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Say What? A video exploration of Vermont-speak


Published February 15, 2012 at 10:03 a.m.
Updated September 29, 2015 at 4:42 p.m.

This week's Seven Days features a story called "Say What?" that examines the origins and somewhat uncertain future of the native Vermont accent. To help illustrate just what the heck we're talking (er, talkin') about, we mined the depths of YouTube to unearth a few videos that showcase the local vernacular in all its glory.

The Vermont dialect has a few distinct characteristics.

Fronting: This refers to the flattening of certain vowel sounds and is most noticeable in words that normally have an "ow" sound. It can also give one-syllable words two syllables. For example,"cow" becomes "kee-ow." (Go ahead, say it out loud. You know you want to.)

Raising: This elongates certain vowel sounds, especially the "I" sound. So, for example, "kite" becomes "koit." It works with other vowel sounds, too. Like the word "bad," which gets stretched out like "baahd."

Glottal Stop: Probably the best known aspect of the Vermont accent, and the most pervasive, even among flatlanders who, over time, can unconsciously adopt a slight Vermont twang of their own. The glottal stop drops the "T" from certain words. Some classic examples: the town of Milton becomes "Mil-uhn" and Vermont becomes "Vermon'."

Some other words and phrases that are fun to say in a Vermont accent (from Bill Simmon's Candleboy blog): bottle rocket, boutonnieré, Budweiser, ointment, dude, intermittent, potentate and, of course, wicked.

And now, the videos …

Fred Tuttle, getting some speech coaching in Man With a Plan. Great examples of fronting on the word "mouth" (mee-owth), raising on "I'm gonna try it" (tr-oy it) and the glottal stop on the word "butter" (buh-dah)

Eva Sollberger's "Stuck in Vermont" series is a goldmine of Vermont accents. Especially videos such as this one from Sh'lotte.

The VT accent in the news. More fun with the glottal stop and some glorious examples of fronting.

Old time maple sugarers in Johnson. The accents are subtle, but this is a good example of the lyrical and rhythmic qualities of the VT cadence. 

TED Talks? Not exactly …

7D's Cathy Resmer interviews Arlo Sterner of Wolcott. (Wuhl-kih')

And then there are the VT accent parodies, like this one, which actually features a pretty spot-on VT pronunciation of "cow."

And of course, Rusty…