Thursday, November 13, 2008

English, again, so to speak

I've managed to catch the last two episodes of the Jeopardy Teen Tournament (yes, it's an exciting life I lead), and I've noticed a continuation of things I've noticed before. 1st, and I just need to get this out of the way because it is otherwise irrelevant, I don't like the way the announcer pronounces the word "tournament". I pronounce it "turn-nament", the announcer pronounces it "tour-nament", and it just grates on my nerves. Most likely the announcer is pronouncing it correctly, but still, there's no need to throw it in my face.

Ok. The important stuff. One of the contestants this year is a teenage girl from South Carolina, another from Annapolis, Maryland. Last year there was a boy from Lexington, Kentucky. These are all places I am more or less familiar with, and not one of those kids sounded anything like the places they supposedly come from. None of them had any kind of detectable accent. (Now understand, I'm just talking about the USA. To someone form Australia or Ireland, they probably sounded like they had very strong -if perhaps bland- accents). They spoke a very standard American English, and could have come from anywhere. I could detect no regionalisms in the way they spoke.

People in Lexington, Kentucky sound like I do, which is very close to the way people in Eastern Tennessee and Western North Carolina sound. People in the north western part of South Carolina sound just like people in the south western part of North Carolina (go figure). People closer to the coast of South Carolina sound distinctly strange - but the key word is distinct. They don't sound like they come from Nebraska. And people in Maryland are a language unto themselves. I lived in Maryland a long time, and I heard of lot of stuff like "Rosterstown Raid" (Reisterstown Road), and "Pitcher bane soot owen" (Put your bathing suit on).

So what are these kids hiding? Where are they really from? How does Jeopardy keep digging up kids (and grown-ups) who don't sound like they come from where they say they do?

I guarantee you if you were to take a stroll down main street in Valdese and say "howdy" to the first teenager you run into, that teenager will not sound like he or she comes from the mid-west. Unless for some reason that's where they actually come from - always possible, but not terribly likely.

I know I'm ranting about something that does not matter. Heaven help me, I can't help it. Sigh.


Anonymous said...

Well, at least you're well enough to rant again.

I like your bathing suit sentence.

I say "turn-a-mint", so I say it Southern, which is what I am.

A Valdese Blogger said...

I suppose I say turn-a-mint too. I wasnt too concerned with the last two syllables, it the first syllable that makes ya wanna scream "YOU DONT HAVE TO SAY IT THE WAY IT'S SPELLED!!!!" Hmmm, that could be a whole other post.... I really need to increase my maturity level a bit.

Ms. O. D. said...

This is a pretty interesting observation. I know in other countries with regional dialects similar things happens. When a child enters school they're taught the standard, the tv news dialect... almost a mandate sort of thing from the govt and the teachers proactively encourage and teach this. But as they enter middle school/high school, as they get older I guess regional "pride" kicks in and they drop the standard dialect completely. I saw this transition in my cousin... visiting her from one year to the next.

Karen, author of "My Funny Dad, Harry" said...

You must be really struggling for something to post about to rant about this, but it was amusing to me. First time visiting this blog, but I'll be back! Came over because I saw Mountain Woman followed it.

A Valdese Blogger said...

ms o.d.: I've found that kids tend to talk like the other kids around them. I had uncles & aunts who moved from eastern Kentucky to northern Indiana for economic reasons, and took their families and spent their working lives there. The parents talked like they came from Kentucky, the children spoke as if they came from Chicago.

Karen Zemek: Not sure why I ranted about this, or why I find it slightly irritating that a teenager who says she's from Columbia, South Carolina, has no trace of any kind of a southern accent. It's kind of a sickness on my part I guess. I'll try to do better. Thanks for checking out the blog.