Did CW-Era Southerners Speak With a 'Southern Accent'?

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First Sergeant
Joined
Dec 18, 2009
Location
NE Georgia
Another way to confirm the southern accents is from Confederate Service service cards. Example. One of my ancestors who served in a Ga regiment didn’t read or write. His name was Conrad Sellers. On at least one of his cards the record keeper was evidently getting information from him and wrote his name down as Coonrod Cellus.
 

Cdoug96

Private
Joined
Dec 22, 2016
Location
Michigan, United States
I would say without a doubt most if not all the various Southern accents were around during the CW.

One note I'd like to caution people on, is the Scots-Irish connection. Its very small, I would say outside of Appalachia its very rare and that most Southerners are English decent, and that Deep South accents probably have more similarity with English ones.

Some may balk at such a notion, (I know a lot of people that hate me for saying it), but when you think about it makes sense. People tend to immigrate to regions similar to where they came from, you have that in Appalachia for Scots-Irish, and on top of that Scots-Irish were poorer peoples, and tickets to the South were more expensive, the voyage longer distance than say immigration to the North from the British Isles. Then there's the American Revolution to consider, during that conflict there were a lot of people for the King in the South, and as a rule they all tended to come from people of Scottish, and Scots-Irish settled areas that were in direct conflict with Patriot areas that were mostly English decent. A lot of those "Tories" were forced out after that conflict.

Then there's practical application. I speak with a pretty strong Southern, Texas drawl, and I will say with full confidence it has more in common with English accents than Scottish, because if I sit and watch British shows, (I've always like the Napoleonic shows), for an extended period, I've found I can replicate various accents to near perfection while hearing it. I've shocked some folks that way for fun I might add. I can't do that with Scottish, or Irish accents, plus I've seen folks from England who could replicate Southerner accents to near perfection, but I've personally not seen it done out of Scottish or Irish peoples. So while a bit circumstantial, I think that ought to be brought up.

Of course then there's surnames, which tend to either be complete English origin in the majority, surnames that'd become interchangeable with England and Scotland, and then Scottish surnames in dead last outside Appalachia. I'm by no means an expert, these are just things I've noticed. Also Southern newspapers at the time of the CW, and before like the Charleston Mercury, defined Southerners as Anglo-Saxon decent, little food for thought.
I concur. An example I have is when I thought that a guy riding in an elevator with me was from England. We were in some tourist town near Mount Rushmore (Deadwood, I think). I had had a friend at the time who was from England, and the accent sounded very similar. I promptly asked him where in England he was from. His response..."I'm from Georgia." I could tell he was trying not to laugh at the d**n Yankee. But perhaps there is a good reason for this mistake after all.
 

Zella

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
May 23, 2018
I concur. An example I have is when I thought that a guy riding in an elevator with me was from England. We were in some tourist town near Mount Rushmore (Deadwood, I think). I had had a friend at the time who was from England, and the accent sounded very similar. I promptly asked him where in England he was from. His response..."I'm from Georgia." I could tell he was trying not to laugh at the d**n Yankee. But perhaps there is a good reason for this mistake after all.
On the flip side, I have had to explain to coworkers from the Arkansas Ozarks that people from the Deep South are not Yankees. LOLOLOL They thought if you dropped your Rs, like people do in Georgia or Alabama, you automatically must be from north of the Mason-Dixon line. It took a good 20 minutes for me and another coworker to convince said coworker that the guy she was watching on YouTube was not from up north. :wink:

Still am not convinced she believed either of us.
 
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Rusk County Avengers

Sergeant Major
Forum Host
Joined
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Location
Coffeeville, TX
On the flip side, I have had to explain to coworkers from the Arkansas Ozarks that people from the Deep South are not Yankees. LOLOLOL They thought if you dropped your Rs, like people do in Georgia or Alabama, you automatically must be from north of the Mason-Dixon line. It took a good 20 minutes for me and another coworker to convince said coworker that the guy she was watching on YouTube was not from up north. :wink:

Still am not convinced she believed either of us.
The main rule I've always heard was, if your from north of Interstate 20, your a Yankee.
 

Zella

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
May 23, 2018
Interstate 20
Haha I think my dad got in a fistfight with a guy in a bar in Alabama over that rule, though it was never stated as such. But being from North Carolina meant he was a Yankee, and it was on. LOL

As is true with all bar brawls in general, I am sure all parties being heavily intoxicated didn't help matters. :wink:
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
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Feb 14, 2012
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Central Pennsylvania
Except for Bostonians I've never heard a New Englander with an accent. I visited a friend in Springfield and we went to Sturbridge and Amherst. I didn't notice any accents.

You haven't been to Maine. I've always wondered which on earth immigrants contributed to that one. It's a little weird how some of it reminds you of Southern accents.
 
