Jared White
Writer. Musician. Open Web Advocate. Programmer. Designer. Sci-Fi Nerd. Family Man.

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Jared White

Why City Accents Are Fading in the Midwest

There aren’t too many places in Chicago where you can still hear the accent parodied on Saturday Night Live’s early 1990s “Bill Swerski’s Super Fans” sketches, but a sports bar in an ethnic neighborhood is one. So is a fire station. Or on an emergency call to a plumber. The “classic Chicago” accent, with its elongated vowels and its tendency to substitute “dese, dem, and dose” for “these, them, and those,” or “chree” for “three,” was the voice of the city’s white working class.

More and more it seems like regional accents around the U.S. are collapsing inward toward a more homogenous national accent—at least among whites. I’m not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, it may make it easier for people to get better jobs in more advantageous neighborhods and avoid discrimination. On the other hand, American culture is already too homogenous in my opinion. We should be celebrating regional diversity of language, art, architecture—not fighting it. But accent trends over time belong in that category of cultural development where, by and large, all you can do is measure those changes after the fact.

(By the way, that SNL skit was hilarious—one of my all-time favorites. I’ve often had da bearsss…da bullsss… running through my head at odd times.)

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