Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Wanna Sound Like a Local?

Well, to be honest, you might not. If you adopt my regional accent, well, people might have a tendency to call you "whiny." That said, my only comment on the primary coverage tonight will be on an issue of pronunciation. Consider the following word:

Cuyahoga.

How do you say it? Do you say it like Michael Stipe in the song of the same name? Coy-a-hoag-a? Do you say it in a modified way, but still similar to this, Cuy (rhymes with buy)-a-hoag-a? Or do you say it like me - somebody who was born and raised on the West Side of Cleveland?

It's Cuy (rhymes with buy) - a - hog (oink oink) - a.

And yes, I am irrationally enraged each time I hear it pronounced otherwise. Because, as a nun told me in grade school, we don't have an accent. We talk just like the newscasters. And thus I really resent it when the newscasters don't conform to my regional whine, my strange idiosyncratic pronunciation of a word that *technically* is probably correctly pronounced as in option #2. (Nobody except Michael Stipe pronounces it like Michael Stipe.)

18 comments:

Propter Doc said...

Strange, I would have said See-Yah-Hoo-Gah. But that's Scottish for you, we say stuff strange.

life_of_a_fool said...

Hee. I pronounce it wrong (#2) - but I LOVE to say it! I look for excuses, and sometimes say it with a little bit of a twang. I'm sure you'd be horrified.

JustMe said...

Cuy (rhymes with buy)-a-hoag-a is my answer. of course, i am nowhere near local so i don't think i count.

Tad Suiter said...

I say it the second/modified way.

I guess that's wrong? Oh, well.

I do have to say, though, that people from Cleveland *do* have accents. So do people from Southeast Ohio.

It's those of us from Toledo, Dayton, Columbus don't. ;D

Dr. Crazy said...

Oh, all, I know you all are most likely saying it correctly, and I do not blame you. Well, except for you, Propter Doc, but being Scottish, everybody would find your pronunciation charming :)

My pronunciation is completely lacking in charm and actually hurts the ears of people. I don't deny it :)

And Tad, for shame that you claim that there are no accents in those other Ohio cities. Lies! Lies, I say!

helenesch said...

I grew up in suburban Detroit also believing that people in Michigan have no accents (when I was teaching on Long Island, my students thought otherwise! But seriously, what did they know?)

I say it the Michael Stipe way. In fact, whenever I hear it mentioned that song starts playing in my head...

Dr. Virago said...

I used to say it like Michael Stipe, but learned to say it like Dr. C in recent years.

But to all you poor deluded folk who think they have no accents: EVERYONE HAS AN ACCENT.

That's really where I should leave it, but I have to say the nun who told Dr. Crazy that Cleveland talks like newscaster, and commenters Tad and Helenesch, above, who think Michigan and Toledo have no accent, obviously have not heard of the Northern Cities Vowel Shift. (Dayton doesn't belong in this group, but it too has an accent.)

All of you need to visit the "Do You Speak American" site at PBS. Just google the phrase in quotes and click on the "From Sea to Shining Sea" link once you're there. Look for the article about shifting vowels.

Newcasters once upon a time were generally taught Midlands American -- which *is* more what they speak in Dayton, and also central Ohio, central Indiana and Illinois, and northern Missouri, as well as Iowa, Nebraska, and eastern Kansas. (These days even national broadcasters have some regionalisms, and half of them are Canadians, anyway.) But Cleveland, Detroit, Toledo, Chicago, and basically all of the Great Lakes region belong to a different dialect area (and there are, of course, nuances and local dialects within that).

In fact, Dr. Crazy, the very reason you say Cuy-a-HOG-a and not HOAG-a has everything to do with the Northern Cities Vowel Shift and your regional accent. But you knew that, I'm sure.

Oh, and Michiganders are famous for thinking they have no accents apparently -- at least according to the PBS site. But then my Chicagoan dad thought he had no accent either, but he pronounces "hello" like "yellow"! So really, I think Midwesterners all think they have no accents, when a) they do, and b) there are a number of varieties of them!

Dr. Crazy said...

Well, there's a lot of propaganda out there promoting the whole "Midwesterners don't have accents" thing, but oh yes, I've got one for sure. Funny story: I recently did a radio thing for our local NPR station, and I sent the link to Mr. Too-Good-to-Be-Crazy's-Muse. His response, after praising me? "Hey! You didn't sound all nasal-y" (Note, I think what he really meant was whiny, as I don't think I actually have a *nasal* voice per se but rather that there's the whole flattening out of the vowels thing that goes on.) The point here, though, is that apparently I am able to modify the flat vowels when I do things like giving interviews or conference papers. But when I'm comfortable and in a non-professional setting? Not so much. And the accent only gets more annoying if I'm talking to a hometown person or if I'm in a location that has similarly flat vowels. At least now I hear it in my voice though and I can control it with a teensy bit of thought - I suppose one of the benefits of going to grad school in the Northeast.

T.E. said...

