The “South” is the home of the “sweet mouth.” People there speak so charmingly!
The Southern part of the United States blooms with many strange accents — and they all converge in Dallas.
One girl in Dallas told me that she “sang behind the pasture.” I wondered why she sang to the cows, until I realized she meant she sang behind the pastor, in church.
When I attended a math class in a Dallas junior-high school, one of the girls talked about “ot,” and all her classmates understood her — except me. Later, I found out what “ot” was: the number that came after “seven.”
If 20 people gather in a room, how can you spot the Texans? A friend told me to spot them by asking everybody in the room to say “Osborne.” The only people he ever met who say pronounce it “Osburn” instead of “Ozborn” are from Texas.
My Alabamian roommate, James, says you can tell a true Southerner from a fake by noticing how the person uses the expression “y’all.” A true Southerner says “y’all” only when talking to a group, not to an individual. If you watch a TV movie that’s supposed to take place in the South but one of the actors says “y’all” to another actor, you know that the actors and scriptwriter are all damn Yankees.
A naughty TV show, “Candid Camera,” photographed Southerners trying to explain the difference between how they said “all” and “oil.” The Southerners thought they were pronouncing the words differently from each other, but Yankee ears couldn’t hear any difference and thought the Southerners were just making fools of themselves.
Here’s how to translate to Texan:
You can find more Texan translations in How to Talk “Texian” (Robert Reinhold’s article in The New York Times on July 22, 1984, section 6, pages 8-10).
When Toyota built a car factory in Kentucky, Toyota’s Japanese employees took a course in how to speak Kentuckian, which is similar to Texan. They were taught that in Kentuckian, “can” is pronounced kin:
More confusingly, in Kentuckian the word “can’t” is pronounced can (since the a is held a long time, in a drawl, and the t is pronounced too quickly and too softly to hear):
So if a Kentuckian says can, the Kentuckian means “can’t.”
The Japanese learned this important lesson: when a Kentuckian says he “can” do a job, the Kentuckian isn’t lying, just drawling.