Washington Post, Friday 10/15/1993 p. D5 (Style Section)

Why Things Are

by Joel Achenbach, Washington Post Staff Writer

James R, Odom of Olney asks:

"Why do people in different sections of the country speak with regional


Dear Jim: We passed this question along to Cathy Ball, a linguist at

Georgetown University, and she then sent it out to the Internet (you know,

that big web of computers that spans the globe) to her colleagues in the

American Dialect Society.

We learned that accents are basically a product of immigration.

German immigrants settled in Pennsylvania, English and French

immigrants and African slaves in the Deep South, Scotch-Irish settlers in

the hills of Appalachia, Scandinavians in Minnesota, and so on. Accents

can mutate over time. "Members of lower socioeconomic classes often

imitate the speech of those in the class above them. The class above them

then adopts other features to distinguish them from the classes below

them," notes Robert Wachal of the University of Iowa. (Before the

Thurston Howells developed that lockjaw accent, they said "y'all" just like

everyone else.)

What surprised us most is that almost everyone said that

Americans don't have a great diversity of accents or dialects, at least not

anymore. Accents are preserved by geographic isolation, and with the

advent of mass media, many accents are melting away. Soon we'll all

sound like Tom Brokaw (but without the slight lisp). "The diversity of

accents in the U.S. is fairly narrow compared to, say, the diversity of

accents within just London proper," says Donald Livingston of the

University of Washington.

So maybe everyone should vow, this moment, to start pronouncing

words in a peculiar fashion (pronounced puh-KOOL-ya FATCH-un).

Date: Sat, 20 Nov 1993 14:16:35 CST

From: "Donald M. Lance" ENGDL%MIZZOU1.BITNET[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]uga.cc.uga.edu

Subject: Re: Long-Awaited Book

I've had a request to post more information on the "long-awaited" book.

Language Variation in North American English: Research and Teaching, eds.

A. Wayne Glowka and Donald M. Lance. Modern Language Association. Available

in December 1993. Cloth ISBN 389-X[E301C] $37.50 (MLA members $30).

Paper ISBN 390-3[E301P] $19.75 (MLA members $15.80.

Modern Language Association, 10 Astor Place, New York NY 10003-6981. Phone

orders 212/614-6384. Fax order 212/477-9863.

As you're thinking of books for your research and/or your dialect seminars,

also keep in mind another excellent ADS Centennial 1993 book:

American Dialect Research, ed. Dennis R. Preston. John Benjamins, 1993.

Maybe Dennis can post ordering info on the List. DMLance

Date: Sat, 20 Nov 1993 14:30:02 CST

From: "Donald M. Lance" ENGDL%MIZZOU1.BITNET[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]uga.cc.uga.edu

Subject: Re: outin'

I remember my mother (born sw Arkansas) talking about outing (night)gowns.

The fabric looked like flannel to me.


Date: Sat, 20 Nov 1993 14:49:53 -0600

From: Alan Slotkin ARS7950%TNTECH.BITNET[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]uga.cc.uga.edu

Subject: linguistic nationalism

I have an undergraduate student who has become interested in the politics of

language, especially the use of a majority language to repress minorities,

English-only style movements, and related topics. As this is far removed

from my areas of interest, I'm at a loss on recommending recent--and fairly

elementary--sources for him. Any suggestions. I'd appreciate your

responding directly to me:

Alan Slotkin




Date: Sat, 20 Nov 1993 18:25:32 -0800


Subject: Re: uptown/barrios altos

Your message dated: Fri, 19 Nov 1993 14:06:49 EST


From: NAME: David Bergdahl

Here in Athens Ohio--one of those college towns three blocks long and two blo


wide--for thirty years at least the kids have said they "uptown" to the bars

because Athens is too small to have a downtown!

David Bergdahl Ohio University/Athens "Gateway to West Virginia"


As I recall Athens (fondly) David, I remember that from the East Quad,

students had to struggle up a steep hill to get to the uptown bars. Same

held true for the South Quad, "down" by the stadium (Bobcat's Sandbox).

Most of the dorms were down in these hollers, and only the frats were

"up" on the hill, near admin, and Oh Yes, My Lovely, the English Dept.

In fact, as I recall, it was uphill both ways from where I lived on

Stewart Street.