Abraham, Rachel, Soren and Liam. Our life together in Smalltown, Idaho.

Friday, October 01, 2010

New England Accent

Heartbreakingly, my husband and his family do not have a New England accent. However, many people from the area still do. And let me tell you: it's adorable. ADORABLE. I love to go out and about just to hear the people talking. Abe and I will leave a store and I'll immediately start trying to imitate the way the clerk said things. On the way back to our car I'll be trotting along, mumbling under my breath, trying to say something the way the clerk said it. "Weahout," I'll say. "Weeaahhhout." "Weeout." "WeAHout."

And Abe will be all, "Woman? What in the world are you doing?"

So I'll explain, "I'm trying to say 'we're out' the way that lady said it. Did you notice how she said it? It was SO. CUTE. Weeout. We-aw-out. Weahout."

And he'll say, "Did she have an accent?"

And I'll say, "Weeeout. Weahout. Weaout."

I was curious about the linguistic properties of the New England accent, so when we got home I looked it up. There's a descriptive essay here that you could refer to if you were REALLY curious, but the essay basically says that the Northern New England accent comes down to a unusual usage relationship with the letter "r." The "r" is usually omitted: instead of "car," New Englanders say "cah." Instead of "horses," they say "hahses." Instead of "here," they say "heeyah." But sometimes the "r" is added to the ends of words that it has no businesses ending: "I live in Americer," they'll say, or "that was a fine symphony orchestrer." There is also a tendency to cut the "ng" sound down to a plain 'n." So a New Englander might say, "I'm goin' to pahk the cah over thayer so we can go an' ride those hahses."

This accent took me almost completely by surprise the first time we visited New Hampshire together. I'd heard about those "Hahvard" chaps who said things like, "Weah at Hahvard," but I'd never considered that people might talk like that in the whole of the New England area. So when I met Abe's Nana, who speaks like a New Englander, I was immediately and completely charmed by what struck me as her half-British/half-Southern use of the English language. I thought maybe that was just how Nana talked, but we went out and all kinds of people were playing around with their "r"s. Abraham had never mentioned such a thing to me...and that's because he honestly doesn't notice it. In fact, I'll bet he's reading this now and saying, "Nana has an accent? Nana does not have an accent." But she does, Babe. She does.


Karen said...

So as I was reading this I thought of my awesome Grandpa who is from England (moved here in his teens) who still has a bit of an accent. He adds R's onto the end of words as well...

My point is, I thought your half English/ half Southern accent description was perfect. The End.

Collette Smith said...

Utterly fascinating!

Also, I'd love to see a contrasting write-up about the Western Country Folks accent I referred to in my comment on the Man Types post. Got any links for that?


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