Yo, What’s My Accent?

Thomas, at Destination: Austin Family, has asked: “What American accent do you have?” Well, I can tell you that the quiz is accurate…however, I’m not sure if I should be proud or embarrassed by my result.


No big surprise there given that I was born and raised in Philadelphia. Okay, we do talk (sorry, that’s tawk in Philly-speak) funny, but so what? We are definitely a product of our environment, and if my ancestors hadn’t settled here I might have a real American accent like most folks.

I have to tell you…it is hard to change your accent or lose it. Based on the quiz questions, I’ve been nailed as a Philly-ite for two word pronunciations: on and horrible. I honestly believe that changing the way you pronounce words is harding than learning a foreign language, at least in my case. Of course, I actually speak other languages with a Philly accent which amuses foreigners to no end.

When I was in my 20s, I realized that there really is no “r” in the middle of the word water, so I made a conscious decision to change the way I said the word. I still get odd looks around here when I ask for water as opposed to worter. For at least ten years now I have been desperately trying to correctly pronounce the word on, which is the one word that will cause funny looks when I travel and people wonder where the heck I’m from. It might sound strange to the rest of you, but to say it as “ahn” instead of “awn” is harder than it sounds (no pun intended).

But, I try. At least I don’t have some of the particularly Philly words in my vocabulary. I personally don’t say “picture” as “pitcher” OR “picsture” though both are quite common here. I try not to say “winda” for “window”, but I can’t seem to stop saying “fur” for “for”.

For those of you that have never been here, here is a sample of our vocabulary:

Philly 1: Yo! ‘Sup?

Philly 2: Aite!

Philly 1: ‘Jeet?

Philly2: Nah, ‘jew?

1: Hey, what’s up? (further translation: What is going on, how are you?)

2: All right. (further translation: Okay, good.)

1: Did you eat? (further translation: Have you eaten yet?)

2: No, did you? (further translation: No, have you eaten?)

Yes, we are an interesting bunch here. You may have seen us in the news recently for a ruling on the infamous sign at one of our famous steak places (no, not that kind of steak). The sign asks people to order in English since this is America. However, there really should be a sign for outsiders, travelers, or other non-Philly folks to translate what the counter-person is really asking you, because you might be asked “Wid or widout?” Friends, they’re asking if you want your steak sandwich with or without cheese. And no matter how gross it is, you’d better get the seriously non-food-product “Cheese Whiz” unless you want a dirty look.

Jessica makes a good point in her response to Thomas’ question – remember that your immigrant ancestors had accents, too! This is why you’ll find your “ethnic” and foreign names spelled differently in documents. Once you learn what your ancestors may have sounded like, the odd spellings you find make a lot more sense!


5 thoughts on “Yo, What’s My Accent?

  1. I remember those cheesesteaks! I went to college just outside of Philadelphia. They were the best, and you had to have the cheese (or cheez) on them – onions too, I think. I’ve always loved Philadelphia as a second hometown as my great-grandmother was from just outside Philadelphia.

    My acent however is the regular one that a lot of us had, Thomas too, can’t remember the name (long day, lol!)

  2. Well thanks for the chuckle, Donna! I’ve never had the pleasure of visiting Philly but I’m sure I’ll find the tone of the conversations pleasant when the opportunity presents itself for me to do so. I’m a sucker for accents, not having one myself. I can listen to southerners’ long vowels and Bostonian nasal vowels all the live long day. I find them simply charming. I’m sure I’d be dazzled by your Philly accent too!

    (Now you’ve got my mouth watering for one of those cheesesteak sandwhiches…)

  3. When we lived in Furlong (just outside Doylestown) in the early 1970s I was able to distinguish a Philly accent from South Jersey. But no more. I can still get the general area. Being originally from Chicago, of course, I have no accent!!! A few mannerisms, however. When going out somewhere, as in to the movies or shopping, I ask “wanna go with?” And as children, we would go to a friend’s house, stand outside the door or window and shout, “Yo-o Judy” and she would come to the door. Good memories.

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