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Southerners and Gs (With Growing Population, Southern and Western accents are on the rise).
National Review ^ | 08/25/2012 | Charles C. W. Cooke

Posted on 08/25/2012 7:14:10 AM PDT by SeekAndFind

Americans are not infatuated with class in the manner that the British are, but accents remain consequential nonetheless. How else to explain the Amazing Disappearing G, a trick of pronunciation that, whereabouts permitting, politicians on the campaign trail and beyond are keen to perform? Vice President Joe Biden, during his ignoble allegation that the Republican party has a secret plan to put black Americans "back in chains," avoided the participial G as if he were fatally allergic.

Were we in the Southern states, Biden's trick would instead be called the Amazin' Disappearin' G, and this has not been lost on any of this year's presidential contenders. While Mitt Romney has much less of a tendency toward dropping his Gs than does Barack Obama, the Republican candidate is not wholly innocent: Touring the South during the primaries, Romney wished supporters a "fine Alabama good mornin' " and took to asking, rhetorically, "Ain't that somethin' ?" This while pretending to like grits, no less.

Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, why politicians do this is self-evident. But more interesting is why Southerners do it in the first place. The answer is surprising: Actually, Southerners are truer to “original” English voicing than are their G-happy Northern counterparts. Chalk one up there for Biden. Historically, writes Barbara Strang in A History of English, “the more ‘correct’ pronunciation [i.e., the pronunciation of Gs], as it was considered, was in reality an innovation, based upon the spelling.” That is to say that Southerners who are speakin’ instead of speaking are “correct” — insofar as anybody can be right or wrong linguistically — and, by contrast, educated types who disparage the loss of the G are “incorrect” to do so, their admonishments serving only as invitations further to change the very language that they are attempting to preserve. 

In Britain and in certain parts of America today, dropping Gs is perceived as a negative class or educational indicator. This is especially true in England, in which country a “cockney” or “estuary” accent is — albeit unfairly — redolent of ignorance, lack of social grace, and naivety. This association is a modern trend. Until the mid-20th century, the phenomenon was as strongly associated with the upper classes as those at the bottom of the social ladder. A favorite aristocratic pastime? “Huntin’, shootin’, and fishin’.”

This being the case, it would presumably horrify many to learn that, per the esteemed linguist Henry Wyld, as late as 1936, G-less pronunciation was “still widespread among large classes of the best speakers, no less than among the worst.” Among these “best speakers” was King Edward VII, who was recorded asking a friend wearing a particularly loud tweed to Royal Ascot, “Mornin’, Harris. Goin’ rattin’?” Much research bears Wyld out, showing as it does that for most of the time in which modern English has been spoken, the G has remained predominantly orthographic. Even Bertie Wooster, P. G. Wodehouse’s dandyish blueblood, was prone to dropping his Gs — at least until his habit was kicked in 1934’s Thank You, Jeeves.

Compare and contrast Rudyard Kipling (not, alas, Kiplin’), who in 1906 makes his dropped G explicit:

Marriage, birth or buryin’,
News across the seas,
All you’re sad or merry in,
You must tell the Bees.

With Jonathan Swift, who in 1699 does not:

But Weston has a new-cast gown
On Sundays to be fine in,
And, if she can but win a crown,
Twill just new-dye the lining.

It is perhaps something of a mistake to categorize the habit as dropping Gs, when, in truth, certain classes of people added them to a language previously devoid. If one can gain prestige from historically faithful pronunciation, then it belongs to Southerners.

That faithful pronunciation is not limited to the letter G. At the time of the Revolutionary War, American and British accents were somewhat similar, though informed by the usual geographical variations. Contrary to popular belief, colonial Americans did not speak with British accents of which the passage of time slowly has deprived them. Instead, the two accents diverged, with most of the changes being made on the British side — and somewhat deliberately, to boot.

