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Saturday, September 16, 2006

Thanks for visiting. I am no longer updating Notes to Self. I hope you'll join me on my current website,

My Linguistic Profile:
35% Yankee
30% General American English
25% Dixie
5% Midwestern
0% Upper Midwestern

This online widget analyzed my dialect based on an exhaustive list of six or seven questions. It is regrettably U.S-centric, but I think it illustrates my split linguistic personality. I have no earthly idea which five percent of my vocabulary qualifies as "Midwestern". Perhaps it has to do with my Finnish origins (see below).


My girlfriend Heather rang me up the other night, bored and looking for a defenseless immigrant to mock.

"Did you just answer the phone, "Hah?"

"Um, I don't know, did I?"

Insert smirking sound made by forcing air through the back of one's palatte into one's nose here. "Actually, you've been saying, 'Hah' for a while. I just wondered if you knew."

In case you are not from around these here parts, "Hah" is what southerners say in salutation. Like allo/bonjour. Or hola. Often it is accompanied by y'all, as in "Hah y'all."

I have lived south of the U.S. Interstate 40--what some consider the modern Mason-Dixon line-- for over ten years now. It is to be expected that by now I have picked up a smattering of the vernacular for which this region is both celebrated and reviled the world over. What is surprising is the sponge-like absorption with which I have soaked it up. I would have thought my native dialect would have held up better.

Before coming here, I lived in Newfoundland, which has its own encyclopedic Dictionary of Newfoundland English and at any given moment is maggoty (crawling) with four or five hundred linguistics students from abroad doing their thesis work by molesting the locals with field recorders. When I bother to reveal in conversation that I am from Newfoundland (which I don't unless I think we will know each other for longer than half an hour because it often involves a tiresome lesson in geo-politics, after which most of you will persist in thinking I am Finnish) the occasional well-traveled American will remark, "but you don't have an accent."

It hasn't been deleted from my hard drive altogether. My husband claims it comes out anytime I am on the telephone to my family back on the island. To his southern ear, which cannot process any sound wave that moves past the speed of drawl, it sounds like a chipmunk speaking with an Irish lilt. And my roots show from time to time in remnants of my native vocabulary, like when I forget and ask to use the washroom instead of restroom or bathroom and get shown the laundry room. Or say root for route, or "auhnt" for aunt. Or use "Go-wan!" to express disbelief instead of "No way!" Or say "arse" to my husband and "bum" to my children when referring to their rear ends wanting a boot or a spank.

It's a bit of a muddle. Possibly even my children don't understand what I mean when I tell them someone's fixin' to get a spank on the bum if they don't bloody well quit hollerin'. This would explain why they ignore me.

If this were a video post, I would now cue one of those earnest doctoral linguistics students to face the camera, like the "famous historian" in Monty Python's Holy Grail, to explain why it isn't really at all surprising a Newfoundlander should take so readily to the dialect of the American south, both areas being largely settled by the same anglo-celtic stock, with a common ancestral folk tradition and similar periods of relative geographical isolation during which regional accents and vernacular incubated.

Then I would cue a knight in armour to chop his head off.

Bah y'all.

Filed under: politicsculture, thesouth, america, newfoundland
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Blogger bluebird of paradise said...

my score is 40%general american
35 % yankee
10% dixie (where did that come from)
5% midwestern
0% upper midwestern
where is new england?

your mom

9:14 PM  

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