"Ever'body says words different," said Ivy. "Arkansas folks says 'em different from Oklahomy folks says 'em different. And we seen a lady from Massachusetts, an' she said 'em differentest of all."As any American will tell you, there is no such thing as a single "American accent." There are a whole load of American accents, each with its own distinct stereotypes. There are a lot more distinct accents in the eastern US than in the west. Dialect maps of the United States have lots of clusters of different colors in the east, which then merge into one generic mass out west. This is because many immigrants arrived in the east, brought their own languages and accents, and established them, but as Europeans migrated west, the accents all blended together as fewer people of the same dialect were living in the same place. The most often attempted, and most frequently horribly failed regional accent is the "Dixie" accent.
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DixieMost famous of the accents found in the American Southeast (south of the Mason-Dixon line, hence the name). Specifically, south of the Potomac river. "Y'all" and "all y'all" as second-person plural pronouns, pronouncing the "i" in "mine" like "ah," and phrases such as "I do declare" (three syllables on that last word), "be sweet" (four syllables) and the mild expletive "sheeeeooooo!" Think Gone with the Wind. In truth, only really found in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Kentucky anymore, as the Florida version of the accent has flattened out due to the influx of northerners, and Virginia (Tidewater) and the Carolinas have their own regional accents distinct from Dixie. Anyone who lives in the South can tell you there are dozens of highly-distinct different Southern accents, but most of the rest of the country really doesn't care. The way it's usually depicted in fiction is a bit of a Dead Unicorn Trope — almost no one speaks like Scarlett O'Hara anywhere in the South. In general, the closer you get to the Mississippi River, the slower-paced and more treacly (and lower-class) the accent becomes. People in Memphis and northern Mississippi often have the accent bahyud. Stereotype: the polite and courteous Southern Gentleman, or Southern Belle. Or Senator Beauregard Claghorn (inspiration for Foghorn Leghorn). Or, in modern contexts, a lady wearing "Daisy-Dukes", cut-off denim shorts that border on the illegal. (It's over 70 degrees there for most of the year...). Played to the other extreme, Sweet Home Alabama. The Southern Fried Private and Southern Fried Genius will most likely have this accent as well. The slower "Delta" version of the accent is more commonly associated with redneck trailer trash from "MAYUMfeeis Tunnessay" (if urban) or some boggy, mosquito-ridden country hellhole (if rural), shotguns ("shaawt-goouns") and racism optional, education almost non-existent.
FloridianOriginally a form of Dixie, the main Florida accent has been neutralized due to migration from the Northern states and from Latin America. Dixie still persists, mainly among older natives and in the northern part of the state. The current accent resembles Midwestern or West Coast English, but Floridians are also just as likely to use the accent prevalent in the state in which they were born (Jewish, Noo Yawk, and Inland North are all heard — a local maxim is that the further south you go in the state, the more northern it becomes.) One way to distinguish a true Florida accent is to hear the pronunciation of Florida: A Floridian will say "FLOOR-ih-duh" where a Dixie accent would say "FLAR-duh." The state citrus fruit is also notably a monosyllabic "oarnj", rather than "ahr-unge". Florida accents can extend into the Gulf Coast areas of Mississippi and Alabama. Stereotype: While the accent itself is fairly neutral and unstigmatized, Floridians have a reputation of being eccentric Cloudcuckoolanders, and will speak this accent in fiction, when not using Dixie.
MiamianA subset of Florida, this accent is influenced by the large Spanish-speaking (mainly Cuban) population in Miami. Vowels are shortened and sometimes replaced with their Spanish equivalents. Miamians speak faster than most other Floridians, reflecting the influence of the fast pace of Cuban Spanish. Pitch and emphasis are also affected. This accent is fairly recent, only having appeared in the last 50 years. The Miami accent is distinct from Spanish-accented English, as even non-Cubanos may have it. Stereotype: Used by Latin Lovers, tanned bikini-clad women at the beach, and Cuban-Americans.
Hillbilly/AppalachianA subset and exaggeration of Dixie, laced with more archaic and/or idiosyncratic usages. Used for remote parts of Appalachia and other isolated southern locales, such as the Ozarks. Dixie accents are slow and sugary, like molasses; true mountain accents are more "musical", like a tightly wound banjo string. Chicago and Baltimore used to have urban Appalachian ghettoes (Baltimore's accent, listed below, still bears some similarities). Due to the former isolation of some regions of the Appalachian South, the Appalachian accent may be difficult for some outsiders to understand. This dialect is also rhotic, meaning speakers pronounce "R"s wherever they appear in words, and sometimes when they do not (for example "woarsh" for "wash.") Because of the extensive length of the mountain chain, noticeable variation also exists within this subdialect. The Appalachian dialect can be heard, as its name implies, in the Appalachian Mountain region of Northern Georgia, Northern Alabama, Eastern and Middle Tennessee, Western North Carolina, Eastern Kentucky, Southwest Virginia, Western Maryland, Southeast Ohio, Southwest Pennsylvania, and all of West Virginia. Almost always, the common thread in the areas of the South where a rhotic version of the dialect is heard is a traceable line of descent from Scots, Scots-Irish, and Welsh ancestors amongst its speakers. Silent H's (such as pronouncing "humble" as "'umble") are not uncommon, and many speakers sound vaguely European. Stereotype: Uneducated, dirt-poor, overall-clad rednecks with one or two close cousins in the genetic mix, and probably missing a few teeth. May be distilling moonshine or growing marijuana (be it in the fields or in a pot on their front porch). Sometimes stereotyped as being on/addicted to Methamphetamines and/or painkillers, but this is a very recent stereotype.