But why is the Southern accent different? Simplistically: From 1717 up to the eve of the War of Independence, Scots-Irish from the northern and western parts of Britain moved to America, helping to populate the South. Ultimately, most of these immigrants followed the rivers, setting up home along their paths. As the University of Pennsylvania’s John Fought has argued, the consequence of this was that the inland South was filled by immigrants who extended their manner of speaking “beyond the Mississippi to Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri and beyond . . . taking Inland Southern down the major rivers.” As they moved away from the coasts, the accents and modes of speech that these immigrants brought with them were incubated and preserved in the new country.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic in Britain, Rs were going out of fashion, softening almost to the vanishing point in words like “Lord” and, for that matter, “word,” and Gs were coming in, especially among the upper classes and those who aspired to their ways. During the 19th century, British English changed dramatically, leading eventually to the quasi-codification of the Received Pronunciation that is still the calling card of the elites. Slowly but surely, the new way of speaking spread through the old country, and then to a lesser extent across the Atlantic. To varying degrees, in the cities of New York, Boston, and Philadelphia, and in a few other parts of the upper East Coast — plus a few snobbish Southern outliers such as Richmond, Charleston, and Savannah — American accents were influenced by these British changes. But outside of these areas, distance inured most from being affected, and they kept their older pronunciations, including the silent G.

With growing Southern and Western populations, Southern and Western accents are on the rise. In 1900, 61 percent of the American people lived in the Northeast and upper Midwest; in 2000, that was down to just 38 percent. One potential consequence of this trend is that you’ll hear fewer Gs. That being so, the political class had better get practicin’.

 Charles C. W. Cooke is an editorial associate for National Review.



TOPICS: Culture/Society; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: linguistics

1 posted on 08/25/2012 7:14:18 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind

I still live in Wisconsin because it is the only place I’ve found where the people have no accents.


2 posted on 08/25/2012 7:19:32 AM PDT by gorush (History repeats itself because human nature is static)
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To: SeekAndFind
What people in Balmoor or Wershington?
3 posted on 08/25/2012 7:20:33 AM PDT by Perdogg (Mutts for Mitt all agree - Better in the crate than on the plate)
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To: SeekAndFind

Well I’ll be od damn!


4 posted on 08/25/2012 7:22:10 AM PDT by Happy Rain ("Who needs Michelle? The MSM keep Obama satisfied.")
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To: gorush

YOUR VELCOME TO NEW YAWK, VER AL AKSENTS KAN BE FAUND.


5 posted on 08/25/2012 7:25:43 AM PDT by SeekAndFind (bOTRT)
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To: gorush

My Wisconsin cousins have discernable Wisconsin accents.


6 posted on 08/25/2012 7:26:30 AM PDT by Tudorfly
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To: Tudorfly

:{)


7 posted on 08/25/2012 7:30:02 AM PDT by gorush (History repeats itself because human nature is static)
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To: Perdogg

Ya mean “Worshington?” There IS a G in there. But I don’t know where they go at the ends of words.


8 posted on 08/25/2012 7:47:25 AM PDT by Cloverfarm (This too shall pass ...)
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To: SeekAndFind

The Southern accent is the best. Music to my ears.


9 posted on 08/25/2012 7:50:16 AM PDT by Wage Slave (Army Mom!)
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To: Tudorfly

“My Wisconsin cousins have discernable Wisconsin accents.”

Although I have lived in Texas for a good while, I still have the Wisconsin accent but a bit softened. Every once in a while I will meet someone from Wisconsin and my accent will come back quite strong for a few days. I love the sound of that accent.


10 posted on 08/25/2012 7:51:10 AM PDT by buffaloguy
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To: SeekAndFind

This is what happens when tens of thousands of unskilled, ignorant people are given teaching licenses.

These are ‘teachers’ who can hardly speak proper English, don’t know what a verb or pronoun is, let alone how to diagram a sentence. What could possibly go wrong? Babel anyone?

We are simply experiencing the beginning of a nationwide Ebonics plague


11 posted on 08/25/2012 7:51:26 AM PDT by Balding_Eagle (Liberals, at their core, are aggressive & dangerous to everyone around them,)
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To: SeekAndFind
This while pretending to like grits, no less.

HEY!

There ain't nothin' wrong with grits!

(:-p)

12 posted on 08/25/2012 7:55:41 AM PDT by MamaTexan (I am a Person as Created by the Laws of Nature, not a person as created by the laws of Man)
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To: SeekAndFind
One of the tell tale giveaways of the Southern accent is the word: "ya'll", a contraction of 'you' and 'all'. But, I contend that the problem is actually with the English language itself, specifically second person plural. Simply saying 'you' for both one and many might be vague to the listener. "Do you mean all of us?" So quite a few regions have evolved a form of second person plural:

1. "Youse", (What is that, you with an 's' to indicate plural?)

2. "You Guys", (This is definitely sexist. Do you mean only the men?).

A Southern Gentleman would never insult the ladies by saying "You Guys", so I think that the Southern second person plural 'fix' is the best.

