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Folklore: How did 19th century Americ sound?

Will Fly 02 Jun 15 - 04:39 AM
Will Fly 02 Jun 15 - 04:41 AM
GUEST,Phil 02 Jun 15 - 05:56 AM
Lighter 02 Jun 15 - 10:19 AM
Lighter 02 Jun 15 - 10:24 AM
artbrooks 02 Jun 15 - 10:44 AM
GUEST,Uncle_DaveO 02 Jun 15 - 10:48 AM
GUEST 02 Jun 15 - 04:25 PM
Joe_F 02 Jun 15 - 06:15 PM
cnd 02 Jun 15 - 06:20 PM
CupOfTea 03 Jun 15 - 12:02 AM
Mr Red 03 Jun 15 - 03:51 AM
GUEST,Phil 03 Jun 15 - 05:19 AM
GUEST 03 Jun 15 - 07:19 AM
GUEST 03 Jun 15 - 07:25 AM
Lighter 03 Jun 15 - 08:01 AM
Lighter 03 Jun 15 - 08:12 AM
Will Fly 03 Jun 15 - 10:51 AM
meself 03 Jun 15 - 11:05 AM
dick greenhaus 03 Jun 15 - 12:14 PM
Will Fly 03 Jun 15 - 01:42 PM
Teribus 04 Jun 15 - 09:29 AM
Will Fly 04 Jun 15 - 10:32 AM
Mr Red 04 Jun 15 - 05:26 PM
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Subject: Folklore: How did 19th century Americ sound?
From: Will Fly
Date: 02 Jun 15 - 04:39 AM

In the forty or so years I've been researching my family history, it's been fascinating to see how various relations of my ancestors upped stakes from their native heath - in my family's case, from Norfolk and Lancashire in the UK - to North America. I discovered that one distant immigrant to the US joined the Union side in the Civil War and became a corporal helping to run mule trains. Other relatives moved to near Salt Lake City and became Mormons. Others moved to Ontario, near Toronto.

I was reminded of all these interesting facts at the Brighton Acoustic Session last night, where the guest act was 'Rattle On The Stovepipe', one of the members of which is Dave Arthur. (Dave and his then wife, Toni, were well-known folk acts in the 1960s and 1970s and beyond). Dave has travelled extensively in the US and done a lot of research into the songs of several regions and their backgrounds.

He reminded us that, contrary to what we see and hear in most period films that come out of Hollywood, etc., America in the 19th century was a place filled with immigrants - and therefore with accents which were not modern American. There were English men and women, Scottish, Irish, German, Scandinavian, etc. - each talking with their own native language and accent. Apparently, the dead at the Alamo had two British men in their numbers. An outlaw could have been German - a sheriff could have been Scottish.

I do recall John Cleese playing an English sheriff in the film "Silverado"?

I'd love to hear where US 'Catters ancestors originated - and perhaps how they might have spoken.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: How did 19th century Americ sound?
From: Will Fly
Date: 02 Jun 15 - 04:41 AM

And instead of 'US', I should have written 'North American ancestors'.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: How did 19th century Americ sound?
From: GUEST,Phil
Date: 02 Jun 15 - 05:56 AM

At the intersection of politics and entertainment:

One of the earliest drafts of the Declaration of Independence was in German (Philadelphia, Steiner & Cist, 1776.) Which is where most of my father's side is from (Austria & Prussia.)

The patriarch of America's first great entertainment dynasty, John Durang (1768?1822,) was the son of a Prussian officer who served in the French army.

His son Richard (1796-?) was alleged to have set the verse of Francis Scott Key's poem "The Defense of Fort McHenry" to the melody of "Anacreon in Heaven" but it's never been validated. Certainly one of the first public performances anyway.

The current gen can be found in Christopher F. Durang (1949) the playwright of "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike" (2013 Tony Award for Best Play.)

"Nieder mit der Britischen!" had already sorta faded from common usage before Hollywood came along though.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: How did 19th century Americ sound?
From: Lighter
Date: 02 Jun 15 - 10:19 AM

Will, Edison made a brief recording of somebody from the NYC are (possibly Walt Whitman himself) reciting a few lines of one of Whitman's poems.

Whoever it is, the voice from the 1890s sounds a good deal like my grandfather, born in the '80s. And he sounded almost exactly like Archie Bunker.

Whitman (if the voice is his) was born in 1809.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: How did 19th century Americ sound?
From: Lighter
Date: 02 Jun 15 - 10:24 AM

Here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GNfoHIDvCZ4

Maybe it is Whitman. This is a cleaner recording than what I remember. If it had been made today, I'd guess that the speaker was most likely from rural New England.   

