling”
  • I don’t dare say “oil” or any word with “oi” in it because who knows what she will think I am saying.

Not really being from the south (although southern Illinois is very close to Kentucky and if you look on a map it is as far south as Virginia), I just assumed living that close to the south my ancestors may have been southerners and that speech pattern was passed on to my parents and now to me.  There must have been some southerners in our background because the first secular song I remember singing was “I Wish I Was in Dixie.”

Recently doing more research into my ancestry I found most of our ancestors were from Scotland and Ireland.

Further research into my speech pattern gave me some interesting facts.  The linguist Barbara Johnstone at Carnegie Mellon University has determined that many of the words I mispronounce can be found in the regions of the country that were settled by Scots-Irish Protestants who came to America from Ireland and Scotland for greater religious freedom in the 1700’s.

Since most of those immigrants settled in the Tennessee /Kentucky area and the Appalachian mountains that would explain the “southern twang” people hear.

Anyway, it is going to make for some fun texts as I speak and Alexis tries to understand my dialect.

So – if you get a text from me that does not make sense, try to imagine how a Scots-Irish southerner transplanted to the north would say it.