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!