Edward McClelland's How to Speak Midwestern.
26 April 2017
So here's what I got read in Edward McClelland's book How to Speak Midwestern:
the chapter on North Central (arguably my region, although I might also qualify as Inland North accents;
and the "Wisconsin" portion of the glossary.
I should just have read the whole thing (I still might)--it's only 147 pages long.
I particularly liked the bits where McClelland explained why Midwesterners often think they "don't have an accent,"* although of course they do. And I really, really enjoyed this bit, about how Midwesterners mostly like to do their criticizing passive-aggressively:
"In the Midwest, you're never certain whether you're being complimented or insulted. Midwesterners don't like to sound critical or hurt anyone's feelings, so we've developed code words that allow us to avoid stating an opinion altogether. The most important words to know are 'interesting' and 'different.' If something has merit, but you don't personally care for it, it's 'interesting.'
'What do you think of the Vikings' new stadium?'
(The story is told of a consultant who presented an idea to a group of Minnesotans, and thought it was going over well because they all said it was interesting.)
'What do you think of the mural under the Wilson Avenue viaduct of three dolphins copulating with the Queen of the Nile?'
'It's pretty different.'" (p. 15.)
I've never thought of myself as a particularly passive-aggressive person, but I think I've used both "interesting" and "different" several times in conversation this past week alone.
I didn't read the whole thing, and I don't know that all of it rang true to me, but it's a good solid effort on an interesting topic. Do check it out sometime.
*I know I have an accent because a few years back my college roommate and I got together after not seeing each other for a few years. She had moved to Virginia and was back for a visit, and when we each got out of our cars and I shouted an exuberant greeting, she tipped her head to the side and smiled at me and said, "Oh, the accent..." I do try to sit on the accent sometimes but when I yell exuberantly it tends to come out.