Date: Mon, 7 Jul 1997 21:03:51 -0600
From: "Donald M. Lance" engdl[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]SHOWME.MISSOURI.EDU
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.