13 posted on 08/25/2012 8:08:16 AM PDT by sportutegrl
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To: sportutegrl

Actually, it’s “y’all”.....jus’ sayin’.....


14 posted on 08/25/2012 8:18:21 AM PDT by JW1949
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To: SeekAndFind

“the Amazing Disappearing G”

Bwaaaa! Reminds me of my 5th grade teacher. She was such a stickler for pronouncing the G, that when she said my name, Millings, it sounded like “Millinguhs!”


15 posted on 08/25/2012 8:20:05 AM PDT by Dr. Bogus Pachysandra ( Ya can't pick up a turd by the clean end!)
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To: SeekAndFind
As much as I adore the accents of my own kind I strongly disagree with this claim.

I am southern from as far back as John Rolfe, Pochahontas and William Byrd and French Huguenots in the Carolinas

the beginnings of Southerndom

and I can tell you the accent is fading...no doubt

anywhere in Dixie where yankees have streamed in....and boy have they ever

the accent is being diluted with Michigan, New York/Jersey, Ohio and the ones most likely to be liberals...California...one notable freeper who is a friend of mine off this forum being a glaring exception

and even more striking is that younger southerners who have secondary education at least in the more suburban areas are working diligently to erase their southern accents

the culture has taught them to be ashamed of it...it is the accent of racism to them

and worse...poorer and often less educated whites...at least in Middle TN are now often speaking Ebonics..they are “wiggers” or whatever word pleases folks...died in the wool...their intermixing of their women will result in a black southern dialect spoken by legions of mulattoes in years to come..not sure what that will be called

in that particular youth class in greater Nashville I would say it's the reproductive endeavor in 40% of poorer white girls...and no daddies of course...arguably the highest concentration of such class behavior I've seen anywhere in the US...its not common where I come from further south

and will no doubt change the language as much as yankee influx and shame of the more fancy youth

non southerners really just lump all Southern and Country accents together like Gringos think Mexicans and Argentinians are “alike”

whereas ...they are different and many sub dialects

true southern drawl will in time go the way of gullah

and it will be missed

the way Dixie Carter spoke, or Elizabeth Ashley or my Aunt Joyce spoke is fading and to my ear...it was the most pleasant female speaking sound...that and French girls speaking English

True southern is basically spoken from east Texas and North Dallas thru Mid Louisiana and southern Arkansas and all of Mississippi, West Tennessee west of the TN river, western Kentucky, all Alabama from Huntsville south, Georgia except blue ridge and yankee Atlanta..though Atlanta still has serious old school southern accents in Buckhead and Alpharetta..like Ted speaks though he was born in the north, the red state counties of Florida from the panhandle to Everglades City and aback up to Palatka..like a gerrymandered salamander, nearly all of South Carolina, 2/3rds eastern part of North Carolina except where Yankees have inundated...Chapel Hill..etc, rural lowland Virginia and maybe even the hilly part towards Lexington..but not real Appalachia..anywhere they say "out" like "house" Maryland..don't know....Oklahoma and the rest of Texas southern but not so much a Southern drawl accent but a teeth together country accent, southern Missouri...here and there..Missouri is hard to peg really...sure as hell nowhere north of 70

I tell you an odd place you hear southern is Maracaibo Venezuela....all the English teachers there must have been from Texas or Oklahoma...oil

16 posted on 08/25/2012 8:25:51 AM PDT by wardaddy (this white hair don't cover up my redneck......)
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To: gorush

“I still live in Wisconsin because it is the only place I’ve found where the people have no accents.”

Sorry! But,,, another BWAAAAAA! You must not ever go the Milwaukee’s Southside, aini hey?

I guess people generally don’t think they have an accent, but that everybody else does! I went to Midland Texas for three weeks when I was 13. Came back with a Texas accent, that my friends all made fun of!

I’ve traveled some, and always took delight in hearing regional accents. For my money, Northern Ohio is pretty un-accented,,, but Southern Ohio? Thick! Then again,,,, I’m, from Northern Ohio, so I’m prejudiced!


17 posted on 08/25/2012 8:28:05 AM PDT by Dr. Bogus Pachysandra ( Ya can't pick up a turd by the clean end!)
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To: wardaddy
true southern drawl will in time go the way of gullah

I'm afraid you're right about that. Here in East Texas the native Southern drawl is slowly becoming extinct as the old folks die off and the younger people are influenced by the influx of northerners and by the accents (or lack thereof) that they hear in the media.

