Saturday, July 10, 2010

Lawn Giland Accents

Peggy, Ann, Patty, Dot, Kay, Billie
in the 1970s

My aunts (pronounced like ants) were not usually unkind to me, with one grave exception. They often asked me the question:

“What do you call the paper thing you make a dress from?”

I would say, “It’s a pattern." (Pronounced pad-earn.)

Much laughter as they'd say, "It's a pattern." (Pronounced like General Patton's last name.)

Always glad to make people happy, I fell for it many times.

The problem here (Really no problem. I'd fall for it---they'd laugh.) is what linguists call rhoticity.

Not Rotisserie---Rhoticity

"English pronunciation can be divided into two main accent groups: A rhotic speaker pronounces the letter R in the word hard; a non-rhotic speaker does not pronounce it in the word hard…non-rhotic speakers pronounce R only if it is followed by a vowel sound."

There is no vowel after the R in pattern. Growing up in Ohio and then Kansas, I became a rhotic speaker. Apparently one learns one's accent between the ages of 8 and 14 from one's peers. Not from one's horrified mother who insisted there was no such thing as a "warsh rag."

These items are called warsh-rags in Cincinnati, Ohio

I don't know where the R in waRsh rag comes from.

It all must have have grated on my mother's nerves. She was a non-Rhotic speaker.

Cele, Bahbuhruh (or is it Jane?), Ben and Bill
Summer, 1959

She called me Bah-buh-ruh. No R until it's followed by a vowel at the end.

Worse, she called my close friend Linder Tayluh, adding an R to the end of Linda, an R she borrowed from the end of Taylor.

I can't imagine why I pronounce the double TT's in pattern like a D, but I tell you I'm not the only one out here. I'm in the quilt pattern business so it's a word we often use---apparently we all have accents out here on the plains.

P.S. Not only is there a Manhattan, Kansas, there is a Long Island, Kansas (not a drop of water in sight.)

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