What American accent do you have?

Among all the mysteries of the universe, it’s good to know that at least one of them is answerable. My accent, apparently, is “as Philadelphian as a cheesesteak.” Hat tip to Greg Kuperberg.

17 Responses to “What American accent do you have?”

  1. andy Says:

    that quiz correctly figured out where I’m from.

  2. Jud Says:

    Same – “as Philadelphian as a cheesesteak.” But I grew up in Bethlehem, and whenever I went to summer camp with Philly kids, I’d think they definitely had accents. I think I speak like my parents, natives of Bethlehem and Reading, Pennsylvania respectively, who don’t sound like Philly natives to me. In fact, my mother had a radio show some years ago (reading stories to children), at a time when a strong Philly accent would probably have made her a non-candidate for the job.

    Any non-natives of Eastern PA or South Jersey who wonder what a Philly accent sounds like can click the Listen Live link at http://www.610wip.com .

  3. RubeRad Says:

    The quiz nailed me too, as “Inland North”, which most people would just call “Midwest” (Michigan, in my case). I.e. Fargo (although at a virtually indetectable level to myself, apparently more evident to others).

    As for Philly, I listened to the sportscasters for about 30 seconds, and what I heard is what I think of as “Mid-Atlantic”; about the same as I heard at college in Bawlmer (hon). The o in “over” is almost as if it had a German umlaut. I guess the same accent stretches out to Delaware, and up through PA and southern Jersey, but I think there’s a pretty definite line (the MD/VA border) where Mid-Atlantic crosses into Southern.

  4. Sam C Says:

    I’m from New Zealand but I took the quiz anyway. My result was ‘The Northeast’. Does this result nevertheless have some deep meaning? Do I have too much time on my hands? Where are the kitchen scissors?

  5. Drew Says:

    For me, it put Southern as #2 and Midlands as #1 — though anyone would certainly recognize me as having a Southern Accent!

  6. OrenLaw Says:

    Unbelievable…I am Philadelphian as a cheesesteak…w/o cheese of course..and actually scored as a Philadelphian…but I though that Philadelphians would have the twangy…nasally…”umlaut” was it? However, when asnwering these questions I think the answers that reflected a thought in the dialect process scored for Philadelphia rather than against…GO EAGLES!

    By the way: I drink Wuter.

    Scott: Ari says get together when your back in New Hope, email me if you don’t have his Tel. No.

  7. Richard Cleve Says:

    Unsurprisingly, for my American accent, I got “Outsiders probably mistake you for a Canadian a lot.”

  8. Jud Says:

    RubeRad, you nailed it – that Bawlmer (Baltimore)/Philly “o” is what

  9. Jud Says:

    Sorry, keyboard acting up (is there a mechanism to withdraw comments?). As I was saying… Yeah, RubeRad, that Bawlmer (Baltimore)/Philly “o” is what the kids at camp had that I definitely lack. I’d describe that long “o” as the way you’d pronounce it through a half-sneer – if you can imagine a truck driver saying it with a touch of Valley Girl, you’ve just about got it.

  10. mirka Says:

    uhm, midland. does it mean that the native slavic language speakers have the midland accent? slovak is similar to polish, so I think my “american” accent should be also similar to the polish one…. and there are many Poles everywhere, including US, so it’s perhaps easy to meet some. how would you call their accent? (I know, we are easy to recognize, since we are used to skip the articles, and if we use them, then it’s usually wrong. I guess this post proves what I’ve written.)

  11. Amin Says:

    After reading this post, I went through another quiz, the one on mental disorders and found out I apparently have signs of paranoia. Then reading the previous post, I had a look on your nice notes on randomness from the Democritus course and noticed your interesting comment on the relationship between paranoia and complexity theory, trying to explain why there are so many Israeli complexity theorists.
    The incidence was quite interesting, noting that I practice complexity, (although) as a spectator sport. However, I didn’t completely understand the connection between Israelis and paranoia, as I have barely any sound knowledge of the Israeli community beyond knowing the prolific scientists, and that confined to TCS. This, by itself has of course made it sort of a mystery to me.
    Anyway, it is interesting to study the statistical correlation between the equivalency classes of arbitrary populations (say the equiv relation of research areas on all the researchers in CS) and mental disorders. Maybe the reductions of the kind performed by the above mentioned test, which partitions any given population to classes of mental disorders, has something meaningful to say.

