I can probably tell where you’re from by whether you say “you guys” or “y’all.” Do you call it pick-AHN pie or pee-KAHN pie? The pecan pie pronunciation is sticky business no matter how you slice it.
I didn’t turn clairvoyant; I’ve been looking at a series of maps, published by Joshua Katz, a doctoral student at North Carolina State University, illustrating how people pronounce words in different parts of the country.
The maps indicate we are split nearly 50/50 between soda and pop when it comes to what to call carbonated beverages.
Responses were more complex regarding what to call it when several roads meet in a circle and you have to get off at a certain point. The answers were traffic circle, roundabout or rotary – except in South and North Dakota, where they have no word for this. I lived in North Dakota for a year. There is no word for where several roads meet in a circle, because in both of the Dakotas you can drive for days without any roads, cars, livestock or people meeting.
Despite an interesting composite of our lexicons, I am curious why researchers did not address the pronunciation divide of all time. Forget syrup, sir-up or sear-up, how do you pronounce my home state of Missouri?
Elections were won and lost on this matter. Adults were shunned at cocktail parties and kids were creamed during dodgeball based on how they said Missouri.
You either pronounced it Mih-zur-ie, (sounds dangerously close to Misery), or – and this was the group the rest of us never fully trusted – you called it Mih-zur-ah, not unlike the University of Missouri chant, “Rah, Rah, Rah, Mih-zur-Rah! Go Tigers!”
Being sincere and ordinary people, my family, friends, my friends’ families and my teachers all called it Mih-zur-ie. But every once in a while, I would pronounce it Mih-zur-ah just to try it on for size the same way I would take my mother’s small lipstick samples from the Avon lady to try them on for size. More than once when I tried what we considered the “puttin’ on airs” pronunciation, someone would look at me and snap, “Take off that lipstick, girl. Where do you think you’re from?”
There was only one answer: Mih-zur-ie.
There were few regrets when I moved ’cross country and left the pronunciation woes of Mih-zur-ie behind. But I wound up in Oregon, a state with a name that outsiders often mispronounced and insiders were determined to correct. Cars bore bumper stickers saying, “IT’S ORY-GUN.” If you visit the Emerald State and call it Ory-GONE, you will be regarded as the same sort of hotty-totty that says Mih-zur-ah.
Our differences in speech are both fascinating and entertaining. The important thing is that we not become rigid about our way of doing things.
That said, I grew up drinking pop and still do, find that a PEE-can pie sounds suspect, although pick-AHN pie will do just fine, and never circle a roundabout twice, as it makes me nauseous. Or sick. Or ill. Take your pick.