Archive for the ‘Language’ Category

I read in today’s New York Times about publication of the final volume of DARE, the Dictionary of American Regional English. This project was started at the University of Wisconsin by Prof. Frederic G. Cassidy, who passed away in 2000.

I had the great pleasure of studying with Prof. Cassidy, who was one of the readers of my Ph.D. dissertation on 9th-centry Anglo-Saxon sermons. He was a true gentleman and scholar. I’m sorry that he did not live to see the completion of the project, but it certainly stands as his monument.

And gladly wolde he lerne, and gladly teche …

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This headline is from one of my favorite papers, the Greater Wilmington Business Journal. But it was too good to resist.

There’s no picture, so with the help of Wikimedia Commons, I have created the handy visual aid here.

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This Wikimedia Commons button is moving forward

I dislike it when self-proclaimed guardians of language become curmudgeonly and start going on about how people today should stop talking the way they do. I especially dislike it when the curmudgeon is me. Here I go.

I think people should stop pronounced ‘or’ as if it’s a long ‘o’. I can tell you when I first noticed this. It’s in a Toyota commercial now on TV. Remember, Toyota’s slogan is “Moving Forward” (Jon Stewart pointed out the irony of this slogan for cars accused of sudden acceleration). But the guy on TV says something much more like “Moving Foe-ward.”

Having become attuned to this, of course I hear it everywhere. My least favorite baseball announcer, who is paired with my most favorite baseball announcer most days, will say something like “fast ball on the outside coe-ner.” It’s part of his whole Mississippi good ol’ boy persona, and even he doesn’t do it all the time.

Please stop, everyone. Thank you.

This has been a curmudgeonly rant. We now resume our regular programming.

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just about the most amazing graph ever

I recently saw a LinkedIn discussion about how to define the South. Think there’s no such thing? Think again.

This graph from the ASARB in 2002, available from the Glenmary Research Center in Nashville, shows the distribution of church membership. The different colors signify the predominant religious denomination in each county in the U.S. Black dots signify that there is an absolute majority of that denomination in the county. Click on the map to enlarge.

Care to guess what the red counties mean?

Southern Baptist, of course. If like me you grew up in the South you know intuitively what this means. I found this map while researching a course on Faulkner I taught for Miami’s Institute for Learning in Retirement in 2007 (you can find a PDF of my PowerPoint on my Presentations).

Oh, and there is one other way. I can’t locate it now, but I remember reading about a study that looked in Yellow Pages to find occurrences of the word “Dixie” in business names. Not surprisingly, as I recall, the percentage was highest in Alabama and Mississippi. But I don’t think the results were as striking as this.

I can only think of one other graphic I have ever seen that so effectively captures meaning. (Sorry to be mysterious, but I’ll have to blog about that later).

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Vowel chart

Vowel chart

One thing everyone is an expert on is his or her own speech. Just try mispronouncing someone’s name or town and see. But we don’t always know where what we say comes from. My History of English class was the second I prepared for Miami University’s Institute for Learning in Retirement. It’s a kind of follow-up to my earlier Anglo-Saxon England class. Here’s the PDF of my presentation.

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