Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Whatcha Y'all Doin' Down There

Thought Number One:  The Texas Drawl

As a former Texan, I feel justified in asking my Texas friends, ex- neighbors, and those of you that referred to me as a Yankee upon my arrival to your fair state,  "Exactly, what the Hell is goin' on down there?"

The first thing that concerns me or if I am talking Texan,  "chaps my ass" was hearing about an ongoing study that concluded that the Texas drawl is going away.  Part of what makes Texas ...TEXAS, is the slow...ever so slow... pronunciation of the  words such as howdy and y'all.

Wouldn't  Texas be less Texan if the words fire and far weren't  pronounced exactly the same way?  (BTW, they would both be pronounced fharr)  Would life go on as we know it if  the phrase "That dog don't hunt" was said with a Midwestern accent?  OMG, the thought of it makes me more than a little queasy.
The University of Texas has been working on this study since 2008. One of the major conclusions from the Texas English Project  is the fact that the  infusion of people that aren't native to Texas, that are now residing there,  are tainting the drawl.

As I was one of the "outsiders" that made my way into Texas, I shouldn't  cast aspersions on those folks diluting  the drawl, but in my defense, at least I had a Southern accent of sorts.  Therefore,  it could be said that the 7 years I lived in Dallas, I did less damage to the "twang" than others are doing. Having spent my youth in the South, I already spoke Southern albeit not one of the dialects that are spoken in Texas.

I did have a certain advantage over others though as I had at least a basic understanding of "Southern". For example: When the locals would say that the neighbors two doors down were just "sorry SOBs", I already knew they didn't mean the neighbors were remorseful, they meant those sorry SOBs were worthless. 

But not all is lost.   According to the study, if you want to hear the true Texas "twang" (and who wouldn't want to hear it?), you could travel to Johnson County or Wise County. In some areas there are still very distinct Texan accents. (meaning it is less tainted by transient speech patterns)

I tried to draw cowboy boots on fair-going Cheryl P. ....turns out I can't draw decent boots.
Obviously My ability to draw must not be Texas friendly.

I hate to see any of  the regional dialects disappear.  You might remember a post that  I did about my own accent, called  Do I Talk Funny? You don't remember it???  Frankly I'm shocked but whatever.... In that post, I talked about the very strong accent that I picked up while living with my grandparents in Arkansas as a kid.  By the time I was twelve and moved North, the damage was done.(at least as far as my undecipherable speech pattern was concerned). The transition to living in Illinois was a tough one. Speaking a language that no one could understand proved to be a challenge.  The truth of the matter, however, is that the people around Chicago, had an accent that I couldn't understand either.  Plus...they talk really fast.

So back to the point of the Texas English Project.  After all is said and done,  the very unique accents that were once prevalent in various regions of the country, are becoming diluted as people have become more transient and national broadcasting has  further influenced speech.  The study did conclude, though, that there will still be regional differences. Those differences may be less and less distinctive.

I tend to love the regional accents.  Whether we are talking about the South, East, North or West...I love to hear the distinctive sounds of how people talk. I hope we never come to the point when every one's speech sounds the same.

Thought Number Two:   RIP...For Now

The iconic animated figure known as "Big Tex," which has greeted visitors of the State Fair of Texas for 60 years, was destroyed by fire on Friday.  Yes, the big 52 foot tall, cowboy went down in flames.

Fair representative Sue Gooding said the blaze started inside Big Tex Friday morning on the fairgrounds in South Dallas, ahead of the event's closing weekend.  She said white smoke began billowing from the neck and head area of Big Tex before the flames erupted.

Did people yell "Fharr, Fharr????

"There is definitely electrical in the working of Big Tex … to provide movement of the mouth and head," Gooding said. "It would not surprise me if it did happen – if it did start with electrical."

According to Bill Bragg, who voices Big Tex from a PA system in a nearby trailer, it was "business as usual" before the blaze broke out. "Tex was talking perfectly. A beautiful day at Fair Park. And they knocked on the door and they said, 'There's smoke coming out of Big Tex.' I went out. I investigated. I unplugged all of my equipment in the travel trailer, so I could isolate myself from the statue for safety reasons," Bragg said.
One fair  goer said smoke gave way to fire that quickly engulfed Big Tex. "The flames dropped down and hit his pants, and once they hit his pants, he just went up in flames," the man said.

