I moved to the midwest in the mid-1990’s after a lifetime in Philadelphia. Until I took the twelve hour drive I’d never been farther west than Harrisburg, PA. I was thirty. My son was two-and-a-half (don’t do the math, he turns 21 in March) and was slow to speak, so he really lassoed his speech skills as a resident of a quaint Chicago suburb. Which is when we realized that not only were we raising a little boy who liked Batman and hats and Disney movies, but one who had — AN ACCENT.
It had never occurred to us that our kids would speak differently, that their colloquialisms would not resemble ours. Nor did we realize that this would become a source of endless entertainment as we added a daughter to the family and she, too, talked funny.
Or was that us?
Even recently when we were having dinner with a friend from Philadelphia, we ambled into our favorite game: How Do You Say This?
So I thought we could play it here! But you have to say the words aloud! I promise, no one is listening.
1) Say: forehead (did you say it?)
Did you say 4-head or far-head? If you’re my kids you said 4-head. If you’re most people you said 4-head. But if you’re from Philadelphia, like me, even though I took a college class to rid myself of the Philly accent, I still say far-head. This amuses my almost-grown children to no end.
2) Say: orange (very good)
Did you say OR-ange or did you say R-ange? I say R-ange. Or-ange sounds funny to me still, and I haven’t lived in Philly since 1990. You can take the girl out of the old neighborhood…as they say.
3) Say: sub (as in sandwich) Ha, this was a trick question. It’s a hoagie.
4) Now this is a tricky one. Read this line aloud. Really. It doesn’t work if you say it inside your head.
Merry Mary Married Hairy Harry
Ok, now when my kids read that line, Merry, Mary, and Married sound EXACTLY the same. When I say it (obviously correctly) they all sound different. Same goes for Hairy Harry (poor guy).
When my kids read it, Merry, Mary and Married sound like: MARY. And Hairy and Harry sound like: HAIRY.
It’s an A thing.
When I read it, Merry has a short e, Mary sounds NORMAL and Married sounds like Maah-ried.
You know, CORRECT.
This does not even start to get into the realm of jimmies which the world thinks of as sprinkles, or playgrounds that Chicagoans call parks, or movies that Chicagoans call shows. A friend used to say she was going to a show almost every weekend and I imagined her heading downtown to the swanky Broadway in Chicago theaters and spending a boatload on tickets. In reality, she was dropping $9 at the movies in the town over.
I love regional dialects and the special names that go with special places that we know. In Philadelphia when you go downtown you go “into town.” It looks like this:
If you’re in my small Chicago suburb and say you’re going “into town” then you are going here:
Both destinations are lovely, but very different. The biggest drawback to Mayberry? You can’t get a soft pretzel on a street corner.
So, do you have an accent?