Texan DrawlRelated to, but distinctly different from, Dixie, although the two are interchangeable in live media. Includes ubiquitous use of "y'all" and "all y'all," but includes other unique phrases such as "might could" for "might be able to" (an example of something linguists call modal stacking) and "fixin' to" for "about to." The easiest distinction from Dixie, though, is the tendency to slur words. "-ing" often becomes "-in." This principle might extend to the point of excluding entire syllables: "Pontiac", for example, becomes "Ponniac". Another good distinction is the tendency to soften hard vowel sounds to a greater extent than Dixie. "Want" would become "wunt," for instance. Also, while many Dixie speakers would dance around the "r" sound, ("Why, I do declay-ah!") "r" is often pronounced very gutturally in a Texas Accent. ("I declay-ur!") It should be noted that there is no one "Texas" accent, given the size and diversity of the state. People on the Gulf Coast and in East Texas may synthesize Cajun and Dixie accents, people in the cities may speak with an odd hybrid of a Texas and East Coast accent, some speakers dip into a Cowboy accent, and Latino Texans have their own distinct speech patterns. In this vein, the city accents also are different. Someone from Dallas will sound slightly different than someone from Houston or Austin, though they will all be more "neutral" when compared to someone from somewhere like Nacogdoches or Beaumont. West Texans tend to to speak with a Southwestern "twang," rather than a Southern drawl. Michael Caine, when learning the accent, characterized it as "all the words just leanin' up ag'inst one another." Stereotypes: Women with big hair and men in cowboy hats and boots. Fond of eating Tex-Mex and BBQ. May consider "American" to be a secondary nationality. Typically portrayed as salt-of-the earth working folks, or oil-rich elite. Everyone is armed. Remembers the Alamo!
CajunA further subset of Dixie and Hillbilly, localized to the southern half of Louisiana west of the Mississippi River. This accent is thick and, due to its mish-mash of French and English idioms, difficult, ah gah-ron-tee. The degree of difficulty in properly affecting this accent makes it an uncommon occurrence on shows. In reality, what many shows depict as a Cajun accent is a New Orleans accent (see Yat below), or even sometimes a Northern Louisiana accent (which is much closer to those of East Texas/Arkansas/Mississippi). To a Cajun, the distinction is important - the North is closer culturally to the bordering states, while there are geographical (read: the Atchafalaya Swamp between Lafayette and Baton Rouge) and historical (often class-based) differences with New Orleans despite the common French influence. Stereotype: Insular. If they don't know your grandfather by name and reputation, you are most likely an enemy or "Gub'ment", whichever is worse. The stereotype takes a 180 for The West Wing/CNN/Daily Show set, whose primary source of Cajun accents is the famously Cajun, famously bald Democratic political wizard James Carville.
YatThe native accent of New Orleans, which differs from both Dixie and Cajun. Yat is very distinct, "like Brooklyn on Valium" with a few Southern features. An episode of Real Stories of the Highway Patrol depicted a traffic stop and car chase in the New Orleans suburb of Chalmette. The segment was subtitled in English for the non-Yat-speaking viewers. The dialect is named for the Creole expression "Where y(ou) at??". Example: "Wheah y'at? Gat suh melotow fuh me? Ja burl'um? We hadda crab burl back at da Wrigaleys." Translation: "What's up? Do you have some mirlitons for me? Did you boil them? We boiled crabs on our trip to the Rigolets." The further "down" (east) you go into "Da Parish" (St. Bernard Parish), the more it sounds like Brooklyn, due to a similar immigrant mix. The cheer for the New Orleans Saints, "Who dat?", comes from this dialect. There is no north, south or east in Yat. The cardinal directions, all of which relate to the Mississippi River, are "up", "down", "back", and "Tchoupitoulas" — Tchoupitoulas being the closest street to the river. Its pronunciation cannot be revealed here, because listening to tourists attempt it is a spectator sport in New Orleans. One thing that must be understood is that "Yat" refers to any highly pronounced New Orleans accent. There are several. Chalmette and Algiers both have highly pronounced accents. Another thing that must be understood is that there are many ways of pronouncing the city's name, but that no one from New Orleans or who has spent any time at all there says "N'Awlins," though many people say "New Awlins." "N'Awlins" has become ubiquitous, even in the local press, and the typical laid-back attitude of many Orleanians may keep them from pointing out the error - probably initiated by a journalist from out of town with an inaccurate ear. In reality a real New Orleanian is about as likely to say "N'Awlins" as he/she is to say "Newer Leans." Stereotype: Parochial. Laid-back, beyond lackadaisical. Obsessed with food and drink. Especially drink.
