Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Philly Girl

I suppose this was inevitable, but it still caught us by surprise. We're in the kitchen having dinner one day, and Jada says, "Can I have some wooter?" Amy and I look at each other, smile, look at Jada, and say, "'Wooter'" She says, "Yes, wooter." We reply, "You mean, 'water.'" She looks at us quizzically and says, "Yeah, wooter."

Accents are a funny thing. Here we have a Chinese girl being raised by a suburban Californian and a suburban New Jerseyite. And yet, she has mastered the quintessential pronunciation that marks a Philly person. Next, we will be hearing about how she roots for the "Iggles" and is excited to go "down ashore." Sigh. Pass me a "wooter ice."


Joel Laramee said...

I am a Philly native, so I just can't resist commenting here. I don't think it's as simple as "the quintessential pronunciation that marks a Philly person". I don't say "wooder" (you got it slightly wrong); am I not "a Philly person"?

It would be interesting to actually find out what percentage of Philly residents use the "quintessential pronunciation": "payments" (sidewalks), "downashore" (over at the Jersey shore), "kwawfee" (coffee), etc. Of course, there are plenty of people who live in the "region" (think especially: Delco, South Jersey), but not the city proper, who have this style/accent.

There is *some* class distinction at work here, and I have to confess to having a certain prejudice against the "white neighborhoods" of Philly, from my upbringing. It's telling that I can imitate a number of accents of English moderately well, but I have a very hard time speaking in such a way as to be identified as a Philadelphian. (I don't count my stubborn use of "where are you at?" which is worse to my wife Angela than nails on a chalkboard.)

My parents are from western Massachusetts and "around the U.S.". The one from western MA actually cleansed himself of his regional accent, as a teenager, by using listening dialect training records (yes, on a record player). That also may be telling, and may be a clue to why I don't say "wooder". (To me, "wooder" is a made-up word meaning "more wood-like than".)

I'm rambling. But you've touched a bit of a nerve. But not in a bad way. Necessarily.

LH said...

Joel, thanks for chiming in. Perhaps instead of "quintessential," I meant "stereotypical." Not at all intending that you can't be from Philly if you don't say it that way.