Sounds of place

We were driving somewhere the other day when the kid asked if he could play around with the iPhone for awhile. Among the podcasts I subscribe to is The Best of YouTube — although, as with most of the too-many podcasts I subscribe to, I hardly ever watch it.

I wasn’t paying much attention to what the kid was doing until I heard the unmistakable sound of a country farmer from piedmont North Carolina. My kid was mostly amazed that this farmer could do with a sling-shot what most people can’t do with a rifle: hit nearly anything, whether it was moving or holding still. I was just trying to guess where this guy was from. The announcer was from somewhere in the region, I figured. Probably Greensboro. But the farmer had to be from somewhere, maybe, south of there.

I had the kid re-play the piece, called “Sling Shot Man” (that’s on Best of YouTube; on YouTube itself the full title starts with “Carolina Camera:”). Turns out the farmer lives “past a one-lane bridge on a dirt road south of Asheboro”. In Greensboro — at least when I went to college there in the ’60s — that town was pronounced, (as by this feature’s announcer), “Ashburra”. Locally it was “Aishburra”. Announcers suppressing their local accents would say “Grainssburra”, with elongated s’s and r’s. Otherwise they’d just say “Grainsbura”.

Which leads me to Bob Oakes, the morning host on WBUR here in Boston. The way he pronounces his surname “aOkes” (with a tiny long a in front) and calls NPR’s early show “Mo-ar-ning Edition” sounds Southern to me. According to his bio at that last link, Bob has been around New England for quite a while. But I’m willing to bet he’s from pretty far south of here. I’ll write to him and ask. (Hi, Bob!)

By the way, NPR’s Karl Kassell is from Goldsboro, though you’d never know from hearing him talk.

Oh, and you can hear (and see) a much younger me talk in piedmont dialect on this YouTube video here.

Tags: , , , , , , ,


  1. Tom Guild’s avatar

    If only you got residuals from that performance back in 1988…

    By the way, I’m sure you recall that the town that the network news anchors called “DOOR-em” is what we locals call “Derm”. Y’know, where “Deewk” is.


  2. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Well, if anybody charged admission. As it is, there is only admission of responsibility.

    Ah yes. And, of the town where my sister lives, it is said “It’s not ‘Graham’ that’s pronouned ‘grim,’ it’s ‘grim’ that’s pronounced ‘graham.’

  3. kathy’s avatar

    Hi, Doc – both YouTube clips have been pulled. :-/

    I was looking forward to listening to your accent (UGA J-School ’77, Go Dogs!).

    PS: Parts of Cluetrain are required reading in many of my digital media classes (and have been since I started teaching relevant topics in 2001).

Comments are now closed.