Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Talking the Tawk

Years ago, I got into a HUGE argument discussion with a bunch of my native New Yorker friends/coworkers over how to pronounce certain words. It all started when Matt (from Westchester County) insisted that "Carrie" and "Kerry" were two entirely different-sounding names, and before long "Mary" and "merry" and "Sherrie" and "Shari" were on the table along with a slew of other words. I was completely thrown for a loop. These were fellow wordsmiths, yet they didn't agree with me. I became indignant and things started to get tense (well, for me at least). I maintained that the supposed distinction was nothing but their regional accent, while New Jersey born Seimond and Brooklyn-bred Alisa backed Matt and insisted I was nuts. Well, kids, it took nearly a decade. But amNewYork finally tackled the subject this week, and I'm pretty sure youse are going to have to admit that I was right all along ...


Countervail said...

I encountered this too. Being Ohio born and raised, we're maybe not the most eloquent speakers, but I had the same experience. Someone noted that I was pronouncing someone's name like that incorrectly. When they were pronouncing the two "different" ways to say it, I heard no difference.

I have a Master's in voice performance and have several years of diction training to my credit and couldn't help thinking this person was nuts.

Matthew said...

Anyone who thinks those names are pronounced differently are just stupid. And "stupid" is pronounced "mis-in-formed."

Joey said...

I've actually had out-of-town gays have the gall to say to me, "You have an accent." No I don't! You don't have an accent when you're right in the place where everybody grows up speaking that way. The visitors have the accent.

Frank Anthony Polito said...

I don't know, guys... Growing up in Michigan I used to think I did NOT have an accent at all.

After years of voice training in Drama school, I learned that wasn't the case!

Though I STILL refuse to say "Get ON line" at the supermarket... It's "IN line!"

dmizejewski said...

I have had this same realization/conversation and I have to agree with your friends on this one, Kenneth.

I don't see why it's so odd-seeming for words with different spellings and different meanings to be pronounced differently.

Carrie and Kerry have different vowels. So do marry and merry. Different vowels represent different sounds, generally speaking, and that should be reflected in their pronunciation in words. Short "a" and short "e" should sound different when pronounced.

Another example that I've heard is pronouncing short "i" and short "e" the same. Ben and bin shouldn't be pronounced the same, nor should pin and pen - and if so we should just change their spellings and/or definitions.

I do agree that the NY accent is changing. My mother grew up in Jersey City, just over the river from Manhattan, and has a thick accent. I also grew up in NJ but further south and have no accent (although I probably had slight one when I was young, before moving away). When friends hear my mother speak for the first time, they are shocked that her child sounds nothing like her. Some of cousins of the same age that grew up in northern NJ do have some accent but it's much less than our parents and older relatives.

Language is alive, I suppose. I find it fascinating.