Originally uploaded by Celeste Van Kirk
It is ironic that we are celebrating Noah Webster’s birthday – the founder of American English would be 250 years old this week. It should be recalled, but seldom is, that when his dictionary of American English appeared, only about 60% of Americans spoke English. This was in 1800 I believe. Webster was concerned about our spelling mostly; he wanted to make it easier. He removed the “u” from the British “colour” and the redundant “k” in “musick.” Unlike the French, he thought “centre” should be spelled “center” as it sounds. We all know many other examples.
But speaking and spelling are two entirely different areas. Sarah Palin’s accent has produced renewed interests in the variety of our accents. Recently the comedian Robin Williams said Palin’s accent is “like Tina Fey meets Fargo.” This bit of humor caused an angry editorial in Anchorage. Nevertheless one can argue she makes an “o” sound like the Scandinavians and Germans in the areas around Fargo, North Dakota. But on the other hand, dropping the “g” is a language phenomenon found in Wisconsin and parts of Minnesota. Then again, to count the word “terrorist” as having only two syllables can be found in parts of Mississippi.