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I'm surprised that no one has mentioned the great "A" versus "E" aspect of the Cleveland dialect. I grew up here, and I also remember being taught at a young age that we had no accent. But as I travelled more and more, I came up realize that it most certainly exists.
Yet I don't notice that "cat" and "cot" mixup as much as the article suggests. Rather I think the most discernible thing about our accent is that we often turn short e's into long a's. And this is most noticeable in how many of us say the man's name Aaron versus how we say the woman's name Erin, which is to say that we pronounce them virtually identically. Much of the rest of the country pronounces each name the way it's spelled, with Erin sounding almost like "Ehrin" and Aaron sounding "Aaron" or "Airon." Yet Clevelanders typically pronounce both names as the male "Aaron" and think nothing of it.
I mentioned this to a local girl named Erin just a couple weeks ago. And when I pointed out that her name is in fact spelled Erin, and thus is pronounced "Ehrin" by much of the country, she got a bit confused and then defensive. She said "Ewww, that's not my name. That's gross! My name (which she pronounced Airon) is cute!" It took all of my strength not to burst into laughter.
We do the same with other similar sounding words too. So we often pronounce any type of berry such as a strawberry as "strawbarry." It's that "eh" sound turning almost into an "ā" sound that truly sticks out to me as the "Cleveland accent" more and more as the years go by.
I thought those were funny as hell lmao
I was never aware of the Cleveland accent until I moved to Columbus (I'm from Mayfield Heights) to attend Ohio State, and many people asked me where I was from....and I asked why. Then I was made aware of my Cleveland accent, which apparently I still have. A year ago a cousin of mine was in town from LA and noticed my accent right away....and I consciously try to speak without it! Guess I'm not too successful....
I lived from 2nd grade till 9th grade in Mayfield Hts, eventually moving back to Chicago, where I was born. For the last 30+ years I've lived either on the East Coast or West Coast. To a great extent, because so many people in places like LA and DC (where I've lived since '97) are from other places, at some point their kids (regardless of ethnicity or even race) grow up speaking "broadcast English". But as I do a lot of public speaking and presentations in my job, listening to stuff I did decades ago (even as a college DJ) and what I do now, there is definitely the existence of a "northern accent". Sometimes it's derided as an "adenoidal twang" (as someone actually said to me when critiquing me on the high school speech team in suburban Chicago). I had to exorcise it (subconsciously or otherwise) when I worked overseas so I can be readily understood, especially since Middle East, Asian and African folks are much more accustomed to the Queen's English .
I'm old enough to have grown up when Cleveland was the broadcast standard, and I'm sure my youthful television watching habits contributed to my speech patterns. I'm pretty sure that no matter what my accent is, it's not the one described here.
I was born and raised in Cleveland Heights, and some years later, lived in Lakewood, but I never ran into anyone who spoke in the way this article indicates. It wasn't until I moved to Cincinnati three years ago and made friends with a woman at church that I got my first taste of the infamous "yeah"; her accent was extremely pronounced and at first, I thought she had to be joking. I have no idea if she was originally from Cleveland, but I plan to ask her the next time we see one another.
How do you people really feel?
I was born and raised in NE Ohio but moved to Nevada almost 20 years and I'm always asked where I'm from because of my accent! My children tease me because I say py-ants (pants) and ask me to say it over and over! I just went back to NE Ohio for a 5 week visit and definitely noticed the accents and now that I'm back home, everyone is telling me that my accent is stronger than ever! Great article and to those that in denial, get over it and embrace your Cleveland accent, it's something to be proud of!!!
That foxy weather chick on Fox-8 (Melissa M.) says "Kee-YAN-ton" and "Ee-yak-ron" every night she's on TV. I was sure she was from Sha-CAW-go.
Nope...it's Youngstown. Go figure, huh? And she told us to go look at the "full mew-n" tonight.
I think it's sorta kee-yute.
Chuckles the Clown
No, we do not have accent, nice try. I had a sociology prof at John Carroll U whose husband was a linguistic sociologist. According to him and his studies, clevelanders had no accent. He actually said Cleveland was the center of language in America and actually pinpointed it to a neighborhood near Cedar Hill (close to Coventry). The standard (high) dialect of any country is usually reflected in a country's national news. Of course American news occasionally has a marble mouth like Brokaw or a Texan like Rather, but generally you think that national news people do not have an accent (think Matt Lower or David Muir). And generally those national broadcasters talk like we do in Cleveland (not like New Yorker, Bostonian, or even a person from Pittsburgh, etc). Not a total surprise to me that students at a university would say someone from Cleveland has an "accent" because they sound different than they do. But honestly I went to JCU that had a lot of out of state students, Georgetown that was totally diverse, and have lived in the DC area for 18 years which is a super transplant city - and never once has any one ever told me I have an accent. Even when I lived in Australia for two years,of course people there said I sounded like an American, but no one ever told me I had a particular accent from America.
