Dialect in Southern cities
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Excerpt about Charlotte, North Carolina, and language trends in southern cities from the documentary Voices of North Carolina, produced by Neal Hutcheson and the North Carolina Language and Life Project.
This video is one in a series that also includes:
- African American English
- The Cherokee Language
- Lumbee English 1
- Lumbee English 2
- Mountain Talk
- Outer Banks English
- Spanish and English in the American South
- Martha Villas (00:16)
- Charlotte’s the second-largest banking city in the country — in the world, I guess. It just has grown so much. It was just a little neighborhood. Mommy used to send us up to go to the grocery store, right up there where Discovery Place is now.
- Narrator (00:40)
- In the 20th century, North Carolina cities grew into metropolitan centers of banking and technology. As North Carolina’s urban areas have developed and changed, so has the language.
- Bertha Maxwell (00:54)
- The landscape of the city — the language has changed as well as the landscape of the city, just like you see a myriad of changes with all of… That’s the same way the language has changed.
- Boyd Davis (01:08)
- I think if we were to look at the urbanization of Charlotte and the change in languages, one of the easiest ways to look was to see where the roads were being widened to accommodate the traffic. Who’s moved where?
- Betty Valladares (01:22)
- Most of the people here are from someplace else. The typical Charlottean doesn’t exist very much. So when you actually hear it, when somebody says, “This is a Charlottean accent,” you go, “Oh, that’s what a Charlottean sounds like,” but it needs to be pointed out.
- Michael Philmon (01:38)
- The older folks they speak kind of the old country type. But the new people are, like — next door, he’s from Albemarle, and she’s from New York. So you get a bit of a mix of the speech. But my parents, they speak the old North Carolina country.
- Martha Villas (02:06)
- The minute I go out of town, I go anywhere, they say, “Now, where are you from, Texas?” Makes me so mad I could die.
- Frank Parker (02:16)
- It’s very hard to hear a pure Southern dialect, which suggests to me that it’s changed a lot. In fact I’m always struck by hearing it: Ah, this is someone probably from Charlotte, not from some other place coming to Charlotte.
- Mary Kratt (02:34)
- Most of my neighbors are from Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Puerto Rico, Detroit.
- Michael Philmon (02:39)
- … from New York, from — you know, all over the country.
- Martha Villas (02:44)
- And these Northerners come down here and we take them in, and before you know it, it ain’t the same. It’s really not. They don’t think and act like we do. Well they sure don’t talk like us. They have a sharpness to their speech, don’t you think so? Most Southerners and all — I mean, I feel like we have kind of a soft, melodic — of course, why shouldn’t I think it? I don’t know any difference.
- Malin Pereira (03:21)
- So many of us are coming to the South now, and the whole nature of the South will change because of it. So, we will be North Carolinians whether the locals like it or not.
- Parks Helms (03:42)
- This community, I think, has always been willing to change. At the same time I think we’ve had the feeling that we needed to preserve some of those important qualities that set us apart from other large urban areas.
- Mary Kratt (04:00)
- I think it’s more important to be who you are or where you came from, and to be of the place. I think the history of a place, the history of your family, the stories that you carry with you are much more important than how you make a living.
- Michael Philmon (04:18)
- In growing up in this neighborhood, and knowing what’s moving in, what’s migrating in, I think it’s great, I really do. Charlotte is very progressive, they want to attract a lot of businesses, and I think that’s great. I think it’s wonderful.
- Sallie Griffin (04:42)
- I want to see Charlotte grow, and I take very — I watch Charlotte, and I watch all the things that happen over here, and I think it’s wonderful. I don’t want us to lose all of our Southern charm, but I think it’s okay to lose some of it. And I think it’s okay for us to not sound so country.
- Mary Kratt (05:05)
- This is a business town. Business and economics and banking are sort of the tail that wags the dog here. In order to be able to transfer, in order to be able to be promoted, to be successful, it’s good to sound very professional, when you get on the phone with someone in New York, or San Francisco. So people erased the accent that makes them who they are.
- Parks Helms (05:26)
- There certainly has been a subtle change in linguistic quality, if you will. It was a little different back in the days when everybody was working in a cotton mill. And they had certain styles that were appropriate then. Communication today is so important; not only in the words you say, but in the way you say them. The image that we project is in large measure determined by the way we say it. If we aren’t very careful, we might be characterized as a country bumpkin, for example.
- Michael Philmon (06:31)
- I don’t think its — you know — a great big deal to lose the South in Charlotte, because Charlotte is moving up. You know, if you’re from the South, you’re supposed to talk with a twang and a “na-na-na-na-na.” Nah. Not anymore.
- Sallie Griffin (06:57)
- I think we’ve changed a lot, in the way we view people, and the way we see people coming in. We used to be, kind of, afraid of people who came in. And I don’t think we are anymore, I think we’re happy to have them. Even if it does change our sense of place, or even if it does change our accents, or change how we talk or what we think, I think that’s okay. I think that’s, well, we’re evolving.