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Friday, November 20, 2015

Wait, we have an accent in Michigan?

Posted By on Fri, Nov 20, 2015 at 11:50 AM

Midwesterners speak the purest form of American English, and everyone else in America is a weirdo with a funny accent.

At least that's what most Michiganders probably think. I always figured that nobody thought they had an accent. Plus, if Midwesterners do have an accent, it's more or less the same one that most news anchors and actors across the nation have been coached to use.

Of course, deep down we know that's not true — ours is a harsh, nasal strain of English known as the Inland North accent. As pointed out in a recent essay by Edward McClelland in Rust Belt Magazine, a hallmark of the accent is the “short-a” rising (the author uses an example of his Midwestern pronunciation of "Dallas" as "Dayul-is" to illustrate the effect). And it's not a subtle accent: linguists have pointed out that this vowel shift has changed aspects of the English language that have remained intact for 1,000 years. 

The Inland North rose to prominence in first half of the 20th century along with the rise of the Rust Belt — but as the Rust Belt has fallen, so has the accent. McClelland writes that the Inland North accent appears to be dying among millennials (though it seems to us that could also be that the rise of mass media and Internet culture has a homogenizing force that could very well be erasing our regional identities).

So R.I.P. Inland North accent — we barely knew ya. As McClelland writes, Saturday Night Live immortalized the Inland North accent with its “1-600-LANSING” skit, a fake ad about a phone sex line for men turned on by women with nasal Michigan accents. We'll end on that note. 

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