"Tex went down talking," Bragg said.

The young Big Tex

The Obituary for Big Tex

  • 1949 --Erected as a 52-foot-tall "Santa Claus" on Nov. 10th, 1949, in Kerens to bolster the town's Christmas shopping.

  • 1950 -- Transported 60 miles to Dallas and sold to the State Fair of Texas for $750.

  • 1952 -- Transformed and unveiled as a giant cowboy named "Big Tex" and made its debut in late October as the official symbol of the State Fair of Texas. 

  •  1953 -- Speaks for the first time. Over the years, six men have provided the voice for Big Tex, which says "Howdy, folks!" about 60 times a day during the fair.

  • 1997 -- Original body was rebuilt on a cage-like frame made of 4,200 feet of steel rods.

  • 2000 -- Upgraded with body movements, waving to fair goers as they passed by to the Midway.

  • 2002 -- Turns 50, gets an all-new wardrobe and a new voice.

  • 2012 -- Destroyed in fire. Fair officials vow to rebuild icon for 2013.

I'll be back!

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Susan Alton said...

Now that we've been in San Antone for a few months, your blog is especially apropos. And I think you're right...I have not noticed that many people with Texan accents.

Big Tex was all over the news down here. He went down in flames, that's for sure.

Cheryl P. said...

Are you loving San Antonio or is it too new to know yet? I am a BIG fan. My aunt and uncle have lived there for years and have decided to move up here to retire in southern MO. I think they have gone insane and just aren't aware of it yet. Wait till it snows then they will see the depth of their dementia.

Ya, I think the more urban areas have lost a lot of the drawl just as other parts of the country have lost some of their unique speech characteristics. I love listening to dialects so I wish that weren't true.

Poor Big Tex! That was some kinda fire or fharr as the case may be.

Bodaciousboomer said...

Brett called the other day and said Big Tex was flaming and I should put on CNN.
I told him it was only a matter of time before he came out.
Actually, it was kinda traumatic watching him blazing away.

Cheryl P. said...

I think it would have been traumatic for a lot of Texans, as BT is quite the iconic character in TX.

I know you are originally from Missouri, but did any of your family pick up the TX drawl? When Brett called did he say BT was on fire or was he on fharr? I don't recall you having a TX accent when we spoke but then I am not sure I would notice a Southern accent.

meleahrebeccah said...

Oh no. I love the Texas drawl! I use the term y'all all the time. I will NOT let that die out!

Team Save The Twang!!

Awww man! RIP "Big Tex!"

Cheryl P. said...

I know, Right!!!! I am very much on Team Save the Twang, too, Maybe we should start a movement for Save the Twang. The fact that we live in New Jersey and Kansas might make us a little less influential in certain circles but I have been "influential" before and deal with it really well.

meleahrebeccah said...

I am all IN!

chubby Chatterbox said...

I blame TV and the social media for the loss of regional dialects. People tend to mimic what they hear on TV and the radio. If we all watch the same things then we're all going to end up sounding the same, and i think this is a shame. I love southern accents.

Cheryl P. said...

Totally agree...it would be a real shame to lose regional accents. Is there an accent associated with the area where you live? I have been to the Pacific NW but didn't notice a dialect. How do Portland people sound???

Trina said...

I grew up in Texas and when I moved to the North I tried very hard to "fit in" and talk like a darn Yankee. Now my accent come out with a vengeance when drink a bit or get frustrated or excited. When I watch Forrest Gump I can't speak right for a week LOL


Wolfbernz said...

Hi Cheryl,

I lived in Texas for 12 years and I loved it - the people, the politeness, the Twang, the Drawl - I loved everything about it! I hate the thought of that being lost...

Clicks for you!

Cheryl P. said...