Tidewater/Mid-AtlanticA mix of Newscaster English, Urban and Dixie, with a regional twist. Caused by Northern and Southern accents cancelling each other out, overlaid on a peculiar "Tidewater" accent common only to natives of the Chesapeake Bay region and FFVs (First Families of Virginia, the Southern version of Boston Brahmins). Tidewater is characterized by archaic, Elizabethan inflection (a sort of proto-Southern drawl with an aristocratic, English flavor). In movies it is a stereotype of Washington gentry: ambiguously Southern politicians who own horse ("howhas") farms in Virginia, yacht ("yawart") clubs in Annapolis, and secretly control Congress. This accent is more broadly associated with old money. Regular Mid-Atlantic, by contrast, is a bland mish-mash of flat Midwestern, Northern nasal intonation, and Dixie vocabulary. Characterized by the use of "or" for soft vowels — "want" = "warnt"; "Wor-shington", and for softening "r" in some words; "No-fuk" (Norfolk) and "Fuk-you-ah" (Fauquier County). Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland are strange cases, as the accents range from Philly to Dixie, and due to tourism and migration, Midwestern, Inland North, etc., may also be heard. People in central Delaware may speak Military Basic, due to the presence of Dover Air Force Base. Stereotype: Impeccably-dressed evil power-brokers who live in mansions; disgruntled government workers with hidden files in beachfront cottages.
UrbanThe accent of urban characters of darker skin tones, and middle class white kids trying to sound cool. Characterized by dropping even hard consonants when slurring words together (eg. "err'thing" for "everything"), a petulant tone, and substituting "axe" for "ask". Also common is substituting an "f" sound for "th" as in some British accents. "Y'all" makes another appearance here, too. See also Jive Turkey. The Real Life version (formally known as African-American Vernacular English or Black English) has been lately lumped under "Ebonics", despite encompassing several dialects and not being exclusive to African-Americans. Has a lot of interesting grammatical features, much loved by linguists, such as the "habitual be" ("We clubbin'" means that we are, at this time, In Da Club, whereas "we be clubbin'" means that we go to Da Club a lot, most weekends in fact). Because of said features (many of which derive from African languages and from older forms of English, via southern slaveowners), it's considered a distinct dialect, and there are a lot of arguments in the black community about whether it should be used and is a valuable part of culture, or if it's bringing black people down. As with clothing, music, and so on, in the context of accents, "urban" is often a euphemism for "black" — and as you might expect, there are different "urban" accents by region as well, influenced by the dominant accent of that region. Atlanta and the South have their own, characterized (for example) by pronouncing "there" as "thurr." "Urban" accents from the East Coast have something of a harder edge to them, and those from the West Coast have a flatter effect. There is a lot of variation in what slang terms get used in different regions; slang from New York City or Philadelphia's black communities will get you funny looks in Atlanta, Seattle, or Cleveland. Obviously, not all black Americans speak in this dialect, and those that don't tend to resent the assumption due to stereopypes that suggest such speakers are uneducated. Or they simply weren't raised within the black community and speak in the dominant accent of their region. Stereotype: Just think of all the stereotypes of black kids and the white kids who want to be like them. It's also not unusual to hear older blacks use bits of slang from their youth despite being outdated for decades, such as "cold" or "bad" for something that's impressive.
Noo YawkThe stereotypical accent of people from New York City and the surrounding area. Today, it's found primarily in Brooklyn, the surrounding areas having one of the four accents below. Characterized by a nasally sound, the shortening of "you" to "yo," the "er," "or," and "th" sounds becoming "uh," "aw," and "d," respectively, and the extensive use of profanity. William Labov, "the father of sociolinguistics," found that (40 years ago, at least) any single New Yorker was highly unlikely to have all the distinctive local features: most will have only a subset. Stereotypical Noo Yawk phrases include "fuhgeddaboutit" and "ehfuckyou." Note: You can make more linguistic groups of the New York accents, right down to the boroughs (districts) of the city, though the divisions are more class- and ethnicity-based than geographical. Not a good idea, but you can do it. This video gives examples. Stereotype: Working-class, ill-mannered (tactless at best, obnoxious at worst), Yankees or Mets fan. Very likely to be of Italian descent. As with Cockney, its rough British equivalent, Noo Yawkers can be either rough-hewn, salt-of-the-earth urbanites, or rude, petty criminals. Puerto Rican-born or -descended Noo Yawkers have their own speech patterns, with subtle differences from Chicano (See below). A Spanish equivalent would be Mexico City Spanish.
Joisey/Da BronxThe accent of thugs and The Mafia. The two areas, Northern New Jersey and The Bronx, have distinctly different accents, but share the common attribute of stuffing the "th" sound into a "d." (Linguists call this fortition.) Note that if you reached adulthood after The Fifties and say "Joisey," you are almost certainly not a native — though you might be from Long Island or Texas. Regardless, you will almost certainly get your ass kicked. There is a much milder New Jersey/North-East accent that is most apparent by dropping "t" sounds all together * unless it starts a word or it's a double "t." In case of a double "t," it will usually sound more like a "d," making "better" sound more like "bedder." This is also split when it comes to words that end in "t" followed by a word that starts with an "h." "Get him" can sound like either "geddim" or "ge' him." Stereotype: Thug, stooge, gangster, gangster's moll, and nowadays the guido/guidette stereotype.
