When I first moved to Minnesota from Missouri in the late '90s, the two questions I heard on repeat were:
1. Why don't you have an accent?
2. Do you guys eat squirrel down there?
My answer(s): Eating road-kill squirrel removes any known accent. (I think that's the method Tom Brokaw used.)
While accents, like wedding rings, are little stranger windows into our lives, differences in accents once carved out by remoteness are starting to disappear, according to a recent story in the Guardian.
But as one linguist explains, these accents aren't necessarily going away--they're evolving as communities become less isolated from one another.
It's not just accents that are changing; regional colloquilalisms are going through a transformation, too. While we might not always speak like we write, how we use language on social-networking sites like Twitter can offer insight into how language and culture are shifting.
A recent survey of geotgagged tweets revealed that in Minnesota there are isolated spots (like here in the Twin Cities) where y'all have been using "y'all," despite its birth and continued prominence in the Southeast.
Still, if the Harvard Dialect Survey in the New York Times is any indication, our use of language, for the time being at least, continues to be a heavy indicator of who we are and how we understand ourselves and each other. Ten years from now, linguists suggest, such geographical markers will be harder to read.
Real honest moment (™): I am a full-grown adult woman who, a few months ago, used the word "muskacholli," properly spelled "muskaccioli." I was using it to describe that meaty, cheesy, tomato-y pasta the rest of the world knows as mostaccioli.
It turns out, I'm not the only one. According to numerous sources, it's a typical St. Louis thing. Apparently an entire metro area of 2.85 million people is known for pronouncing it that way, and it's the only one that does. The origin of "muskacholli" still remains unclear. (Can't someone do a dissertation on this already?!) But it's a strange skip in a record that immediately identifies me. At least until it finally goes global on Twitter. I wonder what muskacholli would taste like with squirrel…