Monday, March 23, 2015

Words I grew up saying differently

I can think of only a few conscious changes I've made to my own speech habits, at least on the word level.

1. Aunt. I grew up saying it like "ant." After I started teaching English in Russia in 2002, I got tired of having to clarify which word I meant (aunt or ant, since I pronounced them the same). You'd think this wouldn't come up that much, but somehow it did, so I consciously decided to start saying it aunt, to rhyme with "gaunt." And that's how I say it still. So if you talk to my siblings and me about my mother's sister, we will pronounce the word "aunt" differently from each other.

2. Soda. I grew up saying "pop." But as we've moved around the US and the world over the years, I've noticed that "pop" is less and less understood by others. So I say soda, even though it makes me die a little bit inside.

3. College. I almost never use this word anymore. People here do not understand it. So I no longer went to college, I went to university.

I was thinking about Jeremy and how he grew up in SE Idaho, so he sometimes flattens out the "ee" vowel in worlds like "field," to sound like "fild." He never did it very strongly, and while I really do try to respect the fact that there are many regional varieties of English in America, that particular tic of pronunciation grates on me. For years now, Jeremy has changed his pronunciation to be the more standard one ("feeld" instead of "fild"). I don't know how conscious of a thing this is for him. I do know that he sometimes over-corrects, and gives the "ee" vowel to something that actually should have the "ih" vowel - like saying "keeln" instead of "kiln," if that were ever a word he said (I couldn't think of a real example).

Have you ever consciously changed your pronunciation or word choice?

19 comments:

Jessie said...

I JUST had the conversation about choosing to say soda over pop with some friends on Saturday. I grew up all over the country so all variations sound normal to me, but I made a conscious decision to use "soda" exclusively, for the same reason you described.

Sort of(?) along the same lines: My Canadian husband *claims* he says "Sorry" the Gilbert Blythe way, but I have NEVER heard him say it like that. He also claims that he pronounces "lawyer" as law-yer, but again, he never has done it in front of me. I think he grew up saying them that way but subconsciously corrected himself during college and hasn't even realized it yet. I'm a brat and point it out when he does it. "I thought you say law-yer." "I do." "But you just said loy-er." "..."

AmandaStretch said...

Saying pop makes me die a little inside, so maybe that evens it out a little? I did spend 8 years growing up in Texas though and it's coke for everything. "I'd like a coke please?" "What kind?" "Sprite, thank you." Or going to the Coke machine instead of vending machine. I think I might still actually call it a Coke machine to differentiate between that a vending machine with food, but I haven't had an occasion to do so in a long time.

I have long practiced and am usually successful at saying "eye-ther" or "nye-ther" instead of "ee-ther" or "nee-ther". I just like the way it sounds better.

Kristi said...

I have had to start saying coupon differently now that we live on the East Coast. I grew up saying que-pon, but now I have to say coo-pon otherwise people don't understand me, which I find very weird. However, I find that I try to keep my pronunciation of coupon situational so talking to family I will say que-pon and talking to coworkers I will say coo-pon. But sometimes my brain just gets confused and I use the wrong one in the wrong setting...

jaraad said...

When I moved to the States the first thing I learned was the pronunciation of the 'z.' I learned it pronounced 'zee' not 'zed.' Among many other British words that I had to learn to speak the American way. All was piece of cake compared to, as an Arab, distinguishing between the 'p' and 'b'.

In most Arab countries, when you say I went to college people think of two-years community college. Known 'Kul.le.yah" in Arabic. Also, 'school' is never used to refer to college or a university. So, if you ask a 20-something Arab person do you go to school? Expect a weird look :) School is for the k-12 only.

Julee said...

I don't like #1 but I understand. #2 is the same for me :,(

Jen and Joe. said...

WE WON YOU OVER TO THE AUNT SIDE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Susanne said...

I was walking in my neighborhood just yesterday and overheard some kids saying 'aunt' the way you say it now so I thought of the ant/ahnt pronunciations as I strolled. So funny seeing this now!

I say it 'ant', but my Venezuelan brother in law says 'ahnt.'

I can't think of any words I purposefully say differently, but may think of something later. I so enjoy these kinds of posts!

Sarah Cook said...

I can't think of any I consciously try to change, except for maybe 'for'. Us Idahoans tend to say it like 'fer', as in 'I'm thankful fer'.

Myrna said...

What I think of right away is saying "Third Grade" (or whatever grade) instead of "Grade Three," which is how we say it in Canada. You would think "Grade Three" and "Third Grade" would obviously mean the same thing...or at least, if you were me, you would obviously think that. But, people don't get it, so I consciously try to remember to say it the American way.

