Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Sarah Palin Swiped My Accent

Sarah Palin's positions on the issues are fair game for criticism: they're mean-spirited, environmentally dangerous, recklessly aggressive abroad, anti-woman, and objectionable in every other way. I also think it's fair to question actions that show major lapses in judgment: her foolhardy behavior after her water broke, her copying the First Dude on all her official emails, her unblinking acceptance of the VP nomination.

But picking on her accent? I'll admit that's not entirely fair. I'm going to do it anyway, because she's trampling on my territory. Bear in mind, this isn't a political argument. It's just me defending my turf as a North Dakotan.

So I took this quiz and it told me I have ...

North Central

What people call the "Minnesota accent." Sounds almost Canadian. You may have even been asked if you were from Canada before.

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz
This is not exactly a news flash. I've been getting cheerfully teased about this for nearly three decades, ever since I left North Dakota. I discovered everyone in California said "cow" differently than I did (as if they knew more about cows!). I still sometimes get recognized by flight attendants on Northwest Airlines as a fellow Minnesotan/Dakotan. On the upside, those south-central North Dakotan vowels (think: Lawrence Welk) came in pretty handy when I started learning German.

Lately, people have been asking me how come Sarah Palin and I sound a bit alike. No, I don't think I ever used the phrase "Joe Six-Pack" until last week. I will never say nukular. I don't wink very often, either.

Here's my beef: Sarah Palin seems to have swiped my extra-long, North Dakotan O. Listen:

Last weekend, Steven Pinker explained in the New York Times just how the heist happened:
[Palin's] dialect is certainly for real. Listeners who hear the Minnewegian sounds of the characters from “Fargo” when they listen to Ms. Palin are on to something: the Matanuska-Susitna Valley in Alaska, where she grew up, was settled by farmers from Minnesota during the Depression.
But the story turns out to be slighly more complicated. As The Biblio Files point out on Open Salon, Palin doesn't exactly have a Minnesotan accent. (They mean North Dakotan, of course. But thanks to them anyway for linking to the quiz I took.) Once her ancestors moved to the Mat-Su Valley, their accent started to morph, as language is wont to do. That's why Palin says "fill" when she means "feel" - and I don't.

Now, I have been known to use phrases like "doggone" and "darn it" and "yah, youbetcha." And I resent Sarah Palin horning in on them! I'm not saying you ought to vote against McCain-Palin just so I can reclaim that territory. But if she doesn't disappear after November 4, there's a word for what my verbal style will be:

Kittywampus. (And yep, that's a good North Dakotanism, too. Yah, youbetcha.)

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