Talking Texan


After these crazy maps showing America’s speech patterns went viral over the past week, it seems like everyone’s talking about accents and dialects. The maps were designed by a grad student in statistics and eventually found their way to the news website Business Insider, where they generated 17 million page views from folks eager to know who exactly says “y’all” and calls soda “pop.”

It’s safe to assume a fair number of those views came from Texas, where pride in our infamous drawl and twang is part of the state’s identity. But is Texas losing its unique ways of speaking? According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, slowly but surely. Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin found that only about a third of the native Texans they interviewed used the distinctive vowel combinations that characterize Texas accents, down from almost 80 percent in the 1980s.

texas_sayings_and_folkloreYou can find some great audio examples of people talking Texan at the mother of all pop linguistics websites, started in 2010 by a hobbyist named Rick Aschmann. Click Texas on the map and you’ll be taken to a treasure trove of video links to famous Texans exercising their native tongue.

Researchers claim the erosion of specifically Texan speech is a result of the ever-broadening influence of pop culture, urbanization, and the influx of new residents from other parts of the country. They note that the decline is most prevalent among younger Texans.

A posible corrective to the disappearance of native speech—the state’s distinctive sayings, if not its accents—is the April publication of Texas Sayings & Folklore (Bright Sky Press), by Mavis Parrott Kelsey, Sr.

Feel free to add your favorite Texasism in the comments.

Do you think free access to journalism like this is important?
The Texas Observer depends on support from its members to keep telling stories like the one you are reading now. This fall we're looking for 200 more sustaining members—people like you who can give us as little as $0.99 per month. Your membership means we can continue shedding light on issues that might otherwise go unreported. Can we count on you?


Nick Swartsell is a freelance writer and graduate student at the University of Texas.


Top