Dr. Goodword’s Language Blog

Farewell, Southern Accents?

Bekki just dropped of this note:

Rebel-Yankee flagsThat’s too funny! I just took the Advanced Yankee VS Dixie test and it said that I am 1% Dixie. I grew up in Richmind, Virginia, the capital of the South. Still, with a father from Conetticut and a mother from a different country completely, I guess it’s not that unusual.

Well, Bekki, first let a North Carolinian correct your geography: Richmond is the capital of Virginia. Any city claiming the title of “Capital of the South” would have to be located a bit deeper in the South.

More to your point, our Rebel-Yankee and Advanced Rebel-Yankee Tests can only reflect how you speak, not where you live. In fact, as the years roll by, its accuracy may be fading.

My sisters in North Carolina just equipped themselves with Skype and we are talking with each other more frequently. The remarkable thing is that my sisters’ southern accent is still quite remarkable but their grandchildren–all of them–speak with no identifiable accent, which is to say, just like TV personalities.

If you are young, you may be in that first generation of Southerners who have lost their regional identity as expressed by regional dialects. Television and radio, combined with the growing migration from North to South, is eroding the most noticeable cultural difference between the two regions. I fear that in another 20 years, the Rebel-Yankee Tests may be irrelevant.

7 Responses to “Farewell, Southern Accents?”

  1. Mashkioya Says:

    Perhaps she was referring to the fact that Richmond was the capital of the Confederacy for most of the war.

  2. Dr. Goodword Says:

    That would make it the former capital of the Confederacy, the Civil War being over and all 😉

  3. Stargzer Says:

    ” … the Civil War being over and all”

    In most places, but in others ….

    Besides, Virginians are a proud folk with the longest continuous history of English-speaking residence in the United States (after all, that’s why the North Carolina settlement is call “The Lost Colony”). Like Taxachusetts, they had their share of fire-brand Colonial patriots. Trouble is, these days Concord and Lexington would probably show up to help the British move the powder and shot back to Boston. They can’t be having those nasty old firearms around, no matter what the Second Amendment says. 😉

  4. Susan Molloy Says:

    I’ve noticed that people who have lost their southern accent still have a tendency to accent the first syllable of certain words (e.g., display, umbrella, insurance, theater). Any thoughts on why this persists long after the drawl or twang is gone?

  5. Elisa Says:

    Susan is right. I grew up in the South, but have lived all over the country. Usually I have that middle American neutral accent. But that “au” pronounced as “awe” is really hard to lose. Another thing I’ve noticed is that my accent becomes more pronounced when I’m speaking to others with a Southern accent and it is also “alcohol soluble” – too much to drink and that drawl jes comes a’slippin’ out!

  6. getting rid of accent Says:

    Englishmen should be amazed of us. They speak englis with accent. We speak english with accent and other language also : it is manglish

  7. Betsy Riley Says:

    My southern accent also resurfaces when I’m talking about my childhood or other years spent in the south.

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