Similar to yesterday’s accent rant…

Yesterday, I went on a bit about using regionally-appropriate language, especially if the character in question is of a different nationality from the actor playing said character.  For my next unnatural act, I am going to go on a bit about regional pronunciation.

I had thought this rant was already written, but if so, I can’t find it.  I know I have had the conversation plenty of times.

Ever watched something set in or near your hometown?  Did the characters sound like they were locals?  Why or why not (show your work).

My example is this: back in 2000, the USA channel aired a made-for-TV movie of Robert Parker’s “Thin Air.” The bulk of this movie is set in the Massachusetts town of Haverhill.  There are two things I remember about this movie:

  1. I don’t buy Joe Mantegna as Spenser, and
  2. Nobody in the entire movie pronounced the town name like a Massachusetts native would.

All my life, the name “Haverhill” has been pronounced “HAY-vrill” (well, the i is more of a schwa, but I can’t be bothered to find the encoding for schwa – I’d rather take the time and effort to type about how I can’t be bothered to do a simple Google search).  But all the characters in the movie (including alleged natives of that town) called it “HAVE-ur-hill.”  Even the people trying for a Massachusetts accent.

Now, I’ve done it.  All of my New England readers have run screaming from the room.

So, instead of just watching the movie (or turning it off, which would have been a better option), I kept waiting for someone – ANYONE to pronounce the town name like someone who had spent even a week in Massachusetts would*.  And when they didn’t (not a single person did), I kept flinching and putting my tongue between my teeth the way you do when someone skrees a chalkboard.

Please, oh people who spend vast amounts of money to make television entertainment, get’chiself some real local cullah if yer gonna make ye’self some wicked pissah entuhtainment.

*Well, anyone who was trying to impersonate a native.  My Indiana-born-and-bred grandmother still calls Worcester “WUR-ches-ter,” when EVERYONE knows it’s “WUS-tah.”**

**I think that’s the key to the Mass accent – fewer syllables.

Comments

  1. OH! and do NOT get me started about southern accents.

    a) there is more than one
    b) the most common one isn’t “the Yankee version of redneck hick”
    c)please, for the love of heaven, don’t try to mimic it if you haven’t actually been to the south. It’s wildly insulting.

    Bone to pick? Moi????? Whew. Standing down, now.

  2. Wicked pissah blog posting ya got here. Thanks!

    Reminds me of our description of Spokane, WA when Amy spent some time out there – Spokane is the Worcester of Washington. (I think to really understand that, you have to have lived in MA – although not necessarily Worcester – and visited Spokane).

  3. You can always tell if someone grew up in the Northeast by which syllable they emphasize in “New Haven.” Hint to producers: It’s the second one.

    Also, having grown up halfway between Boston and NYC, we always figured that all the extra “r”‘s that New Yorkers added to things came from ones dropped by Massachusetts speakers.

  4. Sprite, I always said that the Maine accent sort of the second law of thermodynamics for the letter “r.”

    “We’re gonna go to the stoah and get some vaniller.”

  5. Hoo boy, YES. And it’s not even the smaller regional pronunciations (it’s “Wi-LAH-mit, damnit, not will-aw-met”) but things like Oregon (Ory-gun not O-ree-gone) and Nevada (Neh-VAH-duh, not Ne-VAW-dah). Makes me twitch to hear those mispronounced, and it’s not like either is actually hard to say or even figure out, if you’re paying any attention at all.

  6. Growing up we used to go to a cinema in Acton. They always ran an advertisement for a local candy store before the movie and the announcer in the ad mis-pronounced “Concord”, which was the town next door (it’s CONcord, not conCORDE!)
    Of course, growing up in Carlisle I hear plenty of garbled pronunciations (car-LIS-lee?)

  7. Dude. Don’t even get me stahted.