PrepThe American "posh" or "snob" accent. Also referred to as Boston Brahmin, after the East Coast Establishment families which are known as such. It is associated with Manhattan stockbrokers, Reagan-era yuppies, and the entire state of Connecticut, or "New England lockjaw" from its rather stiff pronunciation. Think American Psycho or Thurston and Lovey. Clench the jaw and talk about stock prices. The yacht-club villains from a Rodney Dangerfield or a mid-1980s John Cusack movie will probably speak in this accent. Most Baby-Boomer Americans and their parents associate this accent with William F. Buckley, Jr. For younger generations, Mitt Romney presents a Midwesternized variant (he went to prep school, but in his home state of Michigan, and then hung around these types after he went to Harvard for business and law school). It's extremely nasal (the "lockjaw" name is well-justified) with a tendency towards vaguely melodic, dropping tones, and in all respects is very much an Americanized version of a stereotypically posh British accent. Stereotype: Politely amoral greed.
The AffectAlso called "The City Girl Squawk," this is an outgrowth of "Manhattan", probably influenced by "Joisey." Often associated with Queens and "Lunn Guyland", especially in the minds of New Yorkers. A raucous dialect that employs long, whiny vowels, a lazy, whistling "s" and a glottal stop that replaces the "t" in many words: for instance, "bottle" becomes "bah-uhl." It wanders tonally through a larger range than most dialects, but has a tendency to end every phrase with a rising tone as if it were a question (aka "uptalk"). Like all accents, it's used by both genders in Real Life, but on TV, it's almost exclusively spoken by women. Stereotype: Young, upper-middle class women who are shallow, immature and somewhat less intellectually agile than average. Basically, the New York version of the Valley Girl, right down to ending every sentence like a question.note
Northeastern/Puerto Rican AKA Nuyorican
Northeastern/Puerto Rican, aka NuyoricanWhat happens when a Caribbean Latino accent crashes headlong into The Affect — fast, high-pitched, and sometimes extremely nasal. Despite the designation Nuyorican, it can appear anywhere in the northeast. Think Rosie Perez (although she does seem to play it up for comedy roles). Jennifer Lopez has a softer, more generic form of the same accent.
JewishAlso known as "Borscht Belt," this is the accent spoken by some Jewish people, with influences of Yiddish and Hebrew. The "other" New York accent, and sometimes the standard accent of the non-performing side of show business. Good phrases: "Meshuggenah!", "Schmuck!", "Oy vey!" and "Don't piss on my leg and tell me it's raining!" In addition to Yiddish words, they will also use Yiddish sentence construction such as "What do you know from funny?", "For this I went to college?" "You want I should beg for a visit from my only son?!" or " A heart attack you almost gave me!" Often spoken by stereotypical "New York orphans," even if, by all rights, they really shouldn't be Jewish. Stereotype: Since this dialect is strongly associated with a racial and religious group, stereotypes are mostly limited to bickering old couples kvetching about how much they paid for something, deli owners, token Rabbis, actors' agents, Borscht Belt comedians, and members of the Friar's Club. The occasional Shylock type, as a greedy lawyer or banker, sometimes still shows up.
LusoThis is the accent of people raised in New England who are of Portuguese stock. Also known as "Portugee", this is a subset of "Down East" (see below) that almost never shows up in movies/TV because the producers are afraid that nobody will understand why the blond, blue-eyed guy sounds like a Bostonian (see below) raised in France. Stereotype: Hard-working, honest, salt-of-the-Earth fisherman. Please note that "Portugee" is a slur and a great way to get a churrico-scented fist in your face if you are foolish enough to use this word around Portuguese people.
Down EastSpoken in upper New England, characterized by broad vowels and terse sentences. What most people think of as "the" classic down east accent comes from "down east" itself, the coast of Maine, where the tendency to use "Ayuh" for "yes" is most often found. The term comes from sailors going to Maine going "Down East". There are differences within the Down East accent itself, of course. Someone from Maine will talk differently than someone from Vermont, and someone from Vermont will talk differently than someone from New Hampshire. Backwoods accents sound much different from city accents. Each state also has vocabulary unique to their culture. For example the words "rig" or "rigging" (in the nautical sense) is often used as a synonym for "create" or "assemble", but only in coastal areas: "I need a rigging to get on that roof" may work fine in Portland Maine but might get you a blank stare in Rutland Vermont. "Wicked" tends to be used more generally across NE as an intensifier adverb, as in "wicked good" or "wicked excellent." Stereotype: taciturn, parsimonious, dry, rural, witty.
