If you are interested in language, dialects, accents and such, you MUST read this article.
The journalist cleverly describes a linguistic vowel shift occurring in the U.S. cities ringing the Great Lakes (Canadians will keep their accent, thank you very much, eh). Wit and puns abound, and the true delights of using and appreciating written and spoken word are celebrated in this article.
Plus, it points out something I have been aware of since I was a wee 18-years old: Great Lakes speakers are completely unaware of how fucking drastic their accents are.
As a bright-eyed college freshman, venturing forth from Wisconsin to the oh-so-far-away Missouri, you can imagine my utter shock when every single person I met commented on my accent. “I sound just like people on TV.” I retorted haughtily. For months I held my ground without giving an inch, and with a growing chip on my shoulder.
The chip got heavier when we watched the acclaimed Coen Brothers movie, Fargo. “WE DON’T SOUND LIKE THAT!” I remember protesting. I refused to laugh at the entire movie, certain that my accent was nothing like that portrayed on film, and absolutely nothing to be the source of amusement among my new peer group.
With this evidence of my complete deafness to my own accent in Missouri, you can imagine my surprise when I returned home in November to find that my entire family sounded just like Fargo. I was shocked and dismayed (not like shock and awe at all). The shock wore off quickly, but the dismay lingered for a while.
Being the good-natured sort that I often am, I started poking fun at myself and soon even left the message for our dorm room, “No doubt, we’re out and about” (if you don’t understand why this phrase would display my strong accent, talk to somebody from Wisconsin or Minnesota…or watch Fargo, or Drop Dead Gorgeous). I even re-watched Fargo and finally saw the brilliance and hilarity the movie offers.
Yet, with my newfound self-awareness, I was adrift on an iceberg in the cold Arctic Sea of my Wisconsin friend and family accent denial. As the studies in the article show, faced with recordings of their own accent, this group of speakers will fail to understand the speech and also utterly deny that they themselves have the same accent. After a few attempts at sharing my renaissance with my family, and their sharp barbs back at me, I quickly relented. My own dramatic self-discovery was still tender.
To all of the lovely Northern Cities Speakers reading this, thank you for keeping our accent, for contributing to diversity in our region, and to making linguistic history!
And to any folks traveling from Milwaukee, if you could just go ahead and check your roller bags at that gate, that’d be great…