Speaking English – Kinda

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-welcome-to-ohio-image26918550I sometimes joke that I don’t speak English; I speak Appalachian. Most folks don’t think Appalachia when they think Ohio, but the rolling hills in the southern part of the state are actually the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. I tend to use words like y’all and reckon (as in, I reckon I’ll go write a blog post now), though I try to keep a handle on it when I write. Last weekend, I hosted a writing retreat. My beta buddies Kendra and Lindsay joined me for three glories days of writing, but at one point, we did laugh about my accent. (Although Kendra’s Oklahoma accent wasn’t all that different.)

The first time I noticed that I had an accent was in high school. My Girl Scout troop had gone to Columbus, Ohio to spend the weekend volunteering at the Ohio Special Olympics. We met other groups from all over the state, and people kept asking us if we were from Georgia. Nope, Southern Ohio (pronounced o-hi-a). We found the notion funny because we knew what a southern accent sounded like. All you had to do was cross the Ohio River into Kentucky (we lived right on the border). For some reason, the accent is much stronger there. Curious the way a physical boundary can make such a difference, even in our world of cars and bridges where a river in no longer a true boundary.

When I decided to write a blog post on this topic, I did a little research. I wanted to see exactly where the boundaries of Appalachia were. I ended up on Wikipedia and found this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appalachian_English. I read through the article, and was shocked to discover that I really do speak Appalachian. Okay, not to the extent shown in the article, but I frequently hear a lot of people who do—especially the older generation. Words like wash pronounced worsh, or droppin’ the g in words that end in –ing. I’ve seen street signs with holler instead of hollow, or crick instead of creek.

It’s not just how the words are pronounced, but sometimes the word itself. One of my favorites is substituting the word mango for bell pepper. I don’t hear it much anymore, but when I was kid, that’s just what you called them. If you ordered a pizza with mangos, you got bell peppers. I think I was in junior high before I learned that a mango is actually a fruit.

My editor (the awesome Shelley Holloway) and I have had many a giggle over my colloquialisms. Fortunately, my story is set in the same general region in which I live, so I get to leave some of them. However, until I get a better handle on my dialect, I reckon I won’t be setting any stories too far from home.


PoizinWineSpeaking of our writer’s retreat…I had to share this picture.  It’s the wine I brought.  Is that cool or what?  My husband’s cousin bought it for me when we were visiting California’s wine country.  It came in a coffin and everything.  😀



  1. Yeah, I tend to sound like a hick from West Texas – took me years to lose the accent, but it still comes out if I’ve been drinking, or if I am around others with even a remotely similar accent!

    I use “y’all” and “reckon” as well, but sometimes I try to class it up with “you all” and speaking slower. I still can’t keep a “g” at the end of a word to save my life (I sound like I’m choking on it!)

    I’ve spent the last twenty years in New Mexico though, and I now use a lot of the phrases and mannerisms of a burqueña, but all with a West Texas drawling slur. (Google “things burquenos say” and then click on the one with the curse word in the title for a couple of fairly accurate videos of New Mexican speech!

    • LOL! That’s great! We drove through southern NM and West Texas this summer, but we didn’t spend enough time there to get a taste for the accents. (Oh, and our classier version of y’all is you’uns.)

  2. Your post brought a smile to my face and I had to comment because I am originally from far eastern central Ohio – Belmont County, and I have a ton of relatives in Ohio. We moved to Florida when I was young and now I live in the upper midwest. I’m told I have a very faint southern accent, which becomes more pronounced when I visit the south or hang around a bunch of southerners. Crick, worsch, you’uns are all the sounds of my earliest years, and my mother still says them all. 🙂

    • I’m glad I could make you smile. Yes, the things we experience in childhood really stay with us. 🙂 I’ve been through Belmont County. We once took a road trip to Moundsville, WV to tour the old prison and nearby Grave Creek Mound. Pretty place.

  3. accent’s are always weird, the closer you are to a different accent the thicker your own will become ive always thought it was some sort psycological defense.
    i speak scots with a muted glasgow accent at home because i havent lived in glasgow in years but put me near people i don’t know or who have foreign accents and my full glaswegian accent comes back and as a result people seriously struggle to understand anything i say after all even scottish poeple can struggle to understand glaswegian.

    • I think you’re on to something. Emotion can ramp up the accent, too. I find mine gets heavier when I’m nervous or feeling self-conscious. And Scottish accents are cool–not that I can tell the difference between dialects. 😉

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