[HFBD, huashan”>!]

Here’s a new way to measure the length of my commute — today’s was:
So Alive – Ryan Adams
Where Is The Love – Black Eyed Peas
I Hope You Dance – Lee Ann Womack
Just To See You Smile – Tim McGraw
You’ll Think Of Me – Keith Urban

The Tim McGraw song reminds me to ask: is there a name for the linguistic phenomenon where a lot of men with Southern accents pronounce /s/ as almost /sh/? (You know, voiceless alveolar fricative, postalveolar fricative, whatever.) I checked all over the web and couldn’t find any reference to it. The Wikipedia entry on the Southern American English dialect touches on a lot of pretty subtle dynamics of US Southern speech but doesn’t mention that. I just asked two of my coworkers on the way back from lunch and the name one of them improvised was “tobacco jaw.” The theory is that these men don’t move their mouths very much when they speak. Could that really be all it is?

And talking about that reminds me to say: living in Nashville has certainly exposed me to lots of accent variations I’d been unaware of previously. I knew that Southerners could tell the difference between someone with a Nashville (sounds something like “NASH-full”) accent and someone with, say, a south Georgia (sounds something like “JOE-ja”) accent, but before I lived here, they sounded to my ear like more or less the same accent. Now I hear completely different accents everywhere I turn. The guy doing the carpentry on our front steps sounds exactly like Chris Cooper to me — voice, accent, everything — but Chris Cooper is from Kansas City, Missouri and the carpenter dude is from Memphis. That’s 500 miles apart. I bet folks in those areas would easily be able to hear a difference between their respective accents. (Either way, their voices still sound incredibly alike.)

Jusht to shee you shmile

4 thoughts on “Jusht to shee you shmile

  • May 24, 2007 at 9:33 pm
    Permalink

    The theory is that these men don’t move their mouths very much when they speak. Could that really be all it is?

    I don’t know anything about southern consonants (vowels, now that I could tell you at least a little about). But those kinds of explanations for linguistic things are ALWAYS wrong. ALWAYS.

    The guy doing the carpentry on our front steps sounds exactly like Chris Cooper to me — voice, accent, everything — but Chris Cooper is from Kansas City, Missouri and the carpenter dude is from Memphis. That’s 500 miles apart.

    A lot of factors play a bigger role within a region than location within that region, actually. Could it be class?

    -J

    Reply
  • May 25, 2007 at 7:34 am
    Permalink

    I don’t know anything about southern consonants (vowels, now that I could tell you at least a little about). But those kinds of explanations for linguistic things are ALWAYS wrong. ALWAYS.

    Cool. That just makes it more intriguing, then!

    A lot of factors play a bigger role within a region than location within that region, actually. Could it be class?

    I wonder. And some of it, again, is just how much alike their voices sound, so I may be off on the accents anyway. I was also going to mention that the really nice guy building our fence sounds a lot like Larry the Cable Guy in both voice and accent. And Larry the Cable Guy’s not, like, my favorite comedian or anything (far from it), but it’s hard not to smile when this fence guy starts talking. I half-expect him to say “git r dun” after every sentence, but then again, that would make him significantly less pleasant to be around. 🙂

    Reply
  • May 27, 2007 at 1:01 pm
    Permalink

    Funny that Larry the Cable Guy isn’t even a Southerner, but, a midwesterner.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.