A recent AP article outlined a UPenn study which found that Philadelphia accents are actually improving. No more wooder. No more wet tals. Apparently, at some point in the middle of last century, the vernacular used by your grandparents shifted to what we use today, which is a bit more northern sounding, accodring the study:
A University of Pennsylvania linguistics professor says the Southern-inflected sound of the Philadelphia dialect is moving toward a more Northern accent. Some of Philly’s trademark twangy, elongated vowel sounds are becoming less so, though others are getting stronger.
The researchers’ recent paper in the journal Language, titled “One Hundred Years of Sound Change in Philadelphia,” concludes that the city’s linguistic character is not disappearing altogether, but it is changing, with the most dramatic shifts occurring in the mid-20th century. The reasons aren’t entirely clear, but higher education appears to be a factor, as does simply being aware that certain local inflections are disparaged by outsiders.
“When we came to one of the most important Philadelphia features, of saying ‘gow’ for ‘go,’ it got stronger and stronger,” Labov said, “until people born around 1950, 1960, when it turned around and it went the other way.”
The Philly accent is getting thicker in other ways, however. Younger speakers use sharper “i’’ sounds than their parents and grandparents, pronouncing “fight” and “bike” more like “foit” and “boik,” and their “a’’ sounds are closer to “e,’’ so words like “eight” and “snake” are closer to “eat” and “sneak.”
The college part makes sense. I don’t know if it’s education as much as it is being exposed to people not from here. I didn’t start becoming conscious that I said wooder and Amurica until I met people from Boston, Connecticut and Florida in college who thought I sounded like an asshoowl. Not that that’s helped at all, but I’m aware of it. What sucks is that science says we’re sounding more like New Yorkers with those eat and sneak-sounding words– very Jersey Shore-ish. Basically, our long Os and short As are turning more into long Es. More Chip Snapper. More New York. Which might make it easier for actors:
Not sure if you’ve heard the Philly patois? Listen to TV commentators Chris Matthews or Jim Cramer and you’ll hear it leeowd (loud) and clear. “Jackass” star Bam Margera, who is from nearby West Chester, has it. So does Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his Philly-flecked American English a vestige of his childhood years in suburban Cheltenham.
Philadelphia characters often sound like New Yorkers — think Rocky Balboa — perhaps because Philly’s nasal twang is tougher for nonnatives to mimic. In “Silver Linings Playbook,” Robert De Niro hung out with an uncle of co-star (and suburban Philadelphia native) Bradley Cooper to get the dialect down, though the wife of De Niro’s character, played by Australian actress Jacki Weaver, comes closest to nailing it.
Still haven’t seen Silver Linings, by the way. That has to happen this weekend.