Vermon'Spoken almost exclusively in Vermont, this accent is characterized by:
BostonAn urban version of Down East. "Pahk the caah at Haahvad Yaahd."* "I am going to Korear to furthah my careah." "Tomatah in clam chowdah? Fahk atta heah, kehd." The Boston accent itself has two extreme versions:
PittsburghA city with a lot of Polish, Slovak, and Germanic influences, as well as several unique constructs such as "yinz" for the plural "you" (becoming less contracted the farther east you go, reaching "you'uns" around the center of the state) and "nebby" for "nosy". They have great trouble with diphthongs and tend to turn them all into a short "a" sound (As in "dahntahn" for "downtown.") A few examples of Pittsburghese — bologna is called "jumbo," rubber bands are called "gum bands" and "redding up" means doing housework. Iron is pronounced as "arn" (such as "Arn" City Beer). This accent also features heavy rounding of the vowel "ah", sometimes to where a British person would pronounce the "o" in "gone". Stereotype: American descendants of the Stupid Polack. Low-class and vulgar, economically depressed and trying to make up for it through a slavish devotion to local sports teams.
PhillyAbout halfway between Da Bronx/Noo Yawk and Pittsburgh, in both geography and accents, is Philly. Take Pittsburgh's flat vowel sounds, combine it with Da Bronx's disdain for pronouncing the letter h, add gratuitous use of "yo" as an interjection, and "youse" as a plural second person pronoun (possessive form: youse's), and you're about there. The 'ow' sound is replaced with a flat 'a', so "owl" becomes "al" and "towel" becomes "tal". Pronouncing "water" as "wooder" is also common and considered by many to be the defining characteristic of a Philly accent (This feature also spills into Maryland and parts of New Jersey and Delaware). Other characteristics include a clipped, percussive inflection, insistence on using articles (i.e. the, this) even when they do not hold particular grammatical weight, and stereotypically Mid-atlantic vowel traits (ex. "cot" and "caught", "Don" and "Dawn" sounding distinct from one another.) A Philadelphian might react to a story in the newspaper about the local football team with "Yo, you see dis ting in da paper abaht dee Iggles?"(Translation: "Hey, did you see this thing in the paper about the Eagles?") However, certain neighborhoods do experience a slight difference in accent and wording, according to its inhabitants. Well-known regional accents include South Philly, North Philly, and the inexplicable Northeast accent. A lot of the features listed here are very distinctly South Philly. North Philly is mostly black and you'll hear mainly Black English Vernacular (see "Urban"). Stereotype: Thick-headed, overly aggressive. Superstitious and crazy when it comes to their sports teams.
Pennsylvania DutchThe old joke goes that Pennsylvania has Pittsburgh on one side, Philadelphia on the other, and Alabama in between. The large rural population in central Pennsylvania frequently carries the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect - "rural" here meaning "anyone not living in an urban center, and probably a lot of city folk too." The dialect originates from the German settlers ("dutch" being a gradual change from "deutsch," meaning "German") in the area in the early 18th century. Fun fact: these non-English settlers were deeply mistrusted by the English colonists to the east - Ben Franklin, among others, wrote about his fear that the young nation might be corrupted by the dregs of German society. The dialect also survives in a few neighboring states, but the vast majority of speakers can be found in central Pennsylvania. Main features of this dialect are omission of words and scrambling of sentence construction ("Throw the cow over the fence some hay," rather than "Throw some hay over the fence for that cow.") Particularly glaring is the removal of the verb phrase "to be" - "That car needs washed" is seen as a totally complete and correct sentence to native speakers. There is also a general sing-songy lilt in conversation, particularly found in questions. Similar to Pittsburgh, "you all" is said as "youns." More extreme examples feature consonant changes more akin to German speech. Also found are certain figures of speech - "come here once" (or "vonst") instead of "come here for a moment," for example, or "the chips are all" instead of "the chips are all gone." Confusing, ain't? Also found in central Pennsylvania are some of the largest communities of Amish Mennonites, famous for living simply and eschewing modern technology, though how much each particular community avoids or embraces certain technology seems to vary, as well as how dutchy their speech is. But yes, the horse and buggies are frequently found on the roads of Lancaster and Snyder counties. Stereotype: Country rednecks who eat weird food (look up scrapple if you haven't heard of it), or buggy-driving barn-raisers.
BaltimoreanBaltimoreans say they are from "Ballamur" or "Bawlmore", which is in the state of "Merlin" or "Marilyn," and hang a "hon" (short for "honey", pronounced "hun") at the ends of their sentences. If they are deep-inner-city Baltimore, all the vowels are different from all the other American vowels; back vowels are eliminated in favor of front rounded vowels. One of the defining characteristics of this accent is the strong fronting of the "oh" vowel in particular; when exaggerated, it practically becomes a long-a sound (like the "a" in "state"). Consonants occurring in the middle or at the end of a word are often dropped, slurred, or replaced with a glottal stop. Shares some similarity with Philadelphia (see notes on "water" and "towel" above.) Occasionally sticks 'R's where they don't belong, as in "Warshington DC." People of Baltimore go "downy ayshin" for vacation, meaning down to Ocean City, MD. An odd mix of European immigrant, Dixie, Appalachian and Tidewater. Stereotype: Polite sorta-Southerner who somehow ended up having your wallet; truck-stop waitress. People in John Waters' movies.
