Do you talk Texan?
Say these sentences: “I pulled open a drawer to find a banana. Then, I peeled it.”
Did your “pull” have an “oooh sound, as in pool? Did your “peel” come out more like pill?
Most Texans no longer sound like stereotypical Texans, according to language researchers at the University of Texas at Austin. The twang, they say, is fading.
“What’s so striking is that 30 years ago, about 80 percent of all speakers had clear Texas accents,” said Lars Hinrichs, an assistant professor of English and director of the Texas English Project.
“Nowadays, the recordings my students bring back of people who grew up in Texas hardly ever have a strong Texas accent.”
The reasons are predictable — immigration, urbanization, gentrification — and the shift is most noticeable in people who live in a city, or are younger than 25. Today, people who live in Texas cities sound more like accent-neutral Midwesterners.
But Hinrichs and other researchers said they discovered something surprising when they began studying Texans’ use of their native tongue.
We haven’t abandoned the y’alls and drawls, we just use them when the time is right.
So, when a city-dwelling saleswoman is working in East Texas, she’ll often slip into the hyper-polite “thank you kindly” mode. Or when a Texas-born man is speaking to an elderly woman, he’ll default to the respectful “yes, ma’am.”
“It builds rapport, it’s quaint, it’s friendly,” said Hinrichs. “When you hear someone talking with a Texas twang, you feel like you’re talking to a good person.”
Think of it like a faded and oh-so-comfortable denim shirt.
You wouldn’t wear it to a job interview, any more than you’d greet your prospective bosses with a hearty “howdy do.”
But at a barbecue and beer joint on a lazy Saturday afternoon, an untucked denim shirt feels just right.
None of this is unique to Texas.
Language is ever-evolving, shaped by the creeping and receding tides of regional dialects.
In Texas, colloquialisms such as polecat (for skunk) and mosquito hawk (for dragonfly) have already fallen out of favor, while others such us “might could” and “fixin’ to” are in the twilight of their usage.
Bob Tallman makes his living with his booming baritone and no-nonsense Cowboy persona as an announcer for the Mesquite Championship Rodeo. To him, it is heresy to think of Texas without its twang.
“I’m a big believer that you should take pride in who you are, what you do, what you look like and what you sound like,” the 65-year-old said.
“I don’t care if you’re Democrat or Republican or independent. Whatever you are, be a goodun.”
Tallman said that means if you live in Texas, you should sound like a Texan, or learn how right quick.
“And if you don’t like it,” he said, “move back to California.”
Researchers say Tallman’s loyalty to his local language isn’t unusual.
“People always use their language as a touchstone of their identity,” said graduate student Kate Shaw Points.
Do you talk Texan?
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