Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Missouri Talk

Please Note: in the following post hubby felt the need to inject his two cents into a few spots.  I highlighted them in Red.  

A major difference between my dear hubby and me has to be our backgrounds. I got a lot of my education and training through the school of experience and hard knocks.  Hubby has had more formal education, lived in an environment that required more culture and polish than I was exposed to, so perhaps he was stepping down a rung or two when he moved into my world. 
that is absolutely not the case. My dear wife could have done as well as anyone in my world.

The difference between living on the west coast and here in central Missouri are as different as night and day in my book.  The West Coast is the soul of glitter and bling.  It is a trend-setter with style and new endeavors moving east after taking off there.  Central Missouri is on the Eastern edge of the Ozark plateau where country themes are the rule. Folks here are direct and unassuming.  Missouri isn’t called the, “Show me” state for nothing. The West Coast has sunshine all the time. Central Missouri has snow, rain, hail, sunshine and dust storms. Sometimes all on the same day.
According to Labov et al.'s (2006) ANAE, the Midland dialect region comprises the cities represented here by circles colored red (North Midland) and orange (South Midland). The color blue indicates the Inland North dialect, which is intruding southward into the middle of this region towards St. Louis, Missouri.

Here you can always tell who is a newcomer by the way they speak.  Hubby has lived in my home state for nine years.  I know he found it  hard adapting  to our state dialect. We speak what is called the Midlands Dialect. The best way I can explain it is with these two sentences.  When I do laundry I “warsh my clothes but my husband “washes” his.  I find fried foods greezy but hubby dislikes greasy foods.

     What causes most of his problem is learning that the pronunciation of many words has nothing to do with their spelling.  For example,  there is a college town about an hour from us spelled “Rolla” but  pronounced “Rah-La”. Another local town is named “Japan” but pronounced “Jay-pan”. And the town of “Krakow” is pronounced “Crock-oh”.

The first couple of years, hubby was here, I planned in state vacations so he could learn about our diverse history.  It would cause some confusion with his out of state relatives when he told them the names of the places we visited.  They thought we had been on a cross-country trip  when they heard names like California, Atlanta, Huntsville, Laredo, Louisiana, Memphis, Miami or Savannah. Even a world tour with names like Cuba,  Glasgow, Mexico, Japan and of course, Krakow.  Those are a few of our towns with names borrowed from other places. 

Areas of the state and even the cities (like St.Louis) have neighborhoods that were settled by immigrants from many lands and cultures.  The town of St. Genevieve (for example) is the oldest permanent European settlement in Missouri founded in  1735 by French Canadians.  In St. Louis the area known as the “Hill” ( home of Stan Musial and Yogi Barra) is  Italian.  Dogtown is Irish, and other areas are made up of Germans, Pakistanis, Dutch, Bosnians and  Eastern Jews.    And, all of them influence the words we use.    

An unusual part of the culture of this area is that one of the first questions you always ask someone you just met is “where did you go to high School?”  This seven-word question answers three intrusive queries: Are you Catholic? How rich is your family? What kind of culture were you exposed to?   And, politics — well I won’t even go there.  

When it comes to my speech I am a special case. My way of speaking has been influenced by television, my time in the midwest, preschool years spent in the deep south, and having a southern mother and constant exposure to her family, who still reside there.    After sixty years of living in Missouri, most folks have no idea Mom is from down south until she gets one of her sisters on the phone, then her speech becomes filled with ya’ll, sugah and “bless your heart”.  

Hubby has been correcting my grammar since the day we met.(gently, dear reader and then only the most egregious of the lot ) He occasionally forgets and does the same with others.(that was a short-lived lapse and won’t happen again, I promise) have started doing the same with him, hoping he will sound more like a local.  A few days ago he actually used a decidedly midland  expression without realizing it.  So perhaps we’ll have him speaking like a native Missourian   yet.  


  1. I loved this! I live in Kansas so I relate to some of what you are talking about. When I went to live a short spell in Virginia years ago they called me a Northerner!!

  2. Even in our too short visits, we learned that it was Missora, not MissourI...(I didn't spell that pronunciation right, but anyway there was no I on the end. Not enough time there, but grateful for what we did have. BTW, the sun does not always shine on the west coast....we are from western Oregon .. It rains there in the winter ... And rains and
    rains. (Obviously, I am a "corrector" too.... Tell your sweet hubby he is not alone. Or ask mine...he might have another word for it ;)))!