The theory behind how "the accent" formed is fascinating. As I was reading this I was sounding out the individual words and while I didn't hear this "yeah" in "kee-yeah-ndee" I did feel the weird tongue placement he described. We do for sure pronounce our As and Os and Rs different, nasally and harsh. But whatever.
I'd rather sound like we do than some southern hick. Pittsburgh has one of the more bizarre accents...how do you put an R in wash anyways? I've been living in Philly for the last year, the accent here is just plain dumb..."wooder" rather than "water" and "dohg" rather than "dog." I can't even begin to imagine what they do to get words like "stay" and "day" to come out like they do.
I had the nerve of a coworker from Boston heckle me about my "accent."
Again, whatever. We know we don't have an accent. This article is just scientific proof of what we all know...Clevelanders are a more highly-evolved human being 🤓
For reliable, fact-based coverage of the issues facing the Cuyahoga Heights school district visit The Cuyahoga Sentinels. http://bit.ly/29aJxFr
Lars, you're right to identify those other vowel shifts, but the NC shift is at least as momentous and arguably more so because of the sheer number of people involved, and geographical area, from New York state to Chicago, at least!
My wife, who was raised largely out in Madison, closer to Ashtabula, definitely has the nasal "a" / added "y", but as someone who grew up in the eastern burbs of Cleveland, I don't have any of that in my own voice, even though I recognize it in others'. Maybe it's because I have always been involved in theater and audio, and therefore have spoken with the 'neutral pronunciation' by nature. Beats me. The 'Cleveland accent' definitely exists, but it's not as ubiquitous as this article makes it seem.
A label for everything and everything has to have a label. I get the academic need to label the "Great Lakes Accent"--- which is the one national broadcasters strive for their anchors to use. There is a discernible difference as one travels -- and linguistically it makes sense to assure someone labels it, even if it is the "norm" or "standard" for "American English". Even so, Ohio itself is home to many accents -- Cincinnatians still use "Please" instead of "Excuse Me" as a holdover from their german roots of "Bitte" etc. S.E. Ohioans often pronounce an 'r' in Washington and words like that: "Warshington", similar to their S.W. Pennsylvanian neighbors. The further south in Ohio into river country, and as expected, Kentucky drawls become more prevalent. But in the band of Ohio along Lake Erie, our great lake, it is the dominant 'Great Lakes Accent' that prevails. I hear the 'eah' sound often times here in Cleveland, but it is a subtle sound you hear, not as pronounced as the 'eah' sound that prevails in some accents back between Bahston and Bal'mer (Baltimore). Even so, what is 'water' anyway? -- we have lakes, rivers, creeks and rain.
Where ever I speak, across the world, people comment about how clear my accent is. I tell them that this was once the Ohio/Indiana broadcast accent, a standard which has some similarity to California and is known for its clear and crisp accent. In the United Kingdom, the Queens English was popular but that has changed significantly because of the negative impact of class distinction.
But language and accents change. TV is a huge influencer. As just one example, the American Southern accent, which has many variations, has softened over the decades. The Cleveland accent has picked up some new influences which is natural.
Born and raised in Northern Ohio, and I never met anyone who spoke this way. I had teachers for parents, and learned to speak English the phonetically correct way. Kee-yan-dee? Never heard it, ever.
Wonderful article...OK I am now listening💕 I do say Cyanton!!!
I grew up in a small PA town right next to the OH border, halfway between Cleveland and Pittsburgh. I used to describe my accent as "Cleveburgh." Now that I live in Cleveland, I find myself sounding more "Cleve" than "Burgh," which I think is pretty cool. I like the NEO accent more than the western PA one.
NE OHIO RURAL GIRL
Oh it's there. This article was great! I grew up about 50 miles west of Cleveland and now I live in Toledo. I'm constantly told my A's and O's are short, and people are always confusing my name with another one because of the way I say my A! When I was in college and made new friends with southern Ohioans, I drank pop(pahp), and they drank soda...stuff like that. Let's embrace it! 😀😀
March 22-28, 2017
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