MidwesternAs with the British "Received Pronunciation", the target of many American actors is, unless the role allows them to use their own regional accent, or a "regional" is required by the character, the neutral-sounding accent of the Midwestern states sometimes called Newscaster English or General American. This seems to lead to Americans claiming that people from the Midwest "don't have an accent", whereas, like everyone else on Earth, they obviously do. In fact, a distinct Midwestern accent is spoken by Midwesterners that is completely different from "General American." Just as some Southerners speak with accents while others talk like people on TV, some Midwesterners speak with a very distinct accent while others talk like people on TV. This "Midwestern accent" is most commonly associated with people from Minnesota, Wisconsin and northern Illinois, as well as several other states in that region. Stereotype: None, really, as this is the closest to a "default" American accent, and doesn't draw attention to itself as a specifically regional accent. If overemphasized, or contrasted with accents from metropolitan areas, can imply "naive bumpkin" or "hayseed". See also those "Mid-West farmers' daughters".
Inland NorthRanging from northern New York to to Southeast Wisconsin along the Great Lakes, this is the result of the famed Northern Cities Vowel Shift. This accent gets stronger as you go further west, but is most closely associated with Chicago, and to a lesser extent Cleveland. Guido mobsters will be heard using the accent, if they aren't using the Brooklyn one. The word for carbonated soft drinks is "pop", except for the eastern reaches of the dialect in central New York as well as Eastern Wisconsin (especially the Milwaukee area), where it's "soda". People from the "pop"-saying area tend to be very defensive about it, regarding "soda" as a word exclusively denoting the non-scientific name for sodium bicarbonate (baking soda); a few Eastern-educated Midwesterners (David Foster Wallace comes to mind) attempt to keep the peace by calling it "soda-pop," though to what effect is unclear. Among the most universal traits:
North MidlandThis accent is sort of what happens when Appalachian meets Inland North, but also takes cues from Pittsburgh. It's spoken in central and southern Ohio, central Indiana and Illinois and parts of Iowa and Missouri (where it starts to merge with Midwestern), and can sometimes be found as far west as parts of Nebraska and northern Kansas. It has the same back-vowel shifts as Inland North, but can retain some features of Appalachian ("warsh" comes up from time to time, ESPECIALLY in St. Louis). The biggest peculiarity of this accent (if not a universal one) is the "positive anymore"; essentially using the word "anymore" to mean something like "nowadays" or "from now on". Stereotype: Being rustic without quite being a full-blown hillbilly. Or just being a hillbilly, if you're feeling unkind. Alternatively, way too hardcore Big Ten football fans.
MichiganThis is probably best described as a strange combination of the Inland North and Vermont accents. There's a hint of influence from their Canadian neighbors — "about" is not quite pronounced "aboot", but it's close, and "eh" is relatively common. Humorously, people with these accents are perhaps the most likely to say, "But we don't have an accent," second, perhaps, only to those with the standard Midwestern accent. This accent is also characterized by a glottal stop; t 's (and sometimes g 's and nd 's) are often chopped off at the end of words. Talking quickly is an optional part of the accent, but doing so makes the above-mentioned glottal stop more defined, and obviously, it has the effect of having words sound slurred together. Some endword consonants—r, in particular—are more drawn out than usual. For instance, fire sounds like "fye-errr." In Southeast Michigan, unnecessarily adding a possessive "'s" to proper nouns. "Ford's" (for the car company) is particularly common, as is "Meijer's" (for Meijer, the less-evil local version of Wal-Mart). Consult this guide for more information.
Upper MidwestScandahoovian. It is found in the states of the northern Midwest west of the Great Lakes, chiefly Minnesota (the state that it's most frequently associated with), North Dakota, Northern Wisconsin, and Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Has a mixed influence of Canadian and Scandinavian accents. A mix of flat vowels and a sing-song inflection make this accent hard to describe. Common phrases include "Don'cha know" and "You (pronounced yoowoo) betcha." "Yes" is expressed as "Yah" with a pulled "A", commonly as "Oh ya-a-ah". "Coupon" is pronounced "kyoo-pahn." A common bumper sticker in Michigan's Upper Peninsula perfectly sums up this accent: "I'm from da UP, eh?" (pronounced "I'm frum daah yoo-pee, ay?") Some of the "yooper"isms may also cross over to the Lower Michigan accent, above (particularly north of Saginaw, it gets stronger the closer you get to the Mackinac Bridge). In North Dakota in particular, there is a peculiar slurring of words with two stressed "oo"s such as root. Words like these are shortened into a short U sound, rhyming with "put". Stereotype: Homespun, self-effacing, middle-aged, stay-at-home moms. Surprised by any attitude prevalent after the 1950s. Very frequently a Glurge Addict. Examples: Bobby's mom from Bobby's World cartoon, the den mother for the nursery in A Bug's Life, Frances McDormand in Fargo. Mothers outside of the Upper Midwest seem to develop this accent for some strange reason, all around the nation!
CowpokeSpoken in the Mountain timezone and parts of Texas; may be confused with Dixie by the uninitiated. Example: "I'm going to get on my horse" becomes "Ahm-a-gonna-git-ahn-muh-horse." In literature, this accent is frequently described as a "Texas drawl" with lots of "th" and "rr" sounds: "Oil" = "errl" — sometimes. You can often tell what part of Texas the speaker is from by the way he/she pronounces "oil business". In some parts, it is pronounced "awl bidniz". However, the association of this accent with Texas is a partial fallacy, as there are at least five separate English dialects spoken in Texas. They range through a cowboy drawl, to a straight southern accent, to the stilted speech pattern characteristic of President Bush. A recent outgrowth of the tech boom in Houston and Austin is that many people newly immigrated to the US will take on this accent, although most depictions in media still give recent immigrants New York, California or neutral (relative to their native) accents. Stereotype: Laconic, to the point of being nearly mute.
