Why We Talk Funny

12:00 AM Elizabeth Seckman 51 Comments

My niece posted this Buzzfeed link on Facebook: Ten Signs You Grew Up In The Northern Panhandle*

Number 1 on the list was: People often ask you why you don't have a thick Southern Drawl.

This is true. We do have an accent, but it lacks the drawl, or that slow, leisurely stretching out of our vowels.  Usually, when we travel North or West, people know we sound different, but they can never put a finger on our geographic location, usually they just give up and guess Texas. We have the Southern lingo- we know all about not giving a rat's ass, ya'll. We just say it a lot quicker and we don't add the ya'll.

 BUT, when we go South, they peg us real quick as...gasp...Yankees.

And by saying, "Go South", I  mean just go a few hours by way a bird flies within the state and Ya'll will be greeted by a Daisy Duke sounding farmer's daughter. 

So, why are we so weird?

I know the answer (or at least the answer according to historian, Ray Swick, of the Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park)! There was a colony at Marietta, Ohio made up of affluent, well-educated Yankees. These Northerners overflowed south, following the Ohio River into what was then the frontier. And the difference in dialect stops at Parkersburg, WV because the settlement at Marietta  (which is across the Ohio River from Parkersburg) was considered the last stop for civilized society.

So, now you know. Yankees infiltrated the Northern Panhandle following the Ohio River to the frontier town of Marietta.

Now, follow me on a tangent.

Me, being amazingly efficient at becoming completely distracted, I started googling Southern Drawl to see where that came from.

 Long story short- lots of theories.

So, no answer there- but I did find this gem:

Big Bette (AKA Wendy Tippens)

 It's like she understands our Northern Panhandle dilemma-

Big Bette says if you don't talk Southern, you must be a Yankee. And she ain't prejudice against Yankees- so long as they stay above the Mason Dixon**

And she admits she doesn't want her kin marrying Yankees, cause the children suffer. They don't know where they belong. Give them a cup of tea and they don't know whether or not to ice it or stick it in the microwave.

Here in the Northern Panhandle, we are much like the confused offspring she worries about.

Give us tea and we'll drink it hot or cold. We swing both ways. I didn't realize that was so odd until I asked for a cup of hot tea in a South Carolina restaurant. The poor waitress was so confused, she had to have a pow wow with her manager. The end result? They microwaved me a cup of iced tea.






*Since most people are still confused about the whole West Virginia is no longer part of Virginia thing...I've decided a brief geography lesson on where to find the Panhandle may be in order.

This is the state of West Virginia
The top stick looking part of the state,
that looks a bit like the handle on a pan?
That's the Northern Panhandle.
Here it is blown up-
you know, made bigger?
 **The Mason Dixon line is the imaginary line that separates the North from the South. Notice it runs below the Northern Panhandle.





51 comments:

  1. I feel your pain! I live in the tiny sliver of overlap between The Midwest and Appalachia—totally different cultures and accents. Thus, my area has its own unique accent. (Or lack of accent, as I insist! LOL)

    Fun post! :)

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    1. No wonder I like you so well- we share the same overlap!

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  2. I wish I had a Southern accent! Instead I have my super uncool Canadian/Utahn mutt mix goin' on. Not at all Southern Belle like.

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    1. I can fake a southern accent. Not very well, mind you, but I can do it.

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  3. I love hearing different accents. my dad is from Maine where the "r" is mostly taken out of words. love it!

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    1. Love that Maine accent- though now it makes me think Stephen King.

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  4. Very interesting. We don't have Southern accents in South Florida, but I've heard it from people in North Florida.

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    1. That is true. Wonder how Florida escaped that? I will refrain from googling it as best I can.

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  5. Surely people from all over the country know what tea is?

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    1. They know what it is, evidently the lady just thought I was a tad bit peculiar to want it hot. I won't even begin to describe the looks I got when I asked for creamer.

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  6. Replies
    1. Hot or cold, I'll take it...though I drink it hot most often.

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  7. Hmmm didn't know what to do with the tea? Geez, sheltered much? lol

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    1. So far in my travels, it's happened twice in the South. I keep visiting there, the trend will catch on.

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  8. To my non-American ears, it all sounds the same! LOL

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  9. Replies
    1. That was a hoot. I liked that she likes Yankees- as long as they stay above the Mason Dixon.

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  10. I had a good laugh. Thanks for sharing, Elizabeth.

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  11. My father's family lived in Athens, Ohio. My mother's family lived in Akron, Ohio. After some moving around, we ended up in the middle: Newark, Ohio. Anywhoozle... visits to Akron felt fairly normal (family dysfunction aside), but visits to Athens... whoa there Nelly. They looked different, talked different, and made me frequently think "red neck." In a loving way, of course. I am fairly certain from looking at your map that they lived in the Northern Panhandle. I finally get it.

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    1. I was born in Barberton, Robin. My parents were from Akron and moved to West Virginia when I was a baby. Small world, right?

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  12. I've lived in Florida all my life and people here still ask me, "You're from up North aren't you?" I was two when my family moved down here, so it's funny that they can hear an accent when I can't. haha

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    1. My husband has this odd bit of a western drawl to his accent. He was born here in WV, but was raised by his mom who's a native of Montana.

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  13. If you don't have the Southern drawl, that's a good thing. Actually it's the Southern sound-like-I-have-rocks-in-my-mouth that drives me crazy.
    If you thought the hot tea confused them, try asking for unsweetened...

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    1. That sweetened stuff. I think they add sugar to their pasta sauces too, which I can't stand. I believe that also marks me as a Yankee.

