Skip to comments.Southerners and Gs (With Growing Population, Southern and Western accents are on the rise).
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.
I still live in Wisconsin because it is the only place I’ve found where the people have no accents.
Well I’ll be od damn!
YOUR VELCOME TO NEW YAWK, VER AL AKSENTS KAN BE FAUND.
My Wisconsin cousins have discernable Wisconsin accents.
Ya mean “Worshington?” There IS a G in there. But I don’t know where they go at the ends of words.
The Southern accent is the best. Music to my ears.
“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.
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
There ain't nothin' wrong with grits!
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.
Actually, it’s “y’all”.....jus’ sayin’.....
“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!”
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
“I still live in Wisconsin because it is the only place Ive 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!
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.
Where do I start?
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