Jello BeltThe curious intersection of Cowboy and Valley Girl, found in heavily Mormon Utah, southern Idaho, and some of Arizona. Think Napoleon Dynamite. Look for a thorough caught-cot merger and the letter T swallowed whole out of some words (like "mountain" and "button") and burped back up in others where it doesn't belong (the Nelsons and the Wilsons become "the Neltsons and the Wiltsons"). Minced oaths are common as well, especially on Sundee, the Lard's day. Has been steadily losing ground to Midwestern / Newscaster in more urban areas since the nineties. Stereotype: Those missionaries on your doorstep; Donny and Marie Osmond.
CalifornianThe general case (oppose Valley Girl, Surfer Dude, Norcal) of the Californian accent is pretty similar to "Newscaster" Midwester, enough so that many people staunchly refuse to believe there is a Californian accent outside of Valley/Surfer or NorCal. Mostly notable for its vowel sounds- basically put, there are fewer distinct vowels in Californian than other accents. For example, "ah" and "aw" are merged, resulting in the pairs "cot" and "caught", "collar" and "caller", "Don" and "Dawn" being indistinguishable. Some vowel shifts and mergers happen on a more local basis- one common shibboleth is to ask for a glass of "melk," for example. Differentiation tends to be more on the basis of vocabulary. Another sometimes-noted California trait, especially in the Greater Los Angeles metropolitan area, is a habit of drawling really fast. No, seriously; words or individual syllables tends to be longer than in many accents, but they come spaced closer together. Stereotype: Not too many that actually fall into this category; its more stereotyped children get their own categories below.
Valley Girl (California)
Los Angeles? It's like, I mean, a breezy, like, breathless, totally sing-song rhythm, you know? And it, like, ends every sentence as if it has, like, a question mark? (This is called a rising inflection, and is common in most of California; see above under The Affect for more information.) Like, you stretch out, like, the vowels in, like, the sentence, at random? Or to add, like, emphasis? (Valley girl enunciation also frequently features an extreme version of some So Cal speakers' tendency to pronounce vowels a little further back in the mouth than most; when this appears without the valspeak stereotype, it can be a little jarring and unplaceable.) Stereotype: Like, shallow? And stupid? With bleached blonde hair?
Surfer Dude (California)
the 80s. Typical phrases: "Duuuuuuuuuuude!", "Gnarly!" Usually seen as a result of attempts to be Totally Radical. While its coolness has fallen out of style, it's still common in coastal Southern California, along with Military Basic. Stoner characters in movies tend to speak in this accent regardless of where they're from. People in Southern California are also liable to use Spanish slang words when English is deemed insufficient, much like Yiddish in New York. Stereotype: Stoner, poser, lazy teenage bum, older surfer, sk8er boy, or all the above.
Nor Cal (California)
NorCalImagine what a New Yorker would sound like if he lived in California for twenty years. This is the accent spoken by people in Northern California, at its strongest in San Francisco. This accent is similar to a midwestern accent, but faster and almost whispery, with a hard R and slurred S. Think Clint Eastwood. This dialect is most famous for the word "Hella," meaning "very," which is guaranteed to annoy a Southern Californian. Another peculiarity of this accent is the way natives pronounce "San Francisco": combining the hard R and slurred S, it becomes "Saffernshissco". The slurred S often makes a Northern Californian sound perpetually drunk to non-natives. Due to the high African-American and Mexican populations, some will also replace "th" sounds with "f" (as in, "goffic") as a result of the standard accent blending with Urban or Latino accents. Stereotype: Anxious twenty-something, drinks and smokes heavily, pays close attention to indie music, and possibly Straight Gay. If a woman, she will fit all these qualities, plus wear a scarf and be quirky. Both of them are broke but talented artists—unless you're from Oakland, in which case you are a criminal, drug-dealer/user, poor, or a high-school dropout. Bonus points if they're a Starving Artist from Oakland trying to get to San Francisco or Los Angeles.
PasadenaThe majority of settlers of Pasadena came from The Chicago Area and later Texas and Louisiana rather than the Ozarks, so that city has developed a different accent that's gotten stronger with time. "Aba't" and "ta'n" (roughly) for "about" and "town," "Shooer" for sure, "airings" for "earrings," "Do'er battit" (don't worry about it), and copious Briticisms. Home of the aforementioned "melk." Stereotype: Black and Nerdy, or possibly an Upper Class Twit. Unfortunately, if they're on TV, they'll probably sound like they're from Connecticut.