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  14. As far as I am concerned, you all have accents anyway. I'm English.
    Well Canadian/English these days. People say to me "I like your accent" my reply "This isn't an accent, it's the original sound" LOL

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    1. Love it!! There was theory that the Southern Drawl is actually a British accent slowed way down, thereby leading them to claim they too have the original sound.

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  15. Fascinating! I love hearing how accents happen and the like. And I like my tea iced or hot (and I do live below the Mason-Dixon line in Virginia). And I must admit I don't sound like too many of the people around here unless I get really nervous. I've been told I sound more Californian, even though I've never been there. LOL!

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    1. Tea is just awesome, no matter how you pour it. Virginia has a lot of diversity too. I assume the area deeper south sounds way different than the Northern DC area.
      Californian, huh? Now you know you're blending sounds!

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  16. Lol! Big dilemma!

    My daughter was just studying the location of the panhandle tonight for geography. Crazy timing. Loved your post!

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    1. How awesome is that! She'll be well ahead of most Americans if she even knows that WV is independent from Virginia.

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  17. Blennerhassett? Marietta? Good grief, we're cousins! My family lived in Ravenswood, WV. I had plenty of relatives in the panhandle, all the way back to colonization. I'm certain we're cousins. Everyone in WV is a cousin.

    I live in Knoxville, TN, now and it was the place I was dubbed "Yankee". When I lived in Youngstown, Ohio, I was "hillbilly" no matter how I spoke.

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  18. Such an interesting post.

    Loved that bit about microwaving iced tea!

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  19. Sounds like a great place to live--the best of all possible worlds! I've lived in Nashville my whole life, and you hear a wide variety of accents here. A lot of Southern, but we're also a melting pot. Leave the city and head out into the rural areas, though, and it's ALL Southern, all the time. And in rural areas it's that strong Southern accent, like you see on The Andy Griffith Show.

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  20. Hehehe. Sounds like a fun, and perhaps confusing area. I've noticed there are some things we say in Idaho that other people don't say. For instance, it confused some of my critique partners when the barista asked, "What can I get started for you?" Another thing is fry sauce. There's been a few other instances.

    One nation. So many different people.

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  21. I'm from Jamaica. Whichever part of the South you are from it seems to me having a unique and eclectic history to share should matter more than your long list of differences.

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  22. LOL. We've lived in the west, in a completely accent neutral zone, in NYC (love that accent), upstate NY (the whole north has a very interesting thing going), and now in the south. I worry that I've got bits and pieces from all over, but more especially that I'm an accent chameleon. I'm headed back west in a couple weeks, and I'm curious as to how many funny looks I'm going to get.

    Unleashing the Dreamworld

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  23. Here in Colorado we don't really have an accent. Or at least I don't think we do. All I can think of is this great quote.

    "I, of course, don't have an accent. This is just how things sound when they're pronounced properly." - Jimmy Carr

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  24. *LOL* I notice my MIL's accent, but she's from Alabama. People every now and then pick out my Canadian accent or think I'm from Fargo!

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  25. This is hilarious. You can't order hot tea? Oy vey, what would I do? That confuses lil ole me, though we do know how easily confused I get. But I'm from the south...Southern Cal. xo

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  26. Well, I am a yank... transplanted out west, and you know I'm a WVU alum. That first semester, I didn't understand a word anyone said to me. My roommate, a proud southerner, well, you should have heard some of the conversations we had because we misunderstood words. It still makes me laugh. Collar versus color. lol Mostly I remember rubber cementing a BBQ potato chip to our wall to see what would happen to it. We left it there all year. You know what happened to it? Absolutely nothing. Otherwise my memories of WV are a little fuzzy...

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  27. Lol.
    Your sister sounds like such a funny person. Great sense of humor.

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  28. LOL- very cool post! How dare you ask for hot tea? I had no idea that was an odd request. I live in NY so clearly I don't have an accent. Clearly. O_O lol. I enjoy hearing different accents from around the country and the world itself, but I'll stay above the Mason Dixon Line if I must ;)

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  29. As far as accents go, I'd love to swap!! Mine is so dang whiny. (Think Marissa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny) that's pretty much the typical North Jersey/New York accent for you.

    My MIL is from Arkansas and did the unthinkable- she up and married a Yankee! Despite having lived up here in Yankee-ville for forty years now she still has the thickest southern drawl you could possibly imagine. We've learned quite a bit about tea (hot or iced) and what she's "fixing" to do, and y'all still flows freely from her lips. My girls love to hear their G'ma talk. As a matter of fact, all of the grandkids will conspire together to get her going because when she gets excited or angry that ole' Southern accent pours out as thick as molasses.

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  30. Greetings human, Elizabeth,

    Yee haa, y'all. I have listened to a variety of American accents and I find most of them most difficult to understand. Of course, the Canadian accent, the nice, calm, assuring, Canadian accent, I can easily understand. Unless, it's a French Canadian accent. I had to get a French poodle to help translate that accent. Even the French poodle struggled because the poodle was from France.

    At least y'all spell in correct English as in English, English! What!

    Have a nice day, my human friend.

    Pawsitive wishes and toodle pip,

    Penny :)

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  31. Oh! That's really cool! I grew up in Ohio, and I always wondered about the different accents all around us.

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  32. What a fascinating post! I learned a lot and I can understand why people from the northern panhandle talk differently than everyone else (which is actually pretty cool). It makes sense based on the people that settled there and the other influences nearby. I am always amazed at the variety of accents, word usages, and expressions used in the United States. :)
    ~Jess

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  33. I didn't know they didn't drink hot tea in the south but I guess that makes sense. I'm a yankee but I still love nothing more than southern sweet tea. I cracked up at how efficient you are at getting distracted. I would have been googling right there with you.

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