There's less of a resemblance than I recalled (still less to Archie Bunker), but it's still there.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: How did 19th century Americ sound?
From: artbrooks
Date: 02 Jun 15 - 10:44 AM

I recall my wife saying once that her grandmother spoke three languages: broken English, broken Russian and broken Yiddish. The other side of her family came from Nottingham, and I expect that it was interesting during the years that both her grandmothers lived with the family.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: How did 19th century Americ sound?
From: GUEST,Uncle_DaveO
Date: 02 Jun 15 - 10:48 AM

I was born (1930) and raised in Rochester, Minnesota.
My mother, my brother, and I lived upstairs in my maternal
grandparents' house. Their family name was Gerths, pronounced
"Gertz." They would have been born in the early 1860s,
as nearly as I can reconstruct.

I don't know whether they were born in the US or in what
is now Germany, but they were raised in a little town in southern
Minnesota called Potsdam. They always pronounced that as
"Pot-stem". They had spoken German in childhood. They
seldom spoke German at home in my time (in the 30s and 40s),
except on the few occasions when they didn't want their
grandchildren to understand. My grandmother would frequently
go across the street to her sister Tillie's house, to visit
in German. I didn't know "Aunt Tillie", to speak of, so I
don't remember her speech, but my grandparents didn't speak
with a German accent, to my ears at least.

My grandfather's people came from Schleswig-Holstein, in northern
Germany, on the North Sea. I remember his referring to himself
as "a good Holsteiner". I don't remember ever hearing where in
Germany Grandma's people came from.

In his youth Grandpa Gerths had been a cowboy, and for a time he
had driven the stagecoach "from Pot-stem to Elby", both towns
in southern Minnesota, maybe forty miles apart. "Elby", by
the way, is spelled E-L-B-A.

My paternal grandfather died before I was born, and I was
only five years old when Grandma Oesterreich died, so I have
VERY little memory of her, and none of her speech. "Oesterreich",
just in case you don't recognize it, is German for "Austria".
I have no idea of when or whence the Oesterreiches came to the
US.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Folklore: How did 19th century Americ sound?
From: GUEST
Date: 02 Jun 15 - 04:25 PM

Off topic I'm afraid, but if Dave's grandfolks were born in Schleswig-Holstein in the early 1860s, they may well have been born in southern Denmark, where the duchies remained until the 1864 war. It's possible even that their emigration could have been connected with this.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: How did 19th century Americ sound?
From: Joe_F
Date: 02 Jun 15 - 06:15 PM

I never met my grandparents, so I have to guess. My father's folks came over from (what is now) Poland around 1890, so they must have sung in Yiddish or in English with a Yiddish accent. My father grew up in New York City, so he had an oldfashioned nonrhotic educated New York accent. My mother's father's family had been in America since before the Revolution, and must have spoken with a more or less standard Middle Western accent, as my mother did & as I do with various affectations. My mother's mother's family were of German extraction, but whether they got here recently enough for her to have a German accent, I don't know.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: How did 19th century Americ sound?
From: cnd
Date: 02 Jun 15 - 06:20 PM

There's a region of NC where the people are called "Hoi Toiders." They supposedly sound closest like the original British did, from the Elizabethan era


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Subject: RE: Folklore: How did 19th century Americ sound?
From: CupOfTea
Date: 03 Jun 15 - 12:02 AM

Pondering this, it strikes me that an interesting way to figure it out sideways is to look at what types of speech, language and class went into the mix that formed such distinct regional accents. Some different regions were settled by similar mixes of ethnic heritage, but perhaps the socio-economic class was the dominant seasoning for a particular way of talking. I know that PA Deutchisms sneak into my way of talking, and I'm one generation away from the family living on the Philly mainline (and vividly remember an Ohio nun taunting my first grade self "you mean your ANT?" when I'd said "AUNT"- accused of putting on airs)

Society and culture surely strain the mix - why does a black midwesterner sound much like a black southerner when a white midwesterner sounds very different from a white southerner?

When were the regional accents in English,first a noticeable thing on this continent? How old is a Yankee accent? When could you first tell a Canadian easily from an American by how they talk? You could do years of linguistic study on this question! What fun!

Joanne in Cleveland (which is in the western frontier of the east, and the eastern frontier of the midwest)


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Subject: RE: Folklore: How did 19th century Americ sound?
From: Mr Red
Date: 03 Jun 15 - 03:51 AM

I often hear tell that Jesse James likely had a Lancashire accent, however Wiki seems to indicate his paternal grandfather came from Kings Stanley not 2 miles from where I now live, in Gloucestershire so he "be likely to av uh glorster aaaccent"
Billy the Kid was born to Irish immigrant possibly in the Irish area of Manhattan so he spoke "with a lilt, so he did, to be sure".


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Subject: RE: Folklore: How did 19th century Americ sound?
From: GUEST,Phil
Date: 03 Jun 15 - 05:19 AM

"...why does a black midwesterner sound much like a black southerner when a white midwesterner sounds very different from a white southerner?"

"Ghetto" (Snoop Dogg) and "Country" (Charles Barkley) and "Creole" (Beyoncé Knowles-Carter) are three completely different African-American dialects and social cohorts. But a Cajun ordering French dressing in Bangor is like an Abbott & Costello skit.

