Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What American Accent Do You Have?

I have always been intrigued by accents, especially those found in American English. I found a great quiz (see below) which helps determine which form of American English pronunciation you tend to use. Mine, is Inland English aka American Inland English which is not unusual, and I'll explain why later.

For those of you that are unaware of the intricacies of American English pronunciation, commonly called accents, see this great article on Wikipedia.

I grew up but 90 miles from New York City but somehow managed to escape having a typical New York accent. My mother was born in New York City and grew up in Jersey City, New Jersey with quite a heavy accent. When describing it to friends I tell them to imagine Judge Judy - seriously. I grew up hearing words like "cawfee" (coffee), "buttah" (butter) and "sistah" (sister). Every now and then I can be caught using that pronunciation, usually if I've been on an extended visit back home.

But living in the Catskill region of New York put me more in line with the pronunciation used in upstate cities such as Syracuse and Buffalo. It is closer to what most would call a "Midwest Accent" better known as American Inland English. However, I don't use all the lexicon - I still say "soda" instead of "pop" for carbonated beverages. I still say "stand on line" instead of "stand in line" at the grocery store.

I also tend to use quite a few Yiddish words in my speech, even today. This is due to the fact that my part of New York served as a resort region for many of the Jews living in New York. These vacationers were often either immigrants from Germany, Poland or other parts of Eastern Europe or first generation Americans who grew up speaking Yiddish. I still say things like meshuge, cockamammie, and bashert.

As I got older and went to college and then lived out West, I became adept at picking out various accents. Two accents that seem similar to most but are very destinct to me are the accents of Philadelphia and Baltimore. The easy test: ask the person to pronounce the word "water" - if the "a" sounds more like "oo" in wood, then that person mostly likely has a Philadelphia Accent. Baltimorese not only is an accent, but also includes a unique lexicon and a habit of dropping middle portions of words: "geen" instead of "going."

I imagine that when my Dutch ancestors arrived here in 1661, they had a difficult time adapting to English when that became the standard in the New York colony in 1670. And, I still remember some of the Irish brogue that my great-grandmother Therese McGinnis Austin had inherited from her mother Bridget Farren McGinnis.

Take the quiz below to see how your pronunciation is described - I was surprised that mine was not more Middle Atlantic English. Perhaps my four years in Chicago are starting to affect my pronunciation - who knows?

Let me know what type of accent you have, and if your ancestors had unique accents, either in their native tongue or in English - and what challenges they had to overcome with learning English. The funniest example of mixed up compound English words I ever had: a friend's father from Poland would say "Oh, you have overhang," instead of "Oh, you have a hangover!"

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Inland North

You may think you speak "Standard English straight out of the dictionary" but when you step away from the Great Lakes you get asked annoying questions like "Are you from Wisconsin?" or "Are you from Chicago?" Chances are you call carbonated drinks "pop."

The Midland
The Northeast
The South
The West
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz


Jasia said...

I'm Inland North too. No surprise there. I've never lived anywhere but here in the midwest.

Lidian said...

I'm an Inland North too. Grew up in Manhattan, parents from Brooklyn & Queens. But I've also been told I have a Canadian accent, since I have lived in Canada most of my adult life.

Steve Danko said...

I'm another Inland North. When I took the quiz, the Northeast came out on top even though I moved away from the Northeast 31 years ago. Old habits die hard, I guess!

footnoteMaven said...

I'm Northeast, which is very strange, as I was born and raised in Missouri and have lived the best part of my life on the west coast.

Most people who hear me think I have no accent. My mother was a New Yorker and I guess it's her influence.


Chery Kinnick said...


What's with all this Inland North business? I'm a Midlands gal, by way of the west coast:

Maven - your Northeast must be because of all that predisposition to things legal!

Fun topic, Thomas. Thanks for bringing it up.

Bill West said...

I took the test early this morning and to no great surprise I have a
Boston accent.

Couldn't get the red bar graphs to
post right on my blog, though!

Tanya Breese said...

That was fun! I scored "the West" which I knew I would. I'm one of those without an accent, from San Diego.
My ancestors are French, settled in Quebec then NY...I wonder what their accents were like?

Chery Kinnick said...

Okay, what's up with this quiz? On a lark, I took the quiz again, and this time it came up with "The West," which is what I would expect for myself. I am pretty certain I answered the questions in exactly the same manner, unless I had a typo. I also had trouble getting the red bar graph to display properly at first, but now I think they are okay.

Anonymous said...


Nice quiz. And accurate, since it accused me of having a Philadelphian accent, which I do. I linked to your post here


Charley "Apple" Grabowski said...

This is the second time I've taken the quiz and I got Inland North this time and North East the last time, no real surprise either way. I think the use of pop starts just east of Buffalo ;-) I was shocked at how many regional words they had that I wasn't familiar with. I stopped for directions once and drove forever trying to find "the ramp". It only took me a year to pick up a southern drawl but it took years before it was gone. It still comes out easily when I visit North Carolina.

Thomas MacEntee said...

The words in the lexicon of a region also throw me - my New England friends use words like bubbler and tonic all the time.

In New York we hang on to what some call old fashioned words: athletic shoes are sneakers and blue jeans are still called dungarees.

Unknown said...

"Judging by how you talk you are probably from north Jersey, New York City, Connecticut or Rhode Island. Etc." Does that mean if I were to visit the US s I would most easily understand the accent in these places? And perhaps that tv programmes set here have best export potential?
I grew up in Australia and in my twenties came to live in an assortment of English locations.

Anonymous said...

I got The West accent which is correct and a lot of people think I don't have an accent, but I'm from Southern California. So that might be why.