Crys said...

The one great thing about growing up in arizona....seriously such a bland way of speaking. Always wished I had an accent though.... How fancy that you went to University ;)

Ashley said...

I grew up not pronouncing a difference between "pen" and "pin" and when I married Ben he would point it out all the time. I couldn't even say "pin" for a while...Now that I have a son with a speech delay I watch even more closely how I pronounce words.

Ariana said...

I grew up in Minnesota, with one parent from Brazil and one parent of Utah heritage but who grew up in California. I never picked up the strongest accent stuff from the upper-Midwest (it always sounded weird to me when people pledged allegiance to the "flag" which they pronounced with a long A as in 'age'...same with other words like magazine, bag, etc). Now I'm stuck in Utah with all the flat lazy vowels. It makes me CRaZy! No you did not just go get the mell, you got the freaking MAIL. No you are not having a yard sell, it's SALE. Look on the KSL classifieds and search "yard sell" and it will kill you to see how many people think it's actually spelled like that. As for "aunt", in Minnesota it was pronounced like it's spelled. But my mom would always correct me and make me say it "ant". That never made sense until we moved to the West. The one piece of the upper Midwest accent that I did pick up (and keep) is how they say O sounds. More pronounced long Os, and when it makes the "ah" sound, it comes out of the back of the throat instead of the front like people say it in the West.

Ariana said...

Oh I remember one -- the word crayon. My mom always said it "cran" but other kids growing up said both syllables. I made a point to say both syllables, just as it's spelled.

Kathy Haynie said...

My mother still says "jewlary" and "Febuary" - but I am a snob and I say "jewel-ry" and FebRUary."

Bridget said...

Jessie, I love that you described it as the Gilbert Blythe way, because that's the way I think of it, too! I bet he's correcting himself subconsciously.

Amanda, either (ha ha) pronunciation is acceptable and I think I tend to change mine based on the surrounding words. So "me neither" (I know, I know), but "neither do I" with matching vowel sounds in each phrase.

Kristi, YES! But I just can't change that one! People look at me weird when I say kyoo-pon here, but I just can't bring myself to lose that particular quirk.

Yes, Jaraad, that is an interesting distinction they make about "school" here! I hadn't thought of it so clearly before.

Julee, I can totally see you making fun of me for that. And you are right to do so.

Jen, so you grew up saying it that way?I know you CAN say auhnt in America but I've never been exactly clear which regions do it.

Sarah, if you listen carefully, I think you will hear more than just Idahoans saying "fer." We all do it when we speak quickly. I think it's just that Idahoans stretch it out more sometimes. :)

Myrna, that is another one I should have added to this list, but the reverse of yours: Grade Three, Year Three, etc. They do not say "Third Grade" here at all. So I don't, either. You and I balance each other out in the world, I guess.

Crys, thank you, yes, I do feel quite fancy.

Ashley, how interesting that you consider your speech as it affects your child. I had never thought of that.

Ariana, I think that vowel difference is the same one I was trying to describe with Jeremy. He has never said "sale/sell" but it's a similar flattening of the vowel. I only noticed it with ih and ee with him.

Jen and Joe. said...

Bridget....from what I've read, it's now pretty isolated to New England (with some adherence in down-state New York and northern New Jersey/Philly).

I've heard that something like 85(ish)% of Americans say "ant," while in New England, it's flip-flopped, and that same percentage of people say Aunt.

(The only people around here that say "ant" are transplanted Mormons.) =)

Liz Johnson said...

I've said "ahnt" for a really long time, but it doesn't totally work with Chris' sister (Andrea)... so I end up calling her Ahnt Ahndrea to the kids, which is not her name, but oh well. I like to think that it sounds fancier, maybe?

Ariana said...

I was watching some (obnoxious) local show the other day, and the people did a little blurb about Scheels - a huge sporting goods store. Except they were very clearly pronouncing it "shills" and I couldn't figure out where the heck they were talking about until they showed a picture of the store. Oh, SCHEELS (it's pronounced 'sheels'). Been there several times. Shills. Ugh.

Susanne said...

I was curious about Ashley saying this: "I couldn't even say "pin" for a while" -- do you mean you said both "pen" and "pin" like "pen"? Or that your husband made you so self-conscious that you had a hard time saying "pin"?

That stood out to me since most folks where I live say those words the same, too. :)


Fun post, Bridget! Oh, I remember I say kyoo-pon like you though I hear local TV ads say koo pon so I'm not really sure which is more common. Might have to ask on Facebook sometime.

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