While many of us are oblivious, and even through a major chunk of Colorado’s population has arrived in the state over the past 50 years from somewhere else, it appears that there is such a thing as a “Colorado dialect.”
A recent nationwide poll has revealed that the majority of us want to make ‘Coloradan’ an official dialect. Why? because locals, presumably in small towns and rural areas fear that phrases and slang unique to Colorado risk dying out. Some 54 percent said they would like for the local dialect to be protected by law.
According to Out There Colorado, “Coloradans who strongly identify with the state use the vowel in ‘rat’ for the third syllable, while non-Coloradans or those whose state connection is tepid, such as the millions from California, use the ‘ah’ sound,” said Thomas E. Nunnally, associate professor of English at Auburn University in Alabama.
Most dialects tend to survive in rural areas, not usually in cities. Ark Valley Voice confesses that we don’t have a long list of phrases that might be considered Colorado “dialect” … perhaps these qualify: ” high country”, ‘down valley”, “down the road a piece,” or “just over the pass”.
According to an article titled “Is there a Colorado accent?” by Carolyn Ray Mitchelle in Out There Colorado, “linguists paint Coloradans with the broad brush stroke of speaking with a neutral, or unmarked, accent, widely known as Standard American English.” But the Front Range is filled with people from all across the country, and accents there are especially neutral-sounding.
Tourists on a road trip through West Virginia’s country roads may be confused by “It’s a hoot and a holler away!” reply from a local after having asked for directions. In fact, “holler” is a remote road or area to West Virginians. Out-of-staters may have just been hoping for a simple ‘left or right at the next junction’.
While many people across America still use phrases such as these and speak in their region’s own dialect, recent studies have found that, as America becomes more diverse, regional accents and dialects are dying out – and the more we move around, the more the rough edges of our conversation style get whittled down.
We’re not the only country where this is happening. Just a few years ago, the British government acted to protect Welsh by making it an official language, thereby preserving its use. Should the same happen across America?
The Writing Tips Institute has created an interactive quiz for readers to test their own dialect knowledge. They polled 3,000 respondents to determine how many people in each state would support similar laws to protect their state’s dialect. After all, there is something comforting and familiar about local and regional phrases and sayings; particularly if you’ve been away and return to visit family and friends.
For those, like me, who come from the upper Midwest — when we hear “Yah, you betcha” and “goin’ down home”, we know we’re close to home. And city folks from Chicago, Minneapolis-St. Paul and all of Wisconsin know what we mean when we say we’re going “up north.”
“Preserving local dialects is important not just for linguistic diversity, but for cultural preservation as well,” says Founder and CEO of Writing Tips Institute Shaun Connell. “Each state’s dialect is a reflection of its history, community, and identity. By valuing and protecting these linguistic variations, we are also valuing and protecting the diversity of perspectives and experiences that make our country so unique.”
So how did Coloradans vote? It turns out that 54 percent would like the Colorado dialect to be protected by law. Residents here do not want phrases such as ‘Towards the Mountains’ (a phrase you’ll hear when asking for directions), or ‘Colorado Cologne’ (a term for smelling like marijuana) to disappear from the local lexicon. We Chaffee County locals know that only locals pronounce “Buena Vista” and “Salida the right way; outsiders pronounce it phonetically correct for regular Spanish — but ‘oh-so -wrong’ for local ears.
Other states keen to protect their local dialects included Kansans – who would ever want ‘shucky darn!’ (meaning ‘wow’!) disappearing from everyday language? Likewise, many Mainers prefer to describe a drunken state as ‘Bazz on’. Here in Colorado, there are those worried that the influx of Texans will obscure the local phrases.
Ark Valley Voice would love to hear your thoughts on unique phrases that represent Colorado and our Central Colorado Mountains. Just write a comment on this AVV article and we’ll start a list of our most-loved local phrases.
Information provided by Writing Tips Institute, among other sources.
Interesting article, I spent first 30 years of my life in Kansas, moved here in 1972 so feel more like a Coloradoan especially living in BV. What about Fourteeners?
Front range, western slope, the Peak (Pikes Peak.)
Awesome article! More Colorado phrases please! Thanks