How Americans Talk, Part 1: Regional Accents Are Alive and Well

How do you pronounce the phrase “barbed wire”? If you’re from Boston, you may say “bahbd wiyah.” A Texan may make the phrase sound like a fight between two guys named Bob—“bob war.” Thanks in large part to the United States’ history of immigration and its large size, Americans speak with a wide range of accents. Sometimes the differences are so great that people from different regions have a hard time understanding each other.

The prediction had been that inexpensive travel and mass media—TV, movies, music—would soon make regional accents disappear. Not so; as recent studies show, accents are thriving in despite the barrage of blandness. A professor of linguistics argues that regional accents are getting even stronger, perhaps as a mirror of widening political differences.

Not everyone, however, wants to retain the accent they picked up while learning to talk. Some people hire coaches to help them modify or lose their accents. Professionals from the South, in particular, have noted that people with a heavy southern accent can be perceived as unsophisticated or even ignorant.

In contrast, many other Americans embrace their accents because the accents identify them with a particular much-loved place. For example, one New Orleans resident who had always tried to eliminate her heavy local accent felt differently after the ordeal of Hurricane Katrina. So much of her hometown had been destroyed; she didn’t want the local accent to disappear also.

Next month, read part 2 of “How Americans Talk,” about regional dialects, to learn what a wampus and a pinkletink have in common.

Image credit: © moodboard/SuperStock

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  1. taneria says:

    i like this very much it was a nice story and i strongly like accent.

  2. Anonymous says:

    thats is my name!

  3. t says:

    that is my name! close to it!

  4. latacah says:

    my name

    • Neovit says:

      The Seattle Accent also sounded like westren Canada and was perfect. It sounded like me!The Toronto accent was off though- I’ve lived in Toronto and it’s more what people ‘think’ Torontonians sound like. A spoof for tv but not real.

      • Josh says:

        brilliant!!!! im not even going to dissect how she could posisbly be doing all those accents so well! except the charleston sc one sounds like how someone who’s never lived in the south would imagine someone who grew there to sound.

  5. Samantha says:

    Wicked ahsome ahticle! (i’m from boston if you couldn’t tell:)

  6. kamlesh says:

    i like this very much it was a nice story and i strongly like

  7. Georgina says:


  8. Sonya says:

    yeah i like to learn new things!

  9. coolio says:

    cool dudes

  10. Matthew mcclure says:

    What it is then boooy?

  11. Maggie .m says:


  12. Matthew mcclure says:

    What is this man?