Posted by: Jack Henry | February 11, 2021

Editor’s Corner: American Dialects

Top of the morning to you!

I recently read a very interesting article from one of my favorite resources,, on one of my favorite topics—dialects. This article is specifically about American dialects. As you know, although most Americans share the common language of English, we don’t all speak it exactly the same way. There are differences in the grammar we use, in our accents, in our word choice, and in our common expressions—and all this makes up our regional dialect.

The article I read stated that there are fourteen different regional dialects in the United States, but for the sake of brevity, they narrowed them down to the three major dialects that I’m sure you’re all familiar with: Southern, Northern, and Western. Here is some of the information they provided. I hope you find it as fascinating as I do. (I’ve cut it down for your convenience.)


American Southern English is perhaps most recognized for its distinctive drawl with longer vowel pronunciations. Another regional distinction can be the dropping of the final r of a word before another word that begins with a vowel (e.g., greater idea is pronounced great-uh idea).

Southern English might also be identified by colloquialisms such as using done as an auxiliary verb (I done already reminded you about the yard work) and using been instead of have been in present perfect constructions (I been building this cabinet for about two weeks).


American Northern English includes dialects from New England (e.g., Boston, Rhode Island), New York and the Mid-Atlantic (e.g., Baltimore, Philadelphia), Inland Northern (e.g., Chicago, Detroit), and the U.S. Midland (Ohio, Nebraska, Missouri).

In Boston…you may hear the dropping of the r from words such as car (caa)…You might also hear the word wicked in place of very and references to a tonic (TAWN-ic) for a soft drink.

In certain boroughs of New York (New Yawk), you might hear WAW-duh for water…

In Philadelphia and surrounding areas, one may hear h-dropping as in YOO-men for human. The word water might also be pronounced as WOO-ter. Some Philadelphians are known to refer to the chocolate sprinkles on ice cream as jimmies as well.

Many Americans can identify Chicagoans by how they refer to their hometown: shi-CAW-go. Other Chicago-isms include I got dibs for I have first access, da for the, and pop for soda…


Perhaps because it was settled last by European immigrants on different settlement routes, the American West is less distinct in its dialect than the South and the North.

With close to 40 million people (12 percent of the U.S. population), California has developed its own forms of English, but an identifying regional tongue is yet to be defined. Its most discernible pattern of speech may be the Valley Girl vernacular popularized in the 1980s. The lingo included using like as filler between words and expressions such as gnarly, awesome, totally, and gag me with a spoon. [dbb – Last time, I briefly discussed the
Valley Girl dialect
, remember? It was, like, totally awesome!]

Other subdialects include New Mexican, Utahan, and Wyomese English.

I love trying to figure out where people are from by their accent and speech patterns. I was raised in California by two Southern parents. I’ve learned to love the slow Southern drawl and the sometimes silly but very apt southern sayings I often hear from my dad. Here are some of his top hits (the ones that are suitable for work):

Dad’s saying What he means
· I’m finer than a frog hair split four ways and tied up in bow knots. · I’m doing very well!
· He’s only got one oar in the water. · He’s not very bright.
· No thanks, I had a bar of soap earlier. · I’m not hungry right now.
· He fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down. · He’s very ugly. (He said this about every one of my boyfriends.)
· You look like you’ve been rode hard and put up wet. · You look exhausted.
· I’m as full as a tic. · I couldn’t eat another bite.

And I’m married to a Londoner with just as many quirky sayings—even fewer that are fit to print, but I’ve shined them up a bit to save my job and your innocence. Here are a few of Mick’s most often used work-friendly sayings:

Mick’s saying What he means
· I’m well chuffed. · I’ve very happy (or pleased).
· I’m knackered. · I’m tired.
· Well, take me to the foot of our stairs. · I’m surprised.
· Bob’s your uncle. · It’s as simple as that.
· She’s lost the plot. · She’s gone crazy.
· He’s absolutely gormless. · He doesn’t have a clue.
· He’s daft as a brush. · He’s crazy (or stupid).
· That’s mank. · That’s disgusting.

NOTICE: This electronic mail message and any files transmitted with it are intended
exclusively for the individual or entity to which it is addressed. The message,
together with any attachment, may contain confidential and/or privileged information.
Any unauthorized review, use, printing, saving, copying, disclosure or distribution
is strictly prohibited. If you have received this message in error, please
immediately advise the sender by reply email and delete all copies.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: