How We Talk: American Regional English Today

Overview

Where are you when people • go to the coast instead of the beach • tote things as well as carry them • wait on line instead of in line • get groceries in a paper sack instead of a paper bag • say things like “The baby needs picked up” and “The car needs washed” • eat solid rectangular doughnuts that are also called beignets • complain when something is spendy (“costly”) • are chilled by a blue norther • ask for tonic instead of soda • go “dahntahn” to shop.

Allan Metcalf answers...

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Overview

Where are you when people • go to the coast instead of the beach • tote things as well as carry them • wait on line instead of in line • get groceries in a paper sack instead of a paper bag • say things like “The baby needs picked up” and “The car needs washed” • eat solid rectangular doughnuts that are also called beignets • complain when something is spendy (“costly”) • are chilled by a blue norther • ask for tonic instead of soda • go “dahntahn” to shop.

Allan Metcalf answers these and many other fascinating questions in his new book, How We Talk: American Regional English Today. In short, delightful essays, Metcalf explains the key features that make American speech so expressive and distinct. He begins in the South, home of the most easily recognized of American dialects, and travels north to New England, then on to the Midwest and the far West, even to Alaska and Hawaii. It’s all here: the northern Midwest “Fargo” accent, Louisiana Cajun and New Orleans Yat, dropped r’s as in Boston’s “Hahvahd Yahd,” and intrusive r’s as in “Warshington,” especially common in America’s midlands. With additional chapters on ethnic dialects and dialects in the movies, Metcalf reveals the resplendence of one our nation’s greatest natural resources—its endless and varied talk.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Moving from the South to the North to the West, this linguistic tour of the United States shows state-by-state, and sometimes city-by-city, how Americans talk. Metcalf (English, MacMurray College) takes an often humorous slant on his examination of speech patterns, traveling not only geographically through the fifty states (including special sections on Hawaii and Alaska), but also historically, including a lamentation by Henry James in 1905, wherein James groans over the insertion or omission of the letter "r" in the spoken word. Illustrated with maps, photographs and tables, the book is written for a general audience. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
From The Critics
How We Talk surveys American regional English, examining local sayings and figures of speech and moving across the country to access both statewide and regional quirks of language. Any studying regional language will find it an appealing, educational examination of modern regional oddities.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780618043620
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 10/16/2000
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 5.48 (w) x 8.17 (h) x 0.57 (d)

Meet the Author

Allan Metcalf is a professor of English at MacMurray College, executive secretary of the American Dialect Society, and author of books on language and writing. His books on language include AMERICA IN SO MANY WORDS (with David K. Barnhart), THE WORLD IN SO MANY WORDS, HOW WE TALK: AMERICAN REGIONAL ENGLISH TODAY, PREDICTING NEW WORDS, and PRESIDENTIAL VOICES. His books on writing include RESEARCH TO THE POINT and ESSENTIALS OF WRITING TO THE POINT. He lives in Jacksonville, Illinois.

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Table of Contents

Introduction vii
Note on Sources xiii
Acknowledgments xv
The South 1
The Upper South or South Midlands 39
The North 55
New England 62
New York City and the Mid-Atlantic 79
The Inland North 93
The West 119
The Mountain West 122
The Far West and Beyond 131
American Ethnic 155
In the Movies 177
Dialects 2100 191
Indexes
Word Index 195
Subject Index 201
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