I’m reading aloud Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick to my students. The narrator, a 12-year-old boy named Max, bears a striking resemblance to his convict father (WHO TOTALLY KILLED MAX’S MOTHER IN FRONT OF HIM WHEN HE WAS LITTLE, BUT SHH, THAT’S FOR LATER). Another character comments that he’s the spitting image of his dad, so I was explaining to the kids where the expression “spitting image” came from: originally, people said “spirit and image”, but folks from coastal South Carolina don’t really pronounce their Rs. Voilà. Spittin’ image.
I like to think about the differences in southern dialects. In fact, I hate it when people say, “He has a southern accent.” What is that? Drive from Charleston to the opposite corner of the better Carolina, and you’d NEVER have gotten “spittin’ image”. For your enlightenment, in the Blue Ridge, the Rs are as hard as Sarah Palin’s, fortunately without the flat vowels (shudder), but, yes, Rs are very ARRRRy up yonderrrr.
Also, many monosyllabic words with short vowels get an extra syllable, so ran becomes rayun, pin is peeyun. Actually, both pin and pen are peeyun but if it’s the writing utensil, you say ink peeyun.
I’ll just keep going here. If it’s the first word in a sentence, the word it is pronounced with an H on the front, and since it fits the previous rule, it sounds like heeyut.
Regarding verbiage, you don’t push a button; you mash it, but it’s pronounced with almost a long a: maish. You also don’t turn the light off; you cut it off. And you better lift a fanger when somebody passes you on the road.
And if you ride bus 27 home from Cove Creek School, your bus driver will bang a spelling book against the metal ceiling and yell, Y’all better quieten down. Yep, quieten down, not quiet down. And for a long time, I thought quieten was a word. Years later we’d laugh at her redneck expression. But just now, since spellcheck didn’t pick it up, I looked it up and quieten is totally a word. Go on, Pat Shore, Driver of Bus 27 and Quietener of Children!
Now, one of these days, I’ll have to make a vlog of myself saying these things—ooh! and reenact my phone interview with a principal from Rocky Mount, and you could hear the difference a couple hundred miles make. I won’t right now because I haven’t showered, and I think you could probably smell me through the internet.
My point is: there’s no such thing as a southern accent. There are eleventy-five different southern dialects. (I had to stop watching True Blood because every character had a different southern accent, and only two of them were any good. Would it have been so hard for HBO to hire a dialect coach?)
Y’all wanna sheer (that’s share to you) what people say and how they pronounce thangs in yer neck o’ the woods?