Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Observations on the South and Southerhoodness (Part 3)

Pronunciation Problems

I am currently an existential alien in the South. So not really, but I hear that term a lot in one of my grad classes and I just wanted to apply it to real life. The truth is, for the most part, I fit in here. Apart from when I buy organic food, I only portray my west-coast foreignness when it comes to the pronunciation of certain words.

It usually goes something like this: I say a word or phrase. I get corrected on the word's "true" pronunciation. Then I argue. Then I try to use phonetic logic of the English language to strengthen my argument. Then I'm told I'm still wrong. Then I resolve to stop arguing with southern tradition and I go drink some sweet tea.

If you're curious how you would fare in the South, I have prepared this short quiz so that you may judge how you measure up to southern culture. Read each word aloud, paying careful attention to your pronunciation. After you have finished, read aloud the southern pronunciations to compare your results. Good luck.

1. Cairo
 (as in Cairo, Egypt or the lesser known Cairo, Georgia [not to mention on Dublin, GA, Athens, GA or Berlin, GA...Georgia is the little state of all the world])

 2. Cousin Will
(as in the son of your aunt or uncle who happens to be named Will)

3. Martinez
(as in the popular Spanish last name or as in Martinez, Georgia)

4. Pecans
 (as in the nuts often used in pies)

5. Pecan Pie
(as in the pie that often uses said nuts)

6. Vidalia
 (as in Vidalia onions from Vidalia, Georgia)

7. Beaufort
(as in Beaufort, South Carolina)

8. Men
(as in "I need some strapping men to help me get some tea")

Do you remember what you said? Now let's compare it with the proper southern pronunciations:

1. Cairo
pronounced [CARE-O

2. Cousin Will
pronounced [KUHZ-UHN / WHEEL]

3. Martinez
pronounced [MAHR-TIN-EZ]
not to be confused with [mahr-teen-ez]

4. Pecans
pronounced [PI-KAHN]

5. Pecan Pie
pronounced [PEE-CAN PAHY]
I don't know why you pronounce pecan differently when you are referring to the pie, but you do.

6. Vidalia
pronounced [VI-DAYL-YUH]

7. Beaufort
pronounced [BYU-fort]
and don't bother trying to explain that the word beau is pronounced BO, it will get you nowhere.

8. Men
pronounced [MEEYN]
...ok so I might be exaggerating this one a bit, but they really do throw in extra "y" sounds after vowels.

Scoring Guide:

5 to 8 correct:
You use the verb "fix" to describe most of your behaviors: you're fixing to go to school, you're fixing dinner, heck, you're even fixing yourself a glass of water. You are so southern, you're offended I'm not recognizing and paying homage to the many different southern dialects. You think Florida is a "Yankee State" and needs to detach itself from the southern part of the country and drift into the sea.

2 to 4 correct:
You may have read "Gone with the Wind" or just seen a few Matthew McConaughey movies (and right now the real southerners are offended that I would even use Matthew McConaughey as an example because he is actually from Texas) or listened to some Kenny Chesney in your day. You think Paula Deen is the quintessential South (which is unfortunate and you should never say that to a real southerner).

1 or fewer correct:
You fail at being southern. Go back to L.A.

And because this post didn't feature any pictures and I know it's hard to just read text (Karyn), I have included a picture of the market down the street from me.

GA Spelling of Hawaiian

But we'll get to southern spelling issues another day...
(In their defense, Hawaii is really far away)


Carmen said...

I rarely say LOL, but there it is. Thank you for charming my phonetics-loving, French-root-word-learning soul into a belly laugh!

I'm forwarding this to my lingusitics-major friend.

Karyn Guido said...

I almost didn't make it through all the text. What does it mean if you can't even read and comprehend the pronunciation keys? I must be realllly southern...

lyndsey said...

Karyn, you are not really southern...you are really medical slash not reading oriented. The southerners are smart...they are just stubborn about the way things are supposed to be said.

At least you can pronounce things like hematoma and stethoscope. Not that those things are hard...they're just the first medical words coming to mind. That and AIDS...which I think everyone can pronounce.

P.S. Thanks goes to my smart southern friend Jenny for helping me learn some of my "southern."

Karyn Guido said...

Not to start a blog convo, but I am proudly half Southern by birth-- thanks Dad!!

Jenny said...

I love this!

The only thing that may confuse some southerners is when you say "L.A." because in some parts that means Lower Alabama--I know we haven't discussed this yet. Oh, we will.

Jenny said...

I know this is my second comment, but I also wanted to mention some additional "international" flare: the cities of Egypt, Rome, Geneva and Vienna.

I can't wait for the next installment of your southern ed-u-kay-shun.