how not to sound like you’re not from here

“You don’t sound like you’re from here.” I get this a lot. I open my mouth, and my squarish accent betrays my Midwestern upbringing. I’d try to speak more Southern, but the fact is I can’t/won’t. The dialect is far too pretty and wonderfully varied throughout Mississippi, and I’d hate to do it an injustice.

The above stated, there are ways to lessen your squarishness, if you’re like me. Let’s begin with basic courtesies. Ma’am is square one. If I’m running errands and a woman helps me, I always say, “Thank you, ma’am.” Always. In Chicago, to address a woman as ma’am means she’s old, and I always wince when I’m called ma’am. In the South, it’s a sign of respect.

In Mississippi, there are correct pronunciations for city/county/street names, so follow me on this:

  • Biloxi is buh-luck-see.
  • Lafayette is luh-fye-yet.
  • Starkville is stark-vull. Any city that ends with “ville” is pronounced “vull.”
  • Amite is am-mitt.

In the Midwest, any summer backyard gathering that involves grilling meat is called a BBQ, but that isn’t the case here. Barbecue is a food science and practiced differently, depending on what part of the South you’re in.

This next difference I really love. If someone does something really nice for you in the South, you say, “I appreciate you.” It’s a wonderfully personal way to express one’s gratitude. And with this biscuit/post, I should say I appreciate you, blog readers of mine.


I previously shared this on my personal FB page, so if you’re friends with me on FB, I apologize for the redundancy. But I am sharing a link to audio clips so hope this post is worth your while.

I was on a plane last month to O’Hare and noticed this unusual sound. It was squarish and a bit odd. That’s when it hit me: The sound was the Midwestern accent. And this is what I must sound like to Mississippians. Egad! It occurred to me on the plane that if accents were shapes, the Midwestern accent would be a square. Clean lines, kind of pointy every now and then, and sanitized. The Deep South accent would be a long letter S on its side. Drawn out, round edges.

Jackson Mississippi Deep South accents

Don’t believe me? The International Dialects of English Archive has hundreds of recordings. Give these a listen:

Like I said, a long letter S on its side. Really lovely.