Several of the "other" 19th Century North American languages never really went away:
Quebec... 'nuff said.
Gullah-Geechee south of the Cape Fear down to Charleston or so.
Acadian-Cajun on the Gulf Coast (and the Maine Maritimes, sort of.)
Tejas, Nuevo México and Arizona will probably always be multilingual. (You don't hear much German or Bohunk 'round Luckenbach these days though.)
Cantonese & Hokkien (in eleventeen dialects) in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

And of course Hollywood, Broadway and any deli worth eating at run on a good bit of Yiddish.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: How did 19th century Americ sound?
From: GUEST
Date: 03 Jun 15 - 07:19 AM

Many of the blacks in northern and midwestern cities moved there from the south after the civil war. They were so segregated that they developed their own culture, owing as much or more to their southern roots than to the white culture of their new setting.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: How did 19th century Americ sound?
From: GUEST
Date: 03 Jun 15 - 07:25 AM

Original Shakespearean pronuniciation:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPlpphT7n9s
(beginning about 3 minutes in).

Hoi-Toider pronunciation:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jgi9wYsR5fo


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Subject: RE: Folklore: How did 19th century Americ sound?
From: Lighter
Date: 03 Jun 15 - 08:01 AM

I wouldn't be too sure about Jesse James and Billy the Kid. The key is that they were both born in the U.S. It's well established that young children are far more influenced by the accents of their childhood friends and schoolmates than of their own parents!

As an example, I know a man whose parents both immigrated to NYC from Scotland when he was about six. Both his parents had unmistakable "burrs." When I met him, in our twenties, all trace of his Scottish accent had permanently disappeared.

The cutoff age seems usually to be something like seven. Henry Kissinger's family emigrated when he was fifteen, and he's never lost his German accent. Schwarzenegger came as an adult. Mel Gibson went to Australia at twelve. He could do an Aussie accent in "Gallipoli," but obviously he never lost his everyday American accent either.

I suppose everyone knows by now that languages and accents have nothing to with one's genes or (except through the influence of those around one) geographical location....


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Subject: RE: Folklore: How did 19th century Americ sound?
From: Lighter
Date: 03 Jun 15 - 08:12 AM

Of course, if Billy the Kid grew up an Irish ghetto in NYC, he should have had a decided "lilt," though it may have been less clearly regional than that of his parents.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: How did 19th century Americ sound?
From: Will Fly
Date: 03 Jun 15 - 10:51 AM

I think a lot depends on an individual's ear and their innate ability to pick up on an accent. I lived in Scotland from the age of 2 for 5 years and went back to Lancashire in 1951 with a decided Glaswegian accent. From then until I was 24 I developed a Lancashire accent - but dropped back immediately into a Scottish accent if I ever spoke to a Scot or went back to Scotland for a few days! After being in London and Sussex for nearly 40 years, I have a quasi-Southern accent, I suppose - but can drop back into Lanky talk at the drop of a hat...

My sister went to live in the US - Ohio and then Arizona - when she was about 22 or so. She sounds completely American when she comes to see us - for the first few days at any rate!

I can just hear the dialogue at the Alamo: (Lancashire accents)

"Nah then, our Davey (Crockett) - t' Mexicans are 'avin' a reet gradely do - fancy a brew afore they get 'ere?"

"Nay lad, I'm just fettlin' me musket."


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Subject: RE: Folklore: How did 19th century Americ sound?
From: meself
Date: 03 Jun 15 - 11:05 AM

When I watched the re-make of 'True Grit' a few years back, I wondered how they came up with the accent and general manner of speech of the characters. It was, you may recall, rather stilted and clunky to the modern ear, but struck me as closer to the speech you find recorded in contemporary documents (court transcripts, etc.) of the 19th C. West - as opposed to the 'Texas drawl' standard in the horse opries. I wondered if it was a serious attempt to re-create 'cowboy' speech as it would have been.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: How did 19th century Americ sound?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 03 Jun 15 - 12:14 PM

There's no single answer to how "America" sounded...or sounds today. It's a very big, polyglot country.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: How did 19th century Americ sound?
From: Will Fly
Date: 03 Jun 15 - 01:42 PM

Well of course not, Dick - I'm just playing with the idea of mixes of accents and dialects that aren't necessarily represented in - for example - Hollywood films...


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Subject: RE: Folklore: How did 19th century Americ sound?
From: Teribus
Date: 04 Jun 15 - 09:29 AM

For anyone looking to find something that could be described as being culturally representative and historically accurate I would suggest that looking to Hollywood Films would be your last port of call.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: How did 19th century Americ sound?
From: Will Fly
Date: 04 Jun 15 - 10:32 AM

That's precisely my point - we're so brainwashed by the sound of historical America as portrayed in film, that getting some idea of how people spoke in a country filled with immigrants is quite interesting.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: How did 19th century Americ sound?
From: Mr Red
Date: 04 Jun 15 - 05:26 PM

Toronto was (1986 ish) described as a cultural mosaic, and geographically they re-inforced this by putting street name signs in two languages, the second representing the major diaspora there.


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