  12. Johan Richter Says:

    The test claimed I am from the Inland North. Really, I can’t understand how it missed that I am Swedish.

  13. anon Says:

    mirka –
    The midwest was settled primarily by German and Polish immigrants in the 1800s, so it isn’t that surprising that the accent of someone with a language similar to Polish might fit most likely in the midwest. Ironically, Baltimore (Bawlmer)) had a huge German presence in the early 1900s and more people spoke german and had german language newspapers than anything comparable now with spanish. (This changed in 1914.)

    Johan –
    Minnesota had a huge Norwegian and Swedish immigrant population in the later 1800s, and that could contribute to the result as well. This fact as recently brought into pop-culture with the show Deadwood, along with the mystifying racial slur “squarehead”.


  14. Greg Kuperberg Says:

    Minnesota and the rest of the upper Midwest are so strongly identified with Scandinavian immigration that Johan Richter’s question reads as intentional comedy. Maybe he really did mean it as a joke, I’m not sure; in any case anon’s explanation is correct.

    By far the largest Polish-American community is in Chicago. There are also many Poles in Michigan, for example. I am Polish-American, in fact, although I grew up in Alabama. I don’t see any clear association between Polish accents and any regional American accents. If there were such a connection anywhere, it would be in Chicago.

    What I can say is, first, I hear two variants of the Polish accent in English. One accent is guttural and sounds about the same as a Czech accent. The other is more nasal and alters vowels; it is similar to but not the same as a typical Russian accent. The guttural Polish/Czech accent is very close to the “Russian bad guy TV/movie accent”, as in the example of Boris Badenov in the Rocky and Bullwinkle show. A real Russian accent sounds more weird and not quite sinister enough for Hollywood, although there has been a trend towards authentic accents even in bombastic movies.

  15. mirka Says:

    to anon and greg kuperberg: thanx, sounds interesting. btw. I heard that considering the number of inhabitants Chicago is the second largest polish city in the world – after Warsaw. Still I think that bad guys of Bond movies have significantly stronger russian accent than Czechs. Now I live in Denmark, and I find scandinavian accent absolutely neutral. That’s perhaps the only thing that can be used to localize them according to that. Otherwise I find it really amazing, that russian english might sound as russian (really, when I’m tired it’s hard to distinguish sometimes), french en. as french, italian en. as italian …

  16. Greg Kuperberg Says:

    Still I think that bad guys of Bond movies have significantly stronger russian accent than Czechs.

    When I saw GoldenEye (1995), I noticed that even though it was an extremely dumbed-down movie, the Russian accents seemed reasonable. Some of the actors were in fact Russian. (Although I see now that the female lead was played by a Pole! Hmm…) Meanwhile the Manchurian Candidate (1962) is a great movie, but the Russian accents there is terrible. It doesn’t really even pass for Polish; it is a gobbledygook accent.

    It would be interesting if the old James Bond movie, From Russia With Love (1963) handles this side point better than the Manchurian Candidate does. I would be a bit surprised if it does; I don’t remember that one. Assuming that it doesn’t, this is just the phenomenon that I had in mind: some time between 1962 and 1995, Hollywood started to get the accents right.

    Indeed, if you go back further to the 1930s, there are a lot of movies where Americans play British characters and vice-versa, and the accents are all over the map.

  17. Johan Richter Says:

    Oh, I don’t think Hollywood care very much about foreign accents. Swedish actor Peter Stormare has for example played a German nihilist in one of the Coen movies. And in “Minority report” he plays a Dutch doctor. (While partly talking in Swedish!)

    And yes I was joking in my earlier post.