LatinoWith the growing number of Latin Americans living in the United States, it was inevitable that the accent would start to creep into the media. This accent is commonly found in California, the Southwest, and other areas populated by Latinos, and is often filled with Spanish words and inflections, which has led to it being mistakenly labeled "Spanglish." While most of the Latinos in other states are from one or two areas (Mexicans in California, Puerto Ricans in New York), Florida has a huge mix of Central American, Caribbean and South American accents. God help you if you confuse them, especially Venezuelan for Peruvian or Colombian. And remember, Brazilians speak Portugese, not Spanish, as they will handily remind you numerous times. A similar but more anglicized "general deep southwestern" accent has emerged running roughly from Downtown Los Angeles to Tucson, characterized by forming vowels in the far front of one's mouth. Think Edward James Olmos. Stereotype: Just think of all of the stereotypes about Latinos, and you're good to go. Number one being the stereotype that all Latin Americans from Mexico to Argentina have the same accent. Of note is that Guadalajaran is basically the Mexican equivalent of Midwestern — when exaggerated it makes you sound like a hayseed, but when played normally it's pretty much "standard Mexican".
Pacific NorthwesternOften mistaken for Midwestern/Newscaster English, but there are some emerging distinctive features. People from this area do have a unique accent if listeners pay attention: as in Californian, they merge the low back vowels "ah" and "aw", resulting in the pairs "cot" and "caught", "collar" and "caller", "Don" and "Dawn" being indistinguishable. Other vowels are subject to Canadian vowel shifts, with short "e" sounding like a short "i" ("elk" -> "ilk"), short "a" like "ah", and some rounding of "ah" (which makes it sound like the British short "o"). Also the vowel "a" before the letter "g" is usually a sharp "aee", resulting in non-natives finding words like "drags" and "dregs" indistinguishable; one of the easiest ways to identify a native northwester is to ask him to say the word "dragon". Often, "full" sounds the same as "fool". The word "exit" is sometimes pronounced like "eggs-it", as well. Place names and other special vocabulary also get unique treatment. Many words and city names were borrowed from the Salish tribes of native Americans. Words like "geoduck" ("gooeyduck"), "Puyallup" ("pyew-AL-up"), "Issaquah" ("iz-uh-kwah"), "Sequim" ("squim") and Seattle (named after Chief Sealth) are some examples. At least one local TV station has run an ad with a newscaster rattling off correct pronunciations of local place names to emphasize that he grew up in the area rather than being an import from another market, and similar to the Yat example above, it's a source of amusement for locals to listen to people from other regions try to work out the pronunciation. Fairly common slang terms are spendy for expensive and windy (wine-dee) for winding. Another case is Oregon, being the historical name of the entire area and the name of one the major states. Natives pronounce it ORE-Gun or ORE-ih-Gun while non-natives unfamiliar will call it Ory-GONE, Or-Y-Gun, or Ar-A-Gin. (Which is a good way to piss off the locals if only ever so slightly.) Montana is a strange case, as the natives speak a blend of Pacific Northwest, Upper Midwest, Midwestern, and Canadian. Some of the "hickier" sections (we're looking at you, Butte!) add in a little cowboy. Also, native Montanans find it extremely annoying when people assume they speak with a southern drawl just because they're a "cowboy state." For an example of how diverse the state can be, see this town hall meeting. Stereotype: Eco-friendly, distinctly laid-back. Fond of flannel shirts and grunge rock. Insanely long coffee orders.
Hawai'i Pidgin noteOfficially known as Hawaii Creole English, called "Pidgin"note by kama'aina note . Very rare outside of Hawaii, where people even go so far as to write in the accent. A mix of English, Hawaiian, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Korean and other languages, including many Japanese onomatopoeia. note Nearly any noun can be replaced by the expression "da kine," roughly meaning "that thing". note For example: "No listen to dat tita, she say any kine, brah," means "Brother, do not listen to that large woman. She is liable to say anything."note Another example would be "What kine fish, dat?" "You know da kine, ahi." = "What type of fish is that?" "You know what it is: Ahi." Stereotype: More Surfer Than You, by birth.
Military BasicThe United States military is large enough (2 million military personnel, with a further million or so civilian employees, before you get on to dependents) to have its own accent, spoken by career soldiers and their families who were raised on military bases. This is caused by a combination of the military necessity of clear speaking and the blending of all the regional accents. It sounds similar to Midwestern/Newscaster, but it's got a bit of a drawl to it. This might be due to the abundance of Texans and Southerners in the Army. Breaking recruits of their accents in Basic Training is, or perhaps was, also a security measure used to prevent enemies from identifying units by their distinctive accent in radio communications. Very often seasoned with its own distinctive and evolving jargon and slang, which can vary by branch of service. Stereotype: A hardass soldier like Sergeant Rock or Drill Sergeant Nasty, or a Military Brat. Sometimes overlaps with the stereotypes of rougher Texas accents.
Examples Of American Accents
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Hillbilly / Appalachia
Anime and Manga
Advertising Live-Action TV
Joisey / Da Bronx
Anime and Manga
Film Live-Action TV
Rhode IslandVideo Games
Anime and Manga
Film Live-Action TV
Cowboy / girl
Film Live-Action TV
Film Live-Action TV
Real Life / Truth in Television
Anime and Manga
See also American Accent Influences for more technical details. Compare Australian Accent, British Accents, Canadian Accents, Kansai Regional Accent, Tohoku Regional Accent. For those more interested in vocabulary than articulation, there's the handy American English page.