Date: Tue, 5 Dec 1995 07:39:16 -0500

From: "Dennis R. Preston" preston[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]PILOT.MSU.EDU

Subject: Re: On Wisconsin!

Aw shucks Larry. You think you had it tough. Imagine me arriving late at

night in Medicine, Wi - SKAHN - sin from Loovuhl, KY some time about 1963.

I went into a small market, half asleep, and picked up only a few things.

At the checkout counter, a clerk asked if I wanted these few things in a

'bIuhg.' What the hell could she be talking ab out? My fist contact with

the Northern Cities Shift (no 'Great' in its title, by the way). I was

double-confused, in fact, since, even after retrieving the lexical item

'bag,' I was aware that I was more used to 'sack' (of course) for

grocieries and used 'bag' much more frequently for a testicles-container.

Can we have some more stories of phonological cross-dialectal

misunderstanding? I love 'em.



FWIW, My wife's name is Holly and she complains that Minnesotans call her

[haeli]. A bit of an exageration, but not too far off. This fronted,

nasalised pronunciation seems to be age graded (with younger people

seeming to have the more fronted/nasalised version) and, I believe,

urban, altho I have not made enough tapes (I did a small study of this

feature in the summer of '94) of ruralites to make any conclusive


Ah yes, the Great Northern Vowel Shift. I've heard Bill Labov talk about it

for years, but my most memorable encounter was still my first, back in the

early 1960's in my undergraduate days at the University of

RIAAAENNN-ch'ster (that's supposed to be a highish front very nasalized

vowel)--the university/city east of Buffalo, where I spent one puzzling but

ultimately enlightening hour on a blind date with a young woman from the area

who seemed to be talking about salads and couldn't figure out what \I/ was

saying, since she meant SALads, you know, as opposed to liquids...