How We Talk: American Regional English Today

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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2000 - Reference - 206 pages
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Where are you when people • go to the coast instead of the beach • tote things as well as carry them • wait on line instead of in line • get groceries in a paper sack instead of a paper bag • say things like “The baby needs picked up” and “The car needs washed” • eat solid rectangular doughnuts that are also called beignets • complain when something is spendy (“costly”) • are chilled by a blue norther • ask for tonic instead of soda • go “dahntahn” to shop.

Allan Metcalf answers these and many other fascinating questions in his new book, How We Talk: American Regional English Today. In short, delightful essays, Metcalf explains the key features that make American speech so expressive and distinct. He begins in the South, home of the most easily recognized of American dialects, and travels north to New England, then on to the Midwest and the far West, even to Alaska and Hawaii. It’s all here: the northern Midwest “Fargo” accent, Louisiana Cajun and New Orleans Yat, dropped r’s as in Boston’s “Hahvahd Yahd,” and intrusive r’s as in “Warshington,” especially common in America’s midlands. With additional chapters on ethnic dialects and dialects in the movies, Metcalf reveals the resplendence of one our nation’s greatest natural resources — its endless and varied talk.

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Review: How We Talk: American Regional English Today

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An interesting, if not plain and trivial, look at the United States and the evolution of the English language, reported state-by-state. Something interesting I found from reading this book: It matters ... Read full review


The Upper South or South Midlands
New England
New York City and the MidAtlantic
The Far West and Beyond
Word Index
Subject Index

Common terms and phrases

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About the author (2000)

Allan Metcalf is a professor of English at MacMurray College & the author of "The World in So Many Words," "Chicano English," "Research to the Point," & (with David K. Barnhart) "America in So Many Words." He has done extensive research on the language of California & is executive secretary of the American Dialect Society, whose newsletter he has edited for many years. He lives in Jacksonville, Illinois.

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