Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Speaking the Language

Ma Ferguson, the first female governor of Texas (1925) said, “If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, then it's good enough for Texas.”

Try to wrap your mind around that statement. Then stop trying, because you’ll skim through the rest of the post and still come away thinking, “Jesus…speaking…English. Jesus….English.” I’ve been closing my eyes when I hear people around me speak and picturing their words coming from Jesus’ mouth. I had no idea he was such a football fan.

My suggestion to you is to read this post aloud. It will make much more sense and you’ll get a better idea of what its like to talk to the natives.


I first really understood the difference in accents while I having a simple conversation with an elderly Texan man. Sir, I asked, what is it you do for a living?
Why, I’m re-tarrrd, he replied.
I paused. Excuse me?
I’m retarrrd. Been retarrrd about 10 years.
Oh of COURSE, sir, you’re retired!
That’s what I said. Re-tarrrd.

Texan accents tend to drop the “g” at the end of most words i.e. “I’m workin.”
They end with the sound “ang” for any word containing “ing” i.e. “I love s-ang-ing.” When referring to yourself (“I”) always pronounce it as “Ah.”
Add an “a” to the end of “am”.
“To” is “tuh.”
I’m thinking about singing karaoke tonight” translates to
Ahma thankin ‘bout sanging karaoke tuh-night.”


The prevalent Hispanic influence in the state ensures that Spanish words like mesa and queso are commonly used, and plenty of people answer their phones with “bueno.” While the vocabulary has been kept intact with ease, the problem then lies in the pronunciation of these words. I found this particularly confusing being new. While waiting to get off a bus at San Jacinto Street, the automated speakers informed me I was arriving at San JAh-SenTO Street. A friend ordering a pizza to Guadalupe St was asked by the delivery driver if that was a different street than GWad-a-LOOP?

There are other problems in pronunciation besides the inability for Texans to attempt a Spanish accent. A drawl is endearing, but butchering of words makes navigation near-impossible. For instance:
Trying to go to Manor Road? Say “Main-er.“
Burnet Road? I was told, "It's Burn-it, durn it, learn it."
Manchaca Road, by far the most bewildering, is pronounced "Man-check Road.”

Needless to say, I’ve been getting lost.


“Y’all” is, of course, the most triumphant colloquialism, varied in form and use.
Singular: How y’all doin?
Plural: How y’all doin?
Plural: How all y’all doin?
Plural Possessive: Is this all y’all’s stuff?

Howdy: Perhaps the friendliest of all greetings ever spoken. No one says “howdy” in an insincere way. No waitress ever “howdy”s you without genuinely wanting to (at least make it seem like she genuinely wants to) take your order. Howdy is no regular welcome, howdy never ushers you along. “Howdy” is a smile and a meeting of the eyes.

The lovely, drawn out expression of gratitude. Depending on how thankful a person really is, this word can be drawn out for more than a few syllables. Sometimes ends with “kindly” and sounds like “Than-que kyne-lee.”

I would like to end this post by reminding everyone that I’ve taught non-native speakers the subtle nuance of accent-less American English for quite awhile now, and was recently schooled by an elderly Texan lady about my “lazy articulation.” I ended the lesson with, “Well, than-que kyne-lee” to which she replied, “Better.”

Leave your favorite Texas sayings in the comments.

1 comment:

  1. Honestly, "I'm fixin'" just baffles me...I'm just saying. Oops! 'Cuse me, sayin'.