When ‘ballz’ become ‘ballss’

When I’m at the grocery I seldom put tonic in my carriage, but I’m raising an icy can of Moxie to this entertaining and informative article at Slate.com about regional dialects.

We New Englanders take pride in our well-known, oft-ridiculed accent (as if there’s only one New England accent), but it appears the language of America is more and more becoming like the chatter uttered by “da Bearss” (rhymes with “scarce”) fans in the “Saturday Night Live” sketch “Bill Swerkski’s Super Fans.” While those in the Midwest might find that to be “the ballss” (rhymes with “false”), I believe most New Englanders would find it far from “the ballz” (rhymes with “falls”).

OK, enough of that. The article goes on to say that the “tensing” of vowel sounds (that is, turning short “O” sounds into “ahhs”) is the most prevalent example of the Northern Cities Shift of other regional dialects in the United States (at least the “lower 48”). And, the article adds, this applies pretty much only to white people; blacks and Hispanics appear immune to the Great Lakes virus, even those who live in that part of the country.

Not sure I’m buying the entire premise of the article, at least as it relates to the region I call home. Greater Bostonians and other New Englanders are hardly shy about letting a person know when something he or she says sounds a little queeah to the eahh. If your kid or best friend tried to say “cot” like “kaat,” you’d think it quite bizahh and would ridicule the benighted offender. At least that’s how things would go in my family and circle of friends.

Still, the article’s worth a look.