Personally, I thought Shelby Foote's accent was about as good as it gets.

18 posted on 08/25/2012 8:48:20 AM PDT by Texas Mulerider (Rap music: hieroglyphics with a beat.)
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To: SeekAndFind
Been living in Huntersville, NC just a few miles outside Charlotte. Haven't heard a Southern accent since I've been here. No wonder the state is purple leaning blue the last few years. Only 58% of those living here are native North Carolinian.
19 posted on 08/25/2012 9:06:54 AM PDT by animal172 (Go Paul Ryan. Chew 'em up and spit 'em out.)
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To: SeekAndFind

Where do I start?

20 posted on 08/25/2012 9:08:40 AM PDT by ConservativeStatement (Obama "acted stupidly.")
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To: SeekAndFind

As Jimmy Buffett says, “I can’t pronounce my Rs and Gs when I’m speakin’ Southernese”.

Honey-Do, a honey come and do me again.


21 posted on 08/25/2012 9:12:07 AM PDT by Buckeye Battle Cry (Audentis Fortuna Iuvat)
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To: gorush

People is “Wiskaansin” have no “aaksents”!?!


22 posted on 08/25/2012 9:15:04 AM PDT by Buckeye Battle Cry (Audentis Fortuna Iuvat)
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To: Buckeye Battle Cry

That’s right! :{)


23 posted on 08/25/2012 9:16:51 AM PDT by gorush (History repeats itself because human nature is static)
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To: SeekAndFind

Thank you for the interesting post!

Here is a recent, related thread:

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2922506/posts

Regards,


24 posted on 08/25/2012 9:30:31 AM PDT by VermiciousKnid (Sic narro nos totus!)
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To: MamaTexan
There ain't nothin' wrong with grits!

I remember my first trip up north. I stayed in a fancy hotel, and the morning buffet had a big platter of grits. Kinda runny grits, but grits is grits.

I took a bit mouthful of grits and spit it out on the table. I found out it's some nauseating concoction called "cream of wheat". Disgusting stuff. Being a polite southerner, I refrained from cussing up a storm.

25 posted on 08/25/2012 9:38:21 AM PDT by gitmo ( If your theology doesn't become your biography it's useless.)
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To: wardaddy
...Missouri is hard to peg really...

Speaking of the "Show Me" state, what is considered its proper pronunciation?

Missour-EE
Missour-ah

I've heard that lightening of the last syllable as a reduced or softer vowel (almost a "schaw sound") is a characteristic of a well-to-do, longtime Missourian.

By the way, wardaddy, the county next to you, Rutherford is sometimes pronounced as Rellerford by long-tenured country folks in places like Eagleville and Christiana.

26 posted on 08/25/2012 10:03:18 AM PDT by re_nortex (DP...that's what I like about Texas.)
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To: SeekAndFind

I have lived on the west coast for most of my life..with a short time in new England. Accents in NE were very strange to my ears at first. I love the ‘southern’ accent. It makes me think of a different time when people were more gentile, polite and proud of their culture. I guess I’m romantizing things.


27 posted on 08/25/2012 10:21:00 AM PDT by Conservative4Ever (The Obamas = rude, crude and socially unacceptable)
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To: Conservative4Ever
I love the ‘southern’ accent. It makes me think of a different time when people were more gentile, polite and proud of their culture. I guess I’m romantizing things.

I don't think you're guilty of romanticizing at all. The map below clearly shows the "Solid South" is the land of freedom and liberty. We're proud of our culture, our values and we won't buckle under the jackboot thuggery of Big Labor goons with their forced socialism:

Now more than ever before, the "Southern Accent" places an emphasis on individual liberty and our twang favors business and free enterprise. The extortion racketeers of unionism steer clear of Dixie.


28 posted on 08/25/2012 10:32:19 AM PDT by re_nortex (DP...that's what I like about Texas.)
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To: re_nortex

Thank you for your kind reply. I could live in the south, however the humidity would get me and being a Yankee it would take 5-6 generations to be accepted. :-)


29 posted on 08/25/2012 11:09:49 AM PDT by Conservative4Ever (The Obamas = rude, crude and socially unacceptable)
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Working in the deep south for too long makes my teeth itch.

I’ve never liked when people address me singularly as Y’all. I don’t know if I’m supposed to respond I’all or Me’all.


30 posted on 08/25/2012 11:49:20 AM PDT by dsrtsage (One half of all people have below average IQ. In the US the number is 54%)
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