Oh fer cute!
Having lived all over the United States, I have been immersed in nearly all of the accents this country has to offer. I was born in Southwest Louisiana near my full-blooded Cajun relatives. I have lived in California, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Texas as well. I am no stranger to the full spectrum.
Thus, once we got to Minnesota we both easily fell back into the accent of ‘da nort’. Truth is, I never fully lost it. I live in Arkansas, and have for over 7 years. I came to DesArc every Christmas to visit relatives during my childhood. However, after living in California and the Midwest for half my life, my little southern drawl eventually fell away.
I’m probably more of an accent flipper, or maybe an adapter, retaining a little of each region in the way I speak. I confuse online tests that ask “what accent are you?”. Typically the bugger shrugs and says “Your guess is as good as mine!”
For example, I simply cannot say the word “brown” in one syllable. I cannot. I’ve tried, but each time, without fail, it comes out “brow-un” just like my fellow Arkansans. But, the word “hat” quickly and almost incompletely comes out in one syllable, with a soft ‘t’. And, just so you all know, I DO live in Arkansas (with a slightly nasally “saw” at the end).
By the time George and I made it to Owatonna (pronounced Owe-a-tawn-na), MN, we were drawing out our “O” sounds just a quarter second longer than we were a short 500 miles before. We had fallen back into our old Minnesota accents in a snap.
In southern and central Minnesota, the natives don’t quite speak like one would hear in “Fargo”. In fact, that accent is found a bit further north around Duluth (pronounced “Doo-loot” in Minnesotan) or International Falls (but International Falls also has a little Canadian mixed in there [pronounced ‘dare’] too, eh).
By Wednesday night, after picking up some friends from the (pronounced dee) airport who had just returned from Norway, we were fully drawing out our “o” sounds with a slight nasal twinge and agreeing with people with a simple nod and “ohh yah”.
Now, the word “about” is a tricky one. Canadians pronounce the word like something a West Texas wrangler would put on his feet. An Arkansan can manage to stretch it into a 3-syllable run-on word. Minnesotans, however, somehow mix the two into a scrumptious mixture, making it pronounced more like “ah-boo-ut” drawing out the o just a little (for Pete’s sake, don’t forget the slight nasally twinge) and at the same time adding another syllable in order to get in the Canadian “oo”.
In 2000, I moved to Boston (pronounced Bah-ston to those natives) from Minnesota (pronounced Mee-nee-soh-tah) to briefly live with my folks from Arkansas (pronounced, naturally, Ar-kan-saw) for six months. I’m sure you can only imagine the accent I had then…
So (pronounced soh- with a longer o), when I met up with some New Yorkers on Friday afternoon in downtown Minneapolis, they fully expected to meet a woman with a cute southern drawl. They were a little surprised to hear a non-accent out of me.
Perhaps by Wednesday afternoon after I return to Little Rock, I’ll pronounce everything with at least 2 syllables again.