What you SAY is as important as HOW you say it. Both are 'cues and clues' to unlocking your geographical history. What our fictional characters SAY is important because each character's dialogue should also reflect their background in terms of 'cues and clues.'
Imagine the regional fun you can have with heroes and heroines of different geographical backgrounds. Just make sure you do your research!
When your New York born and bred heroine calls her residence a walk up, will her hero who is from California, know what she is talking about?
How about your Chicago fireman hero? When he goes into a New York City deli and asks for a jibarito, will the clerk know what he wants?
The secondary character in your story set in Louisiana is a baker and offers the Yankee hero a lagniappe with his order of beignets if he buys twelve. Huh?
|Beef on weck|
Then there's your heroine who is dying for beef on weck. Where is she most likely to find it?
If your hero wants to buy champagne to celebrate his proposal to the heroine, he might go to a liquor store in some states, a grocery store in other states and a package store in Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.
Obvious dialect shifts in the United States include West Coast/East Coast, and North/South. Much of southern Florida follows the north. Then there's also that whole Midwest thing going on. Besides that, are many, many regional 'cues and clues.'
A few more regionalisms for fun!
You might be from the south if you:
Call tping a house- rolling.
Say "Full as a tick" after dinner.
Use the verb "mash" instead of "press."
Replace "might be able to" with "might could."
You might be a Yankee if you:
Call a pizza a pie.
Say "you guys" referring to a group of people.
Say "put it away," instead of "put it up" as a southerner would say.
When two cars collide call it a car accident.
Say grocery cart, not buggy.
You might be from the Midwest if you:
Think booyah is a stew not a term of triumph.
Say "tough tomatoes" instead of "tough luck."
Say "schnookered" meaning drunk.
Call a drinking fountain a bubbler.
Use the following terms at any time in your life: Uff da & Donchaknow
Let's talk about some favorite regional pronunciations! How do you pronounce these words?
Sorry-sewre, sorree, sorry
Can you see these pronunciations causing fun scenarios in your book? Throw in America's Top 10 Most Commonly Mispronounced Towns and Cities, and you have really added flavor to your story!
Now, what about different words for the same thing.
What do you call the following:
(More importantly, what would your story characters say?)
Left to right
2. Sub, Hoagie, Grinder?
3. Lightning Bug, Firefly?
4. Sneaker, Tennis Shoe?
|map courtesy mymaps.com|
Now let's talk about a few real language quirks.
1. The Boston accent- “Speaking American: A History of English in the United States" by Richard Bailey shares that the Boston accent with the dropped R originated with the aristocrats of Boston who brought over the British English in the 17th century as evidenced by documents with words such as George, spelled Geoge, and fourth as fouth.
2. The Northern Cities Vowel Shift- (NCS)This change pattern is characterized by the longer and lower vowels moving forward and upward, while the shorter vowels move downward and backward. -Wikipedia. Words most often used to explain this are "cot" and "caught" which are pronounced the same with the shift. The Saturday Night Live sketch “Bill Swerski’s Super Fans” pokes fun at this NCS. More on NCS vowel shift here.
3. Additionally, other areas of the United States are seeing vowel shifts. For more information check this PBS article here.
Obviously, we could talk about this topic for hours. The important takeaway, besides the obvious-only order beef on weck in Western New York-is to make sure your characters are talking the way their geographic history says they should be. Utilize the rich flavor of your character's backgrounds to create a layered story that readers will enjoy.
Give your fiction authenticity. Isn't that what made books like The Help so much fun?
Now it's time to take the *New York Times Dialect Quiz and come back and share your results. Bookmark the page to go back to for your fiction characters to take the quiz! Take the quiz here.
|Where does your speech show you're from?|
*The New York Times Dialect Quiz is based on the 2013 Harvard Dialect Survey. That survey is also the basis for the book, Speaking American by Josh Katz, which was referenced in this post, along with, How to Speak Like a Midwesterner by Edward McClelland. Both books are excellent reference tools for your writer library.
Walter Hickey, Business Insider, shares 22 Maps That Show How Americans Speak English Totally Differently From One Another-from Josh Katz's book Speaking American. Check it out and have fun!
Today, I'm giving one writer their choice of either book. To one reader, a copy of Rocky Mountain Cowboy (print or ebook). And to another reader, an Out of Print Tote in gray. Three winners announced in the Weekend Edition which is on Sunday this week!
Originally from Western, N.Y., Tina Radcliffe left home for a tour of duty with the Army Security Agency (a branch of the NSA) stationed in Augsburg, Germany and ended up in Tulsa Oklahoma. While living in Tulsa she spent ten years as a Certified Oncology R.N. Her move to Colorado led to a career as a library cataloger.
Tina is a two-time RWA Golden Heart finalist, a 2012 ACFW Carol Award finalist, a 2014 ACFW Mentor of the Year finalist, a 2014 Golden Quill finalist and a 2014 ACFW Carol Award winner. In 2016, Safe in the Fireman's Arms was a Holt Medallion Merit Award finalist, a Detroit Bookseller's Best finalist, and a NERFA finalist. She has won first place in over twenty RWA chapter affiliated contests in her career.
Tina is also a short story writer and has sold over twenty short stories to Woman’s World Magazine. She currently resides in Arizona where she writes fun, heartwarming romance. Sign up for her newsletter at www.tinaradcliffe.com