My Southern Accent

 In My personal path

When my family moved from Texas to California in 1952, I was surprised to find that the third-grade lessons in Pomona were at about the same level as the second grade in Mount Pleasant. So my classroom life was pretty laid back until the day our teacher asked everyone in the class to stand and recite the alphabet. A little childish for the third grade, I thought, but I began fearlessly: “A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H . . .” When I reached ‘I’ (which I pronounced as “ah”) however, the class exploded in laughter. Bewildered and ashamed, though unaware why, I stumbled through the remaining letters of the alphabet and meekly sat down.

Regional Dialects of the U.S.

A few days later, I was sent out of my classroom to a speech therapy class. The speech therapist worked with me to correct what were considered my mispronunciations and to learn to pronounce “I” as “eye” rather than the long, lilted “ah” in the dialect of all true Southerners. Needless to say. the lessons didn’t take, though I kept my mouth shut or was on guard when speaking aloud in class to avoid further ridicule. When we returned to Texas, then moved to Tennessee, I thankfully was back in familiar territory language-wise.

Recently I did a little Googling on American English dialects and learned that I speak in a dialect known as the South Midland, a subset of Southern American English, which is spoken in a region from east Texas through most of Tennessee and some bordering states.
From the ubiquitous “y’all” to “warsh” for “wash,” “naht” for “night” to “fiixin to” do something, I’ve proudly maintained my Southern Midland accent, even in the face of the plethora of TV hosts, radio newscasters, and podcasters, many of whom have been trained to speak in an Upper Midwestern dialect.

In Western North Carolina, where I now live, there is a distinctive accent brought by Scots-Irish and English settlers known as Southern Appalachian. However, here in Asheville there’s such a wide diversity of folks from around the U.S. who have settled here that you’d probably have to travel into the surrounding countryside to hear anyone say “you’uns” or “done did that.”

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