Date: Mon, 7 Jul 1997 21:03:51 -0600


Subject: Re: Boyer or BOOyer

Dale Coyle asks:

Just met a guy from the Ozarks (S. Mo.) and we were talking about some folks

named Boyer. He told me that in his neck of the woods there were lots of

Boyers, but they (and he) pronounced it BOOyer, with the vowel of BOOK.

1) is this a widespread feature for this word, or limited to the Ozarks?

2) Does it extend to other OY words? (Toy, oil, Moyers, point)

3) Any theories on why it was raised?

1) I am acquainted with Pete Boyer of Potosi, Missouri, a storyteller and

one of the few remaining speakers of Missouri French. He says his family

always said booYEA in French or BOOyer in English. Potosi is in the

eastern part of the Ozark Plateau -- lead-mining area, what attracted the

French to that part in 1730-50. I suspect this pronunciation is limited to

the Boyers of Missouri and their friends, wherever they settled.

2) I'm ashamed to say that I haven't learned much about Missouri French,

but it is related to Canadian dialects, I understand, since that's where

the earliest Mississippi Valley French settlers came from -- before New

Orleans became a port of immigration, while Mobile was still the seat of

French colonial government. There's a story, apparently true, of how the

Missouri French pulled a good one on the Governor (Cadillac?) what had come

up from Mobile to check out rumors of silver in the area of Ste Genevieve.

They made fun of his foppishness (probably his language too) and bamboozled

him. After he returned home he found out that he had been had and was

quite angry. (I've no doubt have unintentionally added some embellishments

to the story.)

3) In view of 2), this vowel wasn't raised. It was not lowered in Missouri

dialects, and maybe not in certain Canadian French dialects.

2),3)* Questions about dialect are often set up anachronistically. We know

that current Parisian French came from earlier forms (likewise contemporary

English), but people often want to know why the language of Cajuns or

others has diverged from contemporary standard forms. (Answer: their

clocks and calendars run backwards.) Similar questions have been asked

about English on this List of Dialectologists.