"People stop and stare; they don't bother me,
For there's nowhere else on earth that I would rather be"
-- from "On the Street Where You Live" in Lerner and Loewe's "My Fair Lady"
I have written elsewhere about how much I enjoy the musical "My Fair Lady," and how a speech some people miss fuels my enthusiasm for writing.
But the musical itself is about a phonetics professor, Henry Higgins, and his quest to turn a London Cockney flower girl into a duchess, at least in her speech. Accents and their class distinctions abound throughout the musical.
The quotation above is one that recently came to mind when I'd been talking to someone from out of town and she asked me to explain what the Chicago accent is. Actually, I didn't think of the song after until the conversation ended, but I'd used the idea I had -- that Chicago has very few vowel sounds.
My readers here in Chicago (which doesn't mean all of you) will probably have trouble reading the quotation from the musical: "bother" rhyming with "rather." The "a" sound in Chicago (and many other Midwestern) voices is much flatter -- rhyming not with "father," but with "dad."
That's what things sound like "on the street where I live" -- as flat as the street itself.
Margaret Serious has a page on Facebook.
Filed under: Music and language