Date: Sat, 4 Dec 1993 20:06:10 CST


Subject: Re: Sounding Northern

Re Goodman's hillbilly Canadian-speaking friend and Chambers' outrageous

claim. It's not hard to fool some people. Because I grew up in an area

where there is a wide mix of dialects, I don't have a particularly strong

regional accent. This was in the southern tip of Texas. In junior high and

high school I had friends who had moved down there from Iowa, New York, Ohio,

and other non-Texas places, so I sort of struck a compromise in my vowels.

The base is Arkansas-North Texas but without as much di- and triphthongization

as is heard elsewhere in Texas. Sort of like Rudy Troike's speech, developed

60 miles down-river from mine in Brownsville.

Here in Missouri I play a little game with my students. After a couple of

weeks I stop in the middle of whatever I'm talking about and tell them that

they've been listening to me long enough to figure out where I'm from. They

guess Ohio, Minnesota, or other places. Occasionally someone will guess

Texas or Arkansas and I'll ask the rest of the class if they think that could

be right. The insist it couldn't be. (Nobody with Texas or Arkansas

dialects could have PhDs, I suppose.) After they've given up, I draw an

outline of the Lower 48 and place an X where Mission, Texas would be.

I also tease that I speak standard English, never dreaming that they'll

believe me after I've told 'em I'm from Texas. But I've also told them that

I don't have a strong regional accent because I made some changes. And many

of them have tried to worsh the r out of wash without much luck, so if I've man

aged not to sound like Lyndon Johnson I must have achieved the standard. Or

something like that.

I really thought they understood that I was joking in what I said about

standard language, and didn't think Missourians would think any Texas accent

would be standard. Well, a colleague asked her class on a test where standard

English is spoken, and one of my former students dutifully wrote "Mission,


So now you have a choice: You can go Canadian and fool people, or you can

use the prestige South Texas "Valley" dialect (Rio Grande Valley, not San

Joachin). DMLance