Dr. C's nun wasn't totally wrong, though, because boy do the newscasters (and local NPR station announcers, who are currently fundraising) ever have the local accent! (The Shift is much more pronounced west of That River, though :-))

I still say it the -hoag- way despite years of hearing the locals pronounce it locally/correctly.

Dr. Crazy said...

Hehe, T.E. I actually made a point of noting that I am a native West-Sider because it occurred to me that some East-Sider could potentially come along and question my vehemence on this point :) And yes, the local media TOTALLY have the accent. Actually, one of my local NPR radio personalities is originally from Cleveland... going by that, perhaps news people *do* sound like Clevelanders? :)

Tad Suiter said...

I don't think the vowel shift is actually as common among Toledo residents as it is among a lot of other northern rust-belt cities-- it may be just an opinion formed from an un-representative data set (the people I know from Toledo), but I always assumed that either Toledo had attracted a different pattern of ethnic immigrants in the period of rapid industrialization, or that it had just experienced a more fluid population than, say, Cleveland or Detroit.

And yes, I'm perfectly aware that everyone has an accent. I just like teasing people from the Western Reserve who think they're really Ohioans.

Dr. Crazy said...

Tad,
I've got to say, I think it's the people that you know from Toledo. Two of my close friends from college (one of whom was also a roommate) were from there, and lemme tell ya: they had the accent, with slight variations, that I carry around and that means that I will never have decent pronunciation of French. Remember: Toledo is a place in which the word "Nevada" can be pronounced "Neh-VAY-da." (For a street, if I recall correctly, not for the state, though I remember having a conversation about this in which my friend explained that this was very confusing for her in elementary school when it came time to learn the states.)

bridgett said...

Where on the West Side? I'm from Lorain County -- grew up in Avon! Perhaps this accounts for our mutual fascination with all things White Christmas?

I pronounce it like you do. However, the way the subprime crash is hitting that county, there might be no one left there by the end of this year.

Dr. Crazy said...

Lakewood, baby! Border suburb with a bar and a church on every corner! (And you don't have to tell me about the subprime crisis - I hear about it from my mom - pronounced maaaahhhhm - on the phone every week :) )

Dr. Virago said...

So, Crazy, when you're talking to your maaaahhhhm, do you say things like "Baaaahhhhb dree-ank a cee-an of paaaahhhp?" (That is, if you know a dude named Bob who likes to drink pop.) When I talk to my never-left-Kansas siblings, my accent gets twangier., and weirdly, the way I say Kansas almost sounds like Northern Cities accent: "Kee-ansas."

Actually, do you still say pop? I went to college in the East, immediately trained myself to say soda, moved to the West Coast and kept saying soda, and now that I'm back in the midwest, can't bring myself to say pop any more!

Tad - Oh, trust me, Toledoans have the vowel shift. But not all of them. These things are affected by class, gender, and generation, too. To give you a non-Toledo example: apparently the cot/caught merger that a number of different American dialects share didn't happen in my neck of the woods (Kansas suburbs of Kansas City) until my generation and later (I'm 38). So my Boomer siblings -- who grew up in the SAME house, went to the SAME schools, and had the SAME parents -- have two different sounds for cot and caught, but I have only one.

Weird, huh?

So, yeah, it's entirely possible that the Toledoans you know don't have a lot of the shift, but many others do.

life_of_a_fool said...

Ha! I had the "pop" habit pretty quickly mocked out of me when I went to college in Louisiana as well. I learned that "I'd like a Coke please" "What kind?" "Seven Up/Root Beer/whatever" is a perfectly normal conversation. I CANNOT say pop anymore (though I'm now on the east coast and no one says pop here either).

bridgett said...

Lakewood, no kidding! My brother graduated from St. Ed's. I spent most weekends between 1982-1986 hanging around Madison Village because, well, Avon was an uncool farm town and Lakewood had somewhat more of a teen scene. Between the Zephyr Bar (which was a little rockabilly/jive dive that served underage kids and let them dance if they dressed sharp) and the Fantasy Theater (yes, I really did pay money to see Spandau Ballet live), and Chris's Warped Records, I passed countless hours wearing too much eye makeup and looking surly in your hometown. But my hair was killah. Then I graduated and moved over to the East side (lived on Coventry and then behind Shaker Square).

spideradams said...

I don't think I have an accent though. I can recognize when people talk with an accent, like Meg Ryan in Against The Ropes. Those are the people that live in Parma, mainly.

When I moved south for a while, everybody asked me if I was from New York. Thats only because southerners think all yankees are from NY. I've been told I do sound like that only when I'm mad though. (I sound like I'm from New York when I'm mad, Britney Spears sounds like shes from YORK.... when she's mad)

I think everybody expects us to say we sound like Sarah Palin or Plankton's Wife from SBSP... my hairdresser sounds like that, not me! I'm from the west side of Cleveland, closer to downtown- its the people that live out in the suburban parts of Cleveland that sound like that!

OH! and when we went down south we went to a McDonalds and the worker there had to get the manager for us because she had no clue what "pop" was..... haha