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How We Talk: American Regional English Today
by Allan Metcalf

How We Talk: American Regional English Today
A TALKING TOUR OF AMERICAN ENGLISH, REGION BY REGION

Where are you when people:

tote things as well as carry them
• wait on line instead of in line
• get groceries in a paper sack instead of a paper bag
• say things like "The baby needs picked up" and "The car needs washed"
• insert an R between a word that ends in a vowel and another that begins with one, as in "the idear is"
• eat solid rectangular doughnuts that are also called beignets
• complain when something is spendy ("costly")
• are chilled by a blue norther
• ask for tonic instead of soda
• go "dahntahn" on Saturday night
Allan Metcalf answers these and many other fascinating questions in his new book, How We Talk: American Regional English Today. In short, delightful essays, Metcalf explicates the key features that make American speech so expressive and distinct. He begins in the South, home of the most easily recognized of American dialects, travels north to New England, then on to the Midwest, the far West, and even to Alaska and Hawaii. It's all here, the northern Midwest "Fargo" accent, Louisiana Cajun and New Orleans Yat, dropped R's as in Boston's "Hahvahd Yahd," and intrusive R's as in "Warshington," especially common in America's midlands. With additional chapters on ethnic dialects and dialects in the movies, Metcalf reveals the resplendence of one of our nation's greatest natural resources — its endless and varied talk.

"Celebrates our nation's diversity, and the veteran dialectologist Metcalf is a master at it" — William Safire, The New York Times



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Sample Entry:

New England Pronunciation

Eastern New England has three patterns of pronunciation that distinguish it from the rest of the country: the dropped "r," the "broad a," and the "New England short o." One is prominent, another is still well established, but the third is almost gone.

"r": Not here, but there it is In the eastern New England way of speaking, the "r" sound follows the British pattern of disappearing after a vowel, sometimes to be replaced by an "uh" sound. So fork loses its "r" and becomes something like "fohk"; hear becomes "heah"' and care becomes "caeh" (or "kay-uh," to attempt a better phonetic spelling).