Monday, April 19, 2010

Done Like To Got

I don't think most Americans believe that there are dialects in our country. Instead we talk a lot about accents and ebonics (which I do not think is a separate language, but is easier to say than African American Vernacular). We may admit that Creole is a pidgin language, or that Cajun can be nigh-incomprehensible. Still, when I was asked if America has dialects like Japan, for a long time I’d say no.

I attended some friends’ joint birthday party a few weeks ago. Two of the attendees (one of whom was a birthday boy) were Australian at the time. Now I don’t know, but then, they were definitely Australian. Anyway, we inevitably started poking fun at each other for our funny speech patterns and weird customs. I’ve always thought that Australians had the advantage; who can understand them when they start using all their slang and abbreviations? Plus, American media is popular everywhere, and therefore the anglophones in other countries are frequently exposed to American accents and slang. With everything from rap to Grey’s Anatomy (yeah, I consider those things opposites) reaching the Land Down Under, how could I compete with cuppas with brekkie or baby-eating dingos?

Thank you, Lord, for giving me a country-born and bred grandmother, for so many reasons. 

A couple of years ago, at the end of one trip to see my aunt’s family in Dallas I was sitting in the back of the car. We were all packed up and ready to go, but at the last minute we realized that our dog was still running around. She was quick to come when called, so someone dumped the animal in my lap without ceremony. My grandmother leaned over and addressed the dog.

“Why, Tiger,” Grandma exclaimed, “you done like to got left!”

Take that, Australia.

Close proximity to my grandmother and spending the greater part of my life in the Midwest has left me with a certain fondness for country accents, but it wasn’t until I was able to stump the Australians with my pronunciation and twisted grammar that I was genuinely proud of it. I may not know what a combie is, or how a man could chunder, but if someone is fixin’ to tan my hide I sure as heck know to hightail it outta there 'fore I git walloped.

Edit: The subject of American dialects intrigued me so much that I wrote a short essay about it for an adults English conversation circle. There was a pretty good turnout at the conversation session; nice to know that the attendees find dialects as fascinating as I do. While doing research for the essay I ran across this site, and it made me homesick.


  1. Ah yes. Try working in a clinic out in Broken Arrow for a summer. My ears were the good way...?

  2. I run across some special ways of speaking too. It's scary, though, to think of every country having as many different ways to say one thing as America does.

  3. Wow, that website is scary. Well really just the Oklahoma people. This New York lady to whom I'm listening sounds rather pleasant and normal.

  4. "done like to got left" -- WHAT DOES IT MEAN?!

  5. Basic translation: "done" indicates past tense, "like to" substitutes for "almost" or "nearly" (separate from the cases in which it means "about to"), and "got left" is an incorrect conjugation of "were left."

    You might have said, "You almost were left behind," instead.