Date: Mon, 17 Nov 1997 00:51:18 -0500
From: "Barry A. Popik" Bapopik[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]AOL.COM
Subject: "Regionalisms", ADS in today's NY Times
This is from the Week in Review Section, The New York Times, 16 November
1997, pg. 7:
WORD FOR WORD/ Regionalisms
In Plainspoken English,
America's Still Whopperjawed
Ask any computer expert trying to design workable voice-recognition
technology for standard American English: Despite predictions that Americans
would all be speaking by now in a bland, homogenized dialect of network TV
newscasters, the United States remains a country of stubbornly persistent
regional accents, idioms and slang.
"Regional differences in pronunciation remain, as do differences based
on social class, occupation, ethnic group, gender," says Allan Metcalf, a
professor at MacMurray College in Jacksonville, Ill', and the executive
director of the American Dialect Society. (Shouldn't that be "executive
secretary"? Ah, it's the Times! Allan will be "THE executive director" of
the ADS forever!--ed.) "That's because if people have to choose between
talking like the TV and talking like their friends, they'll choose their
friends (or be laughed at by them.)"
Near Philadelphia, Michael Lawrence Ellis III, an amateur linguist
fascinated by accents and regionalisms, publishes a series of regional
handbooks under the title "Slanguistics," and maintains a popular web site
(www.slanguage.com) that collects regional pronunciations and phrases from
correspondents all across the country. Here are some recent ones (syllable
inflections were not provided).
Ahm feelin' puny (I don't feel well)
Fizzshoe (If I were you...)
Mash the button (Press the button)
Tick a rat (Make a right turn)
Warshin' patter (Laundry detergent)
You sure clean up nice (You are looking very good today)
Ball Mer Orals (The local baseball team)
Chest Peek (The large bay)
Cheek Ah Ga (Name of city)
All y'all (A collective plural of y'all)
Air (What 60 minutes equals one of)
You-uns (Y'all, Tennessee style)
This article brings up several old saws I have with the American Dialect
Society and The New York Times.
A Michael Ellis of Southwest Missouri State University is an ADS member;
this Michael Lawrence Ellis III is not. Why isn't a person like this a
member? Are the $35 dues too high? Would he become a member at $20? Has he
heard of us? I keep saying--over and over--that 517 members is too small.
And I keep saying--over and over--that the ADS needs to treat popular
speech, that we need to have an online magazine (maybe called AMERICAN
POPULAR SPEECH, and maybe with the American Name Society joining in) that
would cover movies, television, books, plays, and current news events in a
scholarly and reliable way, for consumption by the general public.
As for The New York Times, it's notable that they give large space to
nonscholarly work (who ever heard of a pronunciation guide without the proper
pronunciation symbols?), while ignoring legitimate ADS scholars. When's the
last time they picked up on something from American Speech?
"If news does not appear in The New York Times, it really hasn't
happened."--ADS member William Safire in the same section, page 15, col. 3.
Why doesn't this guy write back to an ADS member who writes to him?
Do I have to wait six years? Is he happy that it's making me ill?