You and I have that in common. Most of the time I talk fairly Midwestern. People with a really good ear for linguistics say I speak Chicagoan with a bit of a southern edge to it. BUT, If I am around my Arkansas relatives or visit southern areas, my old thick southern accent rises from the dead.

Cheryl P. said...

You and me both. I love the regional accents. The neighborhood I lived in Dallas was very transient so I only had a few native TX neighbors but there still is quite a lot of Texas accents in Dallas. I would hate to see those go away.

Aleta said...

I have a bunch of relatives in Texas and they have a heavy drawl over there, so no worries :) I'm a Southern gal too and yes, I say "Ya'll" but not with as slow of a drawl. New Orleanians tend to drawl and slur the words... it's "N'awlins D'arlin."

oldereyes said...

I love regional accents, too, and after 40-something years in CA, people still pick up on my New England accent (a Connecticut / Massachusetts / Rhode Island blend). My favorite is a Baaston accent.

I just love this: "The flames dropped
down and hit his pants, and once they hit his pants, he just went up in
flames." Typical guy.


Cheryl P. said...

I love the N'awlins sound. Actually, there are several accents in Louisiana that I love. I think the Gulf Coast states are chocked full of cool accents. Let's just hope all of those accents stick around for a long time.

Cheryl P. said...

Yesterday, my walking partner was talking about a friend of hers that has a thick Bostonian accent. Turns out there is nothing funnier than someone with a Texas drawl mimicking a Bostonian.

I know what you mean about lingering overtones in one's speech. People can hear some Chicagoan with a southern accent twist in my voice. When I lived in TX, I worked for one of the larger churches. One of the parishioners talked to the pastor, asking if I wouldn't talk at the board meetings as he found my accent grating. As I have lived in both the North and the South a number of times, there is no hope for my accent not to be diluted.

I had several thoughts about making a joke on the fire hitting Big Tex's pants as well. That would have been an easy joke but I you know how classy my blog is...I thought I should contain myself. HHhhhaaaaa

Annmarie Pipa said...

I love the regional accents too! when we are meeting new people we are immediately drawn to people from the coal regions, who do not pronounce t's, and there is an instant bond.

Cheryl P. said...

I, too LOVE accents and when you said "coal region" accent I had to stop and go to some of the linguistic audio files and try to find it. There is a bunch of them so I am not sure it I zeroed in on the kind of accent you are speaking of. The clips I heard sorta sound southern. (Maybe it's my southern ears though) They drop Ts?? Where I come from words never end with a g..... fixin for example.

Linda R. said...

I love all the different accents, too. I never thought about an influx of outsiders changing the overall accent of the area. That's sad, really. Indeed, don't taint the twang!

Cheryl P. said...

We have become such a transient society. I guess we are all rubbing off on one another in various ways including our speech. A shame to lose things like regional accents. I agree...don't taint the twang, or the drawl, or the whatever is your area's unique sound.

babs (beetle) said...

I think it's sad that we are slowly losing our different accents. I suppose it's inevitable. I think English people are slowly losing theirs as a much wider thing. We hear so much American on our TV's that you don't even notice it anymore and the kids are all using American phrases. Xfactor is a prime example. Simon Cowell says that we must never sing with an English accent. He won't put people through if they do, no matter how good a singer they may be. It's being forced on the young to sound like Americans. He is basically promoting that it's not good to be obviously English, and he influences millions of young people. While I have absolutely nothing against Americans, we are English so why must we hide our accent?

If I came to America, I would want to hear all the different accents. It's part of the enjoyment of visiting another country and I would love to hear the Southern accents :)

Cheryl P. said...

I agree that it is sad for any region to lose it's distinctive sound. After I hit the publish button to launch this post, I thought about how much I love other accents around the world. The British accent is so cool why would Simon or anyone discourage it's use. He is such a hypocrite In the early seasons of American Idol he was always ranting about what a no-talent hack Britney Spears was and now she sits next to him on the panel. . Seems to me some of the most successful musical groups on the planet had English accents.

babs (beetle) said...

I agree. People who made it without Simon Cowell's help manage fine with whatever accent they have.