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NH Civil War Gal

1st Lieutenant
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And the flip side to all this is..... we are losing (and very much so) all our Down East regional accents and Vermont accents and deep New England accents. It does my heart good to talk to an older person and hear the wonderful accents of my youth and it is becoming very rare. It isn't because Southerners are moving here but the incursion of A LOT of people moving in over the last 40 years or so from the mid-west and mid-atlantic for high tech. Many more tv shows, etc.

And when the children and grandchildren of these dear folk go to college, usually out-of-state, they quickly learn to drop the accent and they certainly don't raise their children with it.
 

Mistel

Cadet
Joined
Nov 11, 2018
Something that needs to be remembered is that there is no one Southern accent. East Texas and West Texas are totally different. When I moved to Virginia in the 80s you heard a very specific accent from some of the older natives and now it is almost gone. Television destroyed most accents, we all talk like Jonny Carson now. In some of my reading of older memoirs there are soldiers making fun of how their officers spoke so there were some definite differences from fairly small regions. We have also had our thought corrupted by bad actors trying to do what they thought was a Southern accent.
It's called TV English. I pronounce the ou in house, about, out like "oat" but my kids, who speak TV English, pronounce them with the "ow" sound.
 

Joshism

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 30, 2012
Location
Jupiter, FL
I for one welcome the demise of accents. One of the most important things in life is to understand and be understood. Accents impair communication.
 
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Mistel

Cadet
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Something that needs to be remembered is that there is no one Southern accent. East Texas and West Texas are totally different. When I moved to Virginia in the 80s you heard a very specific accent from some of the older natives and now it is almost gone. Television destroyed most accents, we all talk like Jonny Carson now. In some of my reading of older memoirs there are soldiers making fun of how their officers spoke so there were some definite differences from fairly small regions. We have also had our thought corrupted by bad actors trying to do what they thought was a Southern accent.
Something that needs to be remembered is that there is no one Southern accent. East Texas and West Texas are totally different. When I moved to Virginia in the 80s you heard a very specific accent from some of the older natives and now it is almost gone. Television destroyed most accents, we all talk like Jonny Carson now. In some of my reading of older memoirs there are soldiers making fun of how their officers spoke so there were some definite differences from fairly small regions. We have also had our thought corrupted by bad actors trying to do what they thought was a Southern accent.
It's called TV English.
 

Norm53

Sergeant
Joined
Feb 13, 2019
Location
Cape May, NJ
It's called TV English. I pronounce the ou in house, about, out like "oat" but my kids, who speak TV English, pronounce them with the "ow" sound.
TV English is an accent, of course, as you and others here have demonstrated. I can't recognize it because it is an amalgamation of Midwest accents, which includes western New York from where I hail.
 
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Yankee Brooke

First Sergeant
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Jun 8, 2018
Location
PA
Southern "accent" is definitely relative. I've met southerners who have only a slightly noticeable accent, and I've met others with such a drawl I could barely understand them. A couple at my parents church are both from Virginia/West Virginia, grew up not far from each other, with seemingly similar backgrounds, and yet he has a beautiful example of the "Tidewater" accent, while she sounds like a typical Appalachian "hillbilly."

Reading some books with quotes of Confederates, there definitely was a slightly different vernacular used back then, compared to now. Maybe that's the difference, not so much the accent?
 
Joined
Sep 28, 2013
Location
Southwest Mississippi
Let's don't forget our Cajun Southerners.

Even when they speak English, it's hard to understand these great people.
Most Cajuns spoke little or no English during the 1860's.

Even today, if ones visits Lafayette, Louisiana or anywhere around the Atchafalaya Basin . . . they will hear Cajun English much like this:

(Christmas example):





Edited to add:

This Cajun girl is much easier to understand than Ed Orgeron, the LSU (Louisiana State University) head football coach.
 
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Ole Miss

1st Lieutenant
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Location
North Mississippi
I for one welcome the demise of accents. One of the most important things in life is to understand and be understood. Accents impair communication.
What a sad world it will be when there is no diversity! Regional accents are not harmful but add to the rich culture of this nation of immigrants. What a shame when will no longer laugh at or make fun of those who talk different. When
Fran Drescher speaks like a local girl in North Mississippi or if Dixie Carter sounded like a girl down the block!
Regards
David
 
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A. Roy

Corporal
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Sep 2, 2019
Location
Raleigh, North Carolina
What a sad world it will be when there is no diversity! Regional accents are not harmful but add to the rich culture of this nation of immigrants. What a shame when will no longer laugh at or make fun of those who talk different.
Is it really inevitable that regional accents will disappear? From what I understand about the history of languages, they are constantly changing. Accents, dialects, and languages might fade and disappear, but new ones are constantly developing.

Roy B.
 
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