Rage against the Language

The Hillbilly Sophisticate has fits of irrational rage over West Virginian pronunciation, or (sic) “verbal manglings”.

The other night I was strolling through Wal-Mart when a woman announced over the intercom, “The associate in pets – a customer needs help by the FEESH tanks.” BAHHHHHH! And, of course, in her thoroughness, she repeated the page twice, clearly saying FEESH both times. What do you want to bet this same person says CRICK instead of creek? WHAT IS SO BLOODY HARD ABOUT THE SHORT ‘I’ SOUND?!

[Sarcasm On] Why, gee, it sounds like two vowels are being exchanged. Do you think it could be part of a larger dialectal sound shift? Wow, sounds like the kind of thing that happens in a living language that people actually speak and stuff.[Sarcasm Off]

The Hillbilly Sophisticate also points and laughs at the pronunciation of “hurricane” as “hurkin”. BBC English pronounces “hurricane” as “hurikin”, and sometimes it even sounds like “hurkin” if they’re in a hurry. Welcome to the wonderful world of Shakespeare’s English as preserved in the Appalachians. But then, that Bard said things funny, too.

By the way, in Dayton, the heartland of Standard American English, we routinely switch between “wash” and “warsh”; D.C. is almost always “Washington”, but George is “Warshington”. Phbbbbbt.

Now, if you want to complain that you’d like people to code-switch from their native dialect to the Standard American English one in any sort of formal public setting, you can do that. I think I’d laugh at the idea that Walmart’s a formal public setting, but whatever turns you on. But demanding that dialects change to suit you is as silly as King Canute commanding the tide — and he did that to demonstrate the limits of an individual human’s power. Your only hope is to convince people that Standard American English — or to be more honest, the way people talk in certain parts of Ohio and California — will be seen as cooler than this particular way some West Virginians talk. So start saying something cool, or give it up.

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