By Susan Knight
Before you get the impression I disparage "Utahn," let me first admit that I come from a place in the United States with the worst dialect—Philadelphia. Hands down, it is the ugliest. My hometown is about 40 miles away from Philly, so I grew up with it; i.e., wooder = water, at/dat = that. I've spent my whole life trying not to talk that way.
Like New Orleans speak, nobody can fake the Philly vernacular. It does not sound like a New York City accent thanks to Benjamin Franklin, who wanted Philadelphians to be far removed from anything British.
Philly people pronounce “r” like a pirate; i.e. arrr. It gets swallowed into the back of the throat, along with most vowels and consonants. New Yorkers, like Bostonians—and the British—say “ah; i.e. pahk the cah. If you watch a television show that takes place in Philadelphia, note how they say their “r’s.” You’ll know if they’re faking it.
Enter Utah. Rather, I entered Utah about two years ago. I can’t figure out the accent or where it comes from, and have denoted several dialects in or around the Great Salt Lake. Diphthongs seem to be the main problem, or lack of them.
Some pronunciations here sound like a southern drawl; i.e. say-id = said (where there shouldn't be a diphthong), some are decidedly cowboy; i.e. thee-ay’-ter = theater; and some might come from Scandinavian influence; i.e. yah = yeah. Or maybe it means "yes?"
Below are some conventions of the English language in Utah that have made me pause as I have tried to stay in conversations. I have about a five-second lapse, so please be kind to me if ever I’m immersed in a chat with you. s.m.i.l.e.
her = here
ther = there
Usage: I didn’t get her until 1:00. Before that, I was over ther.
filling = feeling (Not to be confused with dental work.)
Usage: I have a filling this is the rill dillthe rill dill = the real deal (Not to be confused with a type of pickle, which is what I think they’re talking about and wonder, how does a pickle relate to their dental work? By the time I give up trying to figure it out, they’re on to the next topic.)
mill will = mill wheel (Not to be confused with a will reading where someone is left a mill in a will, which is what I thought.)
peenk = pinkThe short “i” sound is pronounced like long “e,” such as theenk, meaning think; but the long “e” sound is pronounced like short “i,” such as filling, meaning feeling; i.e. apple pill is not a flavored medication.
mell = mail or malesell = sale
Usage: I got this mell box at a garage sell. It was a rill dill.hell = hail
The long “a” sound is pronounced like short “e.” I once heard a hymn pronounced from the pulpit as “We’ll Sing All Hell to Jesus’ Name.” Even the Utahns balked at that.
Conversely, the short “a” sound, like in apple, is often pronounced with a long "a" sound, like “ay;” i.e. bank, thank, sank = baynk, thaynk, saynk.
pitcher = picture
excetera = etcetera
buh-in = buttonmouh-in = mountain (I can’t even simulate this sound. It is an enigma to me.)
hooware/hoowat = where/what (The “h” sound is first, instead of silent.)
Can you see why I lag behind?
I love Utah. The people are great, but—diphthongs can be very useful. Hoowat do you theenk?