It’s not hard to see the exciting (and somewhat eccentric) parts of Indiana…but did you ever wonder about hearing them?
Chances are you do everyday, depending on where you live and work. Those of us from the Crossroads of America really DO have accents, but which accent depends entirely on which region of Indiana you call home.
Those born and raised in northern Indiana share a speech pattern heavily influenced by Chicago, particularly those in Northwest Indiana (which is officially Chicagoland). Technically, this speech pattern is known as North Midland American Dialect, or Inland North English.
For Hoosiers from northern Indiana, you might…
~Call the hard, inedible interior of a peach a pit and not a seed or stone.
~Be used to hearing the term expressway for a highway.
~Buy a can of pop, not a can of soda
~Play on a teeter-totter, not a seesaw.
~Put on tennis shoes or gym shoes, not sneakers.
~Get stuck in a traffic jam caused by gapers’ delay, not rubbernecking.
Now those Hoosiers from central Indiana enjoy speaking with a Midland American dialect. The speech and pronunciation patterns aren’t a far cry from Hoosiers to the north, and outsiders might notice only slight differences. But vocabulary is a different story.
Those raised in central Indiana might…
~Happily offer a friend a can of Coke, no matter which pop they’re drinking
~Host a carry-in dinner, not a potluck dinner.
~Know AYCE stands for ALL YOU CARE TO EAT, not ALL YOU CAN EAT.
~Call that grassy strip alongside a road is a berm, not a curb.
~Know highways have only numbers, and you’d never call one by name (especially common near Chicago).
The southern third of the state, along with the nearby states of Missouri, Tennessee and Kentucky, sports a Southern American Dialect, which is far more noticeable to those up north.
Pronunciation and grammar sound dramatically different to Hoosiers from the central or northern regions of the state, but it’s still easily understood. However, some of the area’s vocabulary might puzzle visitors.
If you’ve spent formative years south of Indianapolis, you might…
~Cross the street at a diagonal, called catty-corner, not kitty-corner.
~Bake a cake and then put on a thick layer of chocolate icing, but not frosting.
~Have a heaping dish of slaw with your lake perch. You know saying coleslaw is a waste of breath.
~Tote your groceries to your car instead of carrying them.
~Point at a building over yonder, or way over there.
I anticipate some readers will complain about these generalizations in regional dialects. None of these dialects are hard and fast, and neither are American dialects.You may use all, some, or none of these in everyday speech. It all depends on the individual. You might be from Hammond and still ask for a large soda (but I promise it will sound a little odd to those serving you).
Your language is a linguistic fingerprint: no two people are exactly the same. Those who raised you, those you spent time with, programs you watched on television or listened to on the radio, even books you have read add flavor to the soup of your American English…in the form of pronunciation, syntax, grammar and vocabulary.
Everyone speaks English differently and no one is ever really correct, because English itself, even its grammar, is always in flux. Want proof? Build a time machine, go back forty years and say this:
“Excuse me, I was trying to get online, but I don’t have a signal. Is there any public Wi-Fiaround? Maybe a Starbuck’s? I was hoping to snag an Uber, but the app doesn’t load. I can’t even google the site. Just get an error screen.”
Makes sense to you, but how might someone from 1970 react? Probably by nodding, briefly wondering what that cool gadget is and then running away.
Since Beowulf reared his head and hubris centuries ago, English has evolved, is evolving and will evolve. Especially in Indiana.