Sunday, June 12, 2016

Southern Accents

by Jackie Fonseca of The Calamity Cafe by Gayle Leeson

I’ve got a little something stuck in my craw, but I’m going to do what I can to fix it. And I want y’all to help me. It’s about the word Appalachian. It is NOT pronounced Appalaychian. It’s Appalachian. Short a like in apple.

I tend to use that word as a measuring stick of how well TV and movie writers “know their southern.” For instance, it was like fingernails on a chalkboard when I was watching Justified one night and heard (I believe) Boyd Crowder say Appalaychian. “No, Boyd, NO!” Those writers did and actors did so well with dialect and then…that word. When watching Big Stone Gap, I held my breath at the “Appa—” and released it with a relieved sigh at the “—lachian.” I have to say, though, that I was a little disturbed at the way the actors pronounced the word married. It sounded like murried. I thought, “We don’t say married like that, do we? Do we?” And, no, I don’t think we do. Of course, some Appalachians might—there are several different dialects.

I did a little research and learned that the Appalachian region has its own language.  Linguists call it "Appalachian English."  The Scots-Irish settled the entire region known as Appalachia (all of West Virginia and portions of Virginia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia) in the mid-1700's.  At the time, physical boundaries kept modernization out.  Then in the 1940's, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was created; and that brought tourists to the area.  By the 1950's, highways and telephones were more prevalent throughout Appalachia, bringing the modern world another step closer to its rural inhabitants.

Now, I don't want you to think we in Appalachia are a bunch of snobs.  We realize that the same immigrants who settled here settled land elsewhere, but the linguists tell us that our speech patterns will not be found in any other dialect to the extent that they are in Appalachia.  

This little foray into my Appalachian heritage has given me new insight.  We might chop off some of our "-ings"; we might "reckon" rather than "guess" sometimes; and we might have places with such outlandish names as "Lick Skillet," "Frog Holler" and "Sugar Loaf," but we have a rich history.  We know where we came from and, for the most part, where we're going.  And if anyone thinks we're a bunch of ignorant hillbillies, then you ought to come and get to know us a little better.  If you stay long enough, we might be able to teach you how to talk right.  

Please join Gayle on her Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour for a chance to win books and other prizes, including a $50 Amazon gift card!


  1. Love those southern accents & dialects!
    Jackie might not say 'murried', but she probably says 'turrist' instead of 'toorist'?
    And winduh, tomorruh instead of wind-oe, tomorr-oe.
    "meet you in an ARE an' a half" instead of 'hour'?
    Do Appalachians say "she took a comb OUT HER purse..."(without the OF)? Or maybe that's just a Texas thang?
    For me, the most fun part of narrating is finding out all these pronunciations & idioms! Such an educational experience!

  2. LOL! You're right about 'turrist,' 'winduh,' and 'tomorruh'! I do say 'she took the comb out of her purse' so that could be a Texas thang. :D

    1. Think it must be cause we say the of as well here. :)

  3. I was born and raised in Middle TN and was surprised to hear that every area in east TN seems to have their own accents. I swear I had the hardest time understanding people from Maryville. And now I sure hope no one pronounced that Mary ville. It is Murry ville of course. Going down the line each community has some differences. And I for one love it. Actually even here in Nashville and Middle TN each area has their own accent. I live in what a lot of people call Flatrock or Woodbine (not Nashville Proper) and I was lucky enough to have a mother from Germany so my accent is actually understandable, lol!

  4. Oh I got so excited about the whole accent thing, I forgot to say that I love the book and cant wait for the next installment in what promises to be a fabulous new series

  5. I wasn't born and raised in the south but I come from South Philadelphia and I still have my accent and I have to repeat a lot of words so people know what I am talking about!I have lived in the south for over 15 yrs now and when I go home they tease me about some of the things I say. I love an accent it makes people unique!I have not read your series but it sounds great! Thanks!

  6. Love the cover. Sounds like a good read.
    Carol Smith

  7. I was born, bred, raised, and still live in the Pacific Northwest and kick such a kick out of accents and dialect variations. Several months ago I listened to another cozy book set in the south as an audio book and oh my, did listening to it rather than reading it absolutely make the language come alive! I look forward to reading The Calamity Cafe and hope I can do the accent justice as I do so.

  8. Agree. Books written with a strong sense of "place" are just MADE for audio! (b/c trying to spell out those pronunciations is gonna lose you some intelligibility, right?)

    Also it seems like a common theme in a lot of the cozies I see, to have your protagonist be "from around here," but then she's gone off to college/marriage/whatever, and now moved BACK. Thus giving some sense of the clash of cultures, & balancing what we love---and what drives us CRAZY---about the people & the places that shape us.

    Love the cover, love the first chapter, LOVE Cassandra Morris' work on the audio version!