I am zee veeetch ovv Reeeetseema Wooooods

myhouseLizard sent along this link to an article discussing the [many] accents and dialects of The Great Lake State. It’s kind of long but the short of it is that there is quite a big difference between the Upper and Lower Peninsulas, at least the southern lower. I don’t think the mid or upper lower are mentioned.

When I was a kid in the yooperland, I noticed that my Detroit area cousins pronounced their “a” vowels differently than I did. Apparently, it’s called the Northern Cities Vowel Shift but I just thought of it as nasal, which the article actually mentions. Up in the Yoop? It’s a big place and there are varying accents / dialects (with Canadian, Finnish, and Native American Ojibway tribe influences). I grew up in Sault Ste. Siberia and I always thought we talked “normally”, whatever that means. Of course, my grandparents would sometimes end sentences with “eh”, like the Canadians, which would make sense because my paternal grandparents were both born in Canada. My parents did not follow that speech convention. Actually, The Commander was from the Detroit area and, as an educated woman who was brought up “properly” (and tried her best with me…), the biggest problem that I had with language up in the yoop was that I wasn’t “allowed” to talk like a lot of the kids I went to school with. Like, if I wanted to say something like, “I ain’t got none”, I would have to make sure I was over in the schoolyard or somewhere The Commander couldn’t hear me.

I won’t go on and on about accents and dialects and stuff. It is still sometimes a little weird to me that I came from the yooperland but have grown deep roots down here on The Planet Ann Arbor. I live two lives in a way. There are so many stereotypes about the UP and, when I was in college (in the southern lower peninsula), I learned to be careful about who I told where I was from because, as a well-dressed, not terrible-looking young woman, I was often inaccurately pegged as a northern Dee-troit suburb rich babe. I was not (especially the rich part, I made a lot of my own clothes then, hello?) but being from the UP sometimes made me “exotic” somehow. Um, we are not all hicks up there, thank you very much. “What is your major?” is another question that could sometimes raise it’s ugly head. Classical flute player. “Oh, do you know Jethro Tull?” Bangs head on computer screen 30 years after the fact… After a while I got tired of trying to explain who I was to boring northern Dee-troit suburb people boys who thought that all Yooper “girls” had grown up with outhouses (and I did but — snort) and were just waiting for some fancy frat boy to take them outta the UP forever take them out on a couple dates and then dump them. No thank you…

That was then. I was young. I ran into the GG, who, well let’s just say as a person who was from a northern Dee-troit suburb but whose family had a then rustic cabin at Houghton Lake, he understood… Nowadays I live a fractured life between The Yooperland and The Planet Ann Arbor. I don’t know what my accent sounds like these days. I hope I haven’t unconsciously incorporated the dreaded Northern Cities Vowel Shift into my speech. I do add an “eh” to certain types of declarative sentences sometimes. With a sly look at the person I’m talking to and a wink and a nod to my long-dead grandparents. A lot of the folks I work with are from Russia or India or China or wherever and I’m not sure that when I append “eh” to a statement that they understand it. Why would they? When I exaggerate my inflection and add a facial expression, they get it. Anyway, for me, it’s just an affectation.

4 Responses to “I am zee veeetch ovv Reeeetseema Wooooods”

  1. Tonya Watkins Says:

    I always felt that us Washingtonians (well, all Pacific Northwesterners, for that matter) had zero accent. Nada. We always sounded like the TV anchors, so I assumed that was “normal.” It blew my mind when I lived in Maine briefly (first part of my senior year of high school). What an INSANE accent they have! And I remember trying to learn shorthand, which is based on the pronunciation of words! They’d tack an “a” on the end of words that had no “a.” And then drop the “a” on words that had them! My maiden name was Miller and so I was called Tonyer Millah. I felt like I was on an alien planet.

  2. Margaret Says:

    Love T’s comment. I am very interested in accents so I would be fascinated to listen to you talk. I doubt that I would be as interesting. 🙂

  3. Jay Says:

    When I first moved to WA many people thought I was from Canada, even though my UP time was basically summers and a week or two in the winter. I guess I took after my mother’s accent (UP), rather than my dad’s (South Bronx). [To be clear, my dad does not sound too much like a NYer to me.]

  4. jane Says:

    Your dad doesn’t sound much like a NYer because he worked hard to get rid